Betting on sports has been a favorite pastime for Scottish people and across Great Britain for more than 50 years but the surge of the Internet in the past 20 years revolutionized the betting and gambling industries. Now, some of the world’s largest online bookmakers are based in the United Kingdom and are available to Scottish punters, as well.
Sports wagering is a legal and fully regulated activity in Scotland. In fact, when we are discussing the Scottish betting scene, we must mention that Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom and this industry, as well as all gambling activity taking place here, is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. Having clarified that, we can continue to point out that sports have always been an important part of Scottish life and culture. It is then hardly a surprise that betting on the outcome of a soccer match, for instance, has also been a preferred form of recreation among Scots.
Legalities of Online Sports Betting in Scotland
Historical Betting Overview
Gambling and betting on horses and cockfights were quite popular in the Middle Ages and people of all classes in all of Scotland. The first written evidence for the prevalence of this form of recreation was in law against gambling from the 12th century, which banned games of chance – there was an exception for noblemen, of course, who were allowed to bet up to 20 shillings in any consecutive 24 hours. If they wagered more, they were required to give all winnings plus another 100 shillings to the church but there were even more severe punishments for those who were found breaking the law.
This, of course, did not stop people from betting on all sorts of things. Later, legislation passed during the reign of Richard II (late 14th century) banned gambling, except on non-work days. King Henry VIII, a famous gambler, also restricted gambling to the royal court. With the industrialization of the country, gambling became more organized and it was no longer considered an evil, pointless activity. In the 17th century, people started betting on organized horse races, lotteries, and other events – gambling establishments started opening at this time, too.
Bookmaking, however, did not actually come into being until the 18th and 19th centuries when bookies started offering prices on all horses in the now bigger, formal horse racing events. They took wagers on all horses to guarantee that they would always end in profit. It is believed that multiple sports, including horse racing, cricket, golf, and boxing became popular among people because of the option to bet on them.
Odds Format in Scotland
The vast majority of betting shops and betting sites available in Scotland show the odds in two main formats – as decimals and fractions. Just like in all of Great Britain, the Scots have a preference for the fractional odds and this is the most widely spread type of odds here. But what is the difference between these two formats? Moreover, what are the American odds?
The format of the odds shows how much we could win if we make a certain bet. The three different formats simply focus on different things – the American odds, for instance, indicate how much we need to wager to win $100 or how much one could win after betting $100. This depends on the positive or negative sign of the odds – it could be -650 for the favorite and +455 for the underdog, for example. With decimal odds, which are used all over Europe and most of the world, we have a decimal number, representing the amount we could win for every $1 wagered.
When we have fractional odds, on the other hand, we have odds such as 10/11 or 6/1 – sometimes, these could be 10-11 and 6-1. The first number of the fraction simply shows the amount we could win, whereas the number on the right side of the fraction shows the amount we need to wager. In other words, we could win $10 for every $11 we wager or we can get $6 for every $1 bet.
Scotland Betting Laws and Legislation
For a large period of time, betting on sports and gambling as a whole was not entirely legal in Scotland and there were multiple restrictions on these activities, as we have already mentioned. After centuries of being a gray area in terms of legality, betting was at one point completely banned. With the early 19th century came the anti-gambling attitudes and the prohibition – in 1845, the Gaming Act was passed, while the 1853 Betting Houses Act closed down all betting shops across Scotland and all of Great Britain. It prohibited almost all forms of gambling and focused on eliminating the gambling activities enjoyed by the lower classes.
It all changed in 1960 with the passing of the Betting and Gaming Act – betting shops opened in May 1961 for the first time after more than a century. Private casinos were also legalized. Within the next four years, local magistrates had issued around 16,000 licenses. In 1994, the government-run lottery was launched. However, the Licensed Betting Offices Regulations of 1986 imposed certain restrictions on the betting shops across Scotland – they were required to close between 7 pm and midnight, to display the legal age for betting (18), while the advertising outside the shop is extremely limited.
Today, the gambling sector is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which was established in 2007 under the Gambling Act 2005. As an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, this is the main piece of legislation that controls all gambling and betting operations in the country, including Scotland.
The Act grants licensing authority to local bodies and Scottish licensing boards. It allows gambling and betting advertisements on radio and television. It also controls online gambling and betting. Several updates to the legislation were made in 2014 with the Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act. It required all offshore operators to apply for a license from the UKGC and to pay a 15% point of consumption tax on gross profits. The restrictions on ads were changed or removed altogether.
According to the current legislation, all individuals at the age of 18 and over can legally place a wager in Scotland. There is no tax on winnings generated from lotteries, betting on sports, or casino gambling.
Scotland Betting Restrictions
There are not many restrictions on sports wagering in Scotland, at least when it comes to the types of bets that can be placed by punters. As we have said – betting on the outcome of a sports event is legal to anyone over 18. In fact, while the legal age for betting on sports, casino games, and gaming machines is 18, it is only 16 when it comes to taking part in lotteries, scratch cards gambling, and soccer pools (referred to as football pools). Online betting falls under the 18+ category, however.
Both land-based and online wagering is allowed and there are no taxes on the winnings from such activities. Bettors can place all kinds of bets and are not restricted to the type of sports and leagues they can wager on. There are, on the other hand, a wide range of restrictions when it comes to operating a betting business, whether land-based or online.
First of all, bookmakers are not allowed to operate without a proper license. They cannot offer their services and permit children (younger than 16) or young persons (those below 18) to enter their premises. If they fail to observe these basic rules and allow underage gambling, for instance, they face huge fines with no upper limit and even imprisonment for a term of up to 51 weeks. Due to the strict laws against underage gambling and betting, online bookmakers, casino and bingo sites are required to carry out extensive age and identity verification procedures.
During the registration of a new customer, they need to acquire a copy of the person’s ID. Sites can ask for different types of documentation, including passports, a photo card driving license, a utility bill in the customer’s name, an ID card, or a copy of the customer’s credit or debit card.
Online Betting Regulatory Body in Scotland
All gambling activities in Scotland are regulated by the UKGC. This includes sports betting, of course, so whenever the Commission issues new rules and regulations regarding the sector, all gambling and betting operators across England, Wales, and Scotland have to comply. The Commission was set up in 2007 as a replacement for the Gaming Board for Great Britain. The government agency is an executive non-departmental public body within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
It supervises the gaming law in the country and is also responsible for almost all forms of gambling, including bingo games, lotteries, gaming machines, casino gambling, sports betting, and remote gambling. However, there is one important exception – spread betting in Scotland and in the UK is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
All online betting operations are effectively being regulated by the UKGC. Certain gambling jurisdictions have been approved by the government and white-listed by the Commission, too. Therefore, operators with a license from one of the regulatory bodies on the white list are also authorized to offer betting and gambling services to customers based in Scotland and the UK.
The list includes the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, the Directorate of Offshore Gaming in Antigua and Barbuda, the Gibraltar Gaming Commissioner, the Gambling Supervision Commission on the Isle of Man, the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission, as well as jurisdictions within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Scotland Online Betting Bonuses
Scottish bettors who choose to place wagers online can enjoy a wide range of bonuses and promotions offered by bookmakers. Due to the newly introduced age and identity verification procedures and the policies for fair play accepted by the UKGC, however, new members at betting sites will not be able to claim a bonus before they pass all verification procedures.
In the past, betting operators could accept deposits by users with unverified accounts – this, of course, has led to issues of varied nature, including customers who find themselves unable to claim a bonus or with their deposits being forfeited. Now, following the standard verification check, bettors can take advantage of various promotional offers. This includes, of course, welcome bonuses, which may be in the form of a certain percentage (50%, 100% or even 200%) of the initial deposit into the website. More often, the sign-up bonus is a free bet, which is granted after the full amount of the initial deposit has been wagered at least once.
Bettors should be aware that there are usually requirements for the minimum odds bets should be placed at when using a free bet. In addition, the free bet or match deposit amount is normally subject to a wagering requirement – this means that before a withdrawal, bettors need to wager a minimum amount equal to 3, 5 or 10 times the amount of the bonus. Certain deposit options – usually e-wallets such as Neteller and Skrill, may not qualify for a bonus.
Along with the sign-up bonus, online bookmakers catering to betting enthusiasts in Scotland also tend to offer reload bonuses, cash-back offers, weekly free bet bonuses, or limited-time promotions associated with major sports events such as FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games. Price boosts and enhanced odds are also often offered.
Mobile Betting in Scotland
With the improvement of mobile technologies in the past few years, it is now possible to do almost anything from a smartphone. For younger people, especially, their mobile devices are essential – they can communicate on the go, they can shop online, pay their bills, use various apps, etc. Of course, an increasing number of people these days prefer to bet on mobile platforms, too.
Bettors in Scotland can choose from dozens of reputable, top-quality mobile betting apps and betting sites that have been fully optimized for smartphone use. There are no specific things bettors should be aware of when accessing a betting platform from their mobile phone – with a few notable exceptions. First of all, betting fans should make sure that the bookmaker is fully licensed and regulated – by either the UKGC or in any of the white-listed jurisdictions.
Mobile security should also be an important concern and all licensed operators have taken various measures to make sure that their customers’ sensitive data is kept private and fully protected. Some offshore bookies, however, are not legally allowed to offer online or mobile betting to Scottish residents. Still, they do exist and they rarely focus on the safety of the punters, on fairness, or on online and mobile security. Bettors in Scotland should simply try to avoid them at all costs.
Popular Betting Banking Methods in Scotland
The development of not only mobile technology but also of modern electronic payments has completely changed the betting industry in the past ten years or so. Online bettors in Scotland now have plenty of options when it comes to loading their betting balance with funds or when they wish to retrieve their winnings.
Along with the traditional bank wires, they can make deposits and receive payments to their debit or credit cards. Most international brands are available, including Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Diners Club, and JCB. More and more punters, however, prefer using digital wallets for their betting activities on the Internet since they are not required to share their personal information with third parties. There are various e-wallets in Scotland but the most popular ones are probably PayPal, Neteller, Skrill, and ecoPayz.
Some online bettors find prepaid vouchers and reloadable cards to be even more secure. These could be the prepaid solutions by Paysafecard or Entropay, a prepaid virtual Visa card. There are also various convenient and easy-to-use services for instant bank transfers such as Trustly, Nordea, and UseMyBank. Those who prefer to instantly deposit or withdraw their winnings could use a mobile payment option such as Boku or Apple Pay.
Normally, the fastest transactions are secured by e-wallets – the deposits into betting sites are instant, while withdrawals usually take up to 4 hours to arrive. There are almost no fees involved and the payments are completely reliable and secure. However, the fastest, cheapest and most secure way to transfer funds to and from an online betting account is by using a cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is certainly the most popular one, but bettors in Scotland can also deposit and cash out their winnings via Litecoin, Ethereum, and many more.
Scotland’s Betting Sites FAQ
What Is the Legal Age for Betting in Scotland?
It is the same as in the whole of the UK – individuals have to be at least 18 years old to gamble or place bets. The law allows those aged 16 and over to buy scratch cards, play lotteries, and take part in soccer pools. All other forms of betting or gambling are available to adults only (18+).
Is Online Betting on Sports Legal in Scotland?
Yes, wagering on the outcome of a sports event is allowed to anyone aged 18 or above. Bets can be placed in land-based betting shops, as well as online. Scottish bettors, however, are expected to bet only at legal, licensed betting sites, although they will not be prosecuted even if they sign up with an illegal operator.
Who Regulates Scottish Betting Sites?
Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom so all gambling and betting activities carried out on its territory, including online betting on sports, are regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. This requirement applies to all bookmakers based in the UK and Scotland but also to all operators offering wagering services to UK residents.
Are Winnings from Online Betting Subject to a Tax?
No, the winnings from betting or gambling are not considered an income by the government since betting is, by definition, recreational activity in the country. Therefore, bettors are not required to pay a tax on the money they have won from betting. Businesses, however, have to pay a 15% tax on their gross revenues.
What Sports Can I Bet on in Scotland?
All types of bets and sports are available at online bookmakers that target Scottish bettors and betting fans in the UK as a whole. Here, the most popular sport to play, watch and bet on is soccer and the variety of soccer markets is overwhelming at betting sites. Of course, Scots also love to wager on horse and greyhound races, while other popular options include golf, cricket, tennis, boxing, ice hockey, basketball, and snooker.