Last Updated: January 19, 2024

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is inching closer to gaining the right to block illegal online gambling websites.

The gambling sector watchdog will get this right as part of the Criminal Justice Bill 2023, which, after two readings in the House of Commons, is being discussed at the Public Bill Committee. The Bill proposes wide-ranging reforms in the UK criminal law. The proposed provisions for suspending internet protocol addresses and domain names are contained in Clause 20 of the Bill.

Home Minister Chris Philip at Public Bill Committee Discussion

During the Public Bill Committee discussion on January 16, Chris Philp, the Minister of State, Home Department, stated,

“Clause 20 and Schedule 3 create a new power for UK law enforcement and other investigative agencies to suspend IP addresses and domain names that are being used in serious crime. Under the power, law enforcement will be able to apply for a court order requiring the organization responsible for providing the IP address or domain name to prevent access.”

Currently, the UK police and other law enforcement agencies use informal public and private partnerships to suspend domain and IP addresses involved in criminal activities. These actions are voluntary and depend on the industry’s will. The minister asserted that voluntary suspension is not always an option as the “majority” of cyber crimes originate outside the UK.

UKGC’s Executive Director Level Office Can Block IP Addresses

During the Public Bill Committee discussion, Labour MP Carolyn Harris asked if the right to block IP addresses will apply to illegal gambling sites and crypto casinos and if the Gambling Commission can block such sites and their IP addresses.

The Home Minister stated: “As to whether the Gambling Commission can make the application or whether it would have to be the police, to answer that question, we will have to refer to schedule 3 on page 91 and look at the list of entities. The hon. Member will see that paragraph 12(2)(e) does include “a member of staff of the Gambling Commission of at least the grade of executive director.”

“Overseas infrastructure providers are much more likely to comply with a court order than a simple request made by the police without a court order,” the minister explained.

The Criminal Justice Bill 2023 was introduced in the House of Commons on November 14, 2023, and its second reading was completed on November 28, 2023. The Bill still has a few stages left, such as a third reading in the House of Commons and a passage from the House of Lords before it is signed into law.