Who regulates bingo sites?
Is it safe to play online bingo? Is there anyone who can assure me that the games are safe and not regulated? If I win, how do I know that I’m going to receive my winnings? These are questions that we’re often asked when speaking to people about playing online bingo.
Many years ago people could only play bingo in land-based clubs. This traditional way of playing meant that the players were physically in the same room as the caller and could see the balls being pulled out. They paid their money directly to the club on the night and felt safe that, if they won any prize, even the jackpot, they would get their winnings there and then. When bingo started to be played online, players were wary about this new method of playing. Suddenly, they were relying on a company who they had no connections with and didn’t know anything about to provide them with a safe and secure playing environment. They had to believe that the numbers were being correctly called and that any winnings would be paid out.
Over time, several licence providers have been established who regulate the various online bingo sites on the market to ensure they are providing a secure and fair bingo playing environment. The main licencing agencies that regulate online bingo for European bingo players are as follows:
- the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission – Grade “A”,
- the Gibraltar Licencing Authority – Grade “A-“,
- the Alderney Gambling Control Commission – “B+” rated
- the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta – Grade “B-“,
These agencies, regardless of where they are based, are all authorised by the UK Gambling Commission under the 2005 Gambling Act and ensure several key points are enforced. They oversee operations and ensure that the games are fair, that players are at least 18 years old, that all information is protected and that the bingo site operators are financially secure.
How to handle issues with regulated bingo sites
If you do come across any problems you first need to speak to the bingo site to see if they can resolve the issue, just contact the customer services or support team, tell them what your problem is and how you would like to see it solved. If you are not happy with their answer then go back to them, tell them you are not satisfied with the response and push them to see if you can come to an agreement you are both happy with.
If you reach the conclusion that you can go no further with them you can then contact the licencing body to see if they can help you. Just make sure you have read the Terms and Conditions on the site first to make sure you have a valid complaint.
Regulators ensure fairness
To ensure that all games are fair and that all players have an equal chance of winning a Random Number Generator (RNG) is used. This ensures that the numbers are picked in a totally random way, making it impossible for anyone to predict which balls will be called and in which order. There are several specialist companies who monitor their usage and check the equipment is working correctly.
Regulators ensure players are of “proper” age
To try and prevent vulnerable people from playing bingo the minimum age for all players is 18, and whichever online bingo site you play on you will find this age requirement stated in the terms and conditions. When players register for an account this minimum age is also stated in the registration process and players have to tick a box to say that they have read and accept the conditions. To further enforce this some sites request that you also register either a credit or debit card which they can use to check a player is of the minimum age. When a player wants to make a withdrawal for the first time there are usually certain methods of identification that the site will ask for before they realease the money. As players do not want to deposit their money with no chance of collecting any winnings this also helps to enforce the age requirement.
Licencing Agencies protect players
Players trust online bingo sites with information that could lead to many problems, including identity theft, if was available on the open market. Licence providers therefore state that the sites must store all information received in a secure environment, especially important in this technical age where unscrupulous people spend time and effort into trying to hack into computers to try and obtain private information. Many players choose to make deposits by credit or debit cards and so sites must ensure that this information is sent to them by a secure method, otherwise people would be able to obtain this information and could go on a spending spree using someone else’s money. Bingo sites use the same technology as banks use for internet banking to ensure that all details are encrypted as they are sent.
It is extremely important that any bingo sites are financially secure and the regulation of this is an important job that the licencing agencies do. Otherwise the situation could easily occur where a bingo site could suddenly stop operating and close, taking with it all the money that players had previously deposited, or you could win a massive jackpot but never receive any winnings from it. One way of doing this is for the licencing bodies to state that the business premises from which bingo sites operate can be visited at any time and that the financial records are also made available for inspection.
Although a bingo site could still cease trading after being inspected it is thought that inspections should limit this possibility as most businesses that close do so after a period of time when they have experienced problems. If a company is inspected and their records checked on a regular basis hopefully any problems will be picked up or identified in the early stages and the company can either be helped or people can be warned that the company is having difficulties and so may not be the best one to play on.
Another method used by licencing commissions to prevent any financial problems is to licence certain members of staff. This is to ensure that not only the company as a whole is regulated but the chief personnel are. This will hopefully prevent any one person from engaging in fraudulent activity because if they held certain positions it might be possible for them to cause enough financial problems for a site to close down, again leading to the loss of money and winnings for players.
How to find out if a bingo site is legit
When you first visit a bingo site it is a good idea that you check that they are indeed regulated by either the Isle of Man gambling supervision committee, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta, or the Gibraltar Licencing Authority. Bingo sites are required to display their licencing information at the bottom of the home page and they must repeat such information, as well as detail the dispute or complaint process in their site’s terms and conditions, their About Us page or the responsible gaming section. If you cannot see this information anywhere then we recommend you DO NOT PLAY on that bingo site, as odds are that the bingo site in question is not on the up-and-up and the likelihood of you getting scammed is drastically increased.