How to Choose an Online Casino
One of the most important things any player has to overcome before commencing play at an online casino is how to choose the online casino they will play at.
In a market running to thousands of operators, it can feel absolutely overwhelming just selecting one. A number of factors should be taken into consideration before any decisions are made and any money is deposited. We understand that players prioritise security and fairness in an operator above all else and as such we would like to guide players through how to choose an online casino that matches their expectations of quality and integrity. If you prefer to bypass all of this information but still want to play with a reliable and honest operator, then feel free to exit left and select one of our Best Online Casinos where we have already carried out our in-depth review procedure for your ease of use. If you would like to know more about how we undertake our stringent review process, then we have laid this out for you in our article on our Casino Ratings system.
Why Trust our Advice?
It can be difficult for players to know who to listen to when it comes to recommending safe operators to play at. Here at CasinoReviews, our team have in excess of 30 years of combined experience in the gambling industry – both online and offline. We have been players and we understand the issues that affect players deeply. We will not compromise on quality and security. We are completely aware that reputation is everything and as such we are not willing to risk ours by recommending any but the best online operators to our customer base. All of our Recommended operators have names synonymous with trustworthiness and fairness and this is not negotiable for us. We will go to the ends of the Earth to ensure that an operator is worthy of being listed as Recommended on our site. We carry out in-depth research into the standards and practices perspective operators implement and we have the unique capability to be able to check the fairness of an operator’s games ourselves. Our founder is a qualified mathematician and able to extract data sets from games that allow him to determine whether they are operating within expected norms, or whether they contain errors.
Our good opinion cannot be bought. We operate entirely independently, and our review procedure is undertaken entirely on our own terms. The category and associated overall score allotted to a particular operator are not open to discussion. We make our decisions based on a highly individual set of criteria and we will not amend or alter these under any circumstances. Unlike other review sites, we do not offer improved or prime placement to those operators willing to pay for such things. Our top operators are legitimately that – they have the right to hold these positions through trustworthy business practices and superior conduct. An operator cannot buy their way off being Not Recommended at our site at any price – this is completely necessary if players are to find the level of protection from rogues that they deserve. So many complaints against operators arise from concerns about their integrity and the fairness of their games and we do try to ameliorate such concerns by holding such high standards.
Below we outline the key areas players should focus on in order to determine the legitimacy and reputation of an operator they are considering signing up and playing at.
Reputation is Everything
In such a crowded market it is vital that players really take into account the reputation and business practices of the operator they are looking to play at. The biggest mistake players make is to be lured by big bonus offers into playing with operators that actually are not subject to any regulation because they are unlicensed. We want to make it very clear that if a player does play with an unlicensed operator then loses money through underhanded business practices on the part of that operator, there will very little anybody can do to help them. Unlicensed operators have no regulatory body to hold them accountable and even if (a big if) players can somehow locate their headquarters, legal action against them is unlikely to be practicable because most often they are based out of jurisdictions that will not intercede on a player’s behalf.
Luckily there are some very comprehensive checks that can be undertaken to ascertain the regulatory status of an operator alongside whether they have a reputation for quality and integrity. They are as follows:
Spend a couple of minutes going through the process of license status checking to be sure that the operator in question is licensed by a top-quality regulator. Look for link seals that take players to an external licensing page hosted on the regulator’s website – these can most often be found in the footer of every page and some operators also include these links in their Terms and Conditions documents. If you cannot source a working link to the license the operator claims to have DO NOT PLAY!
Look for details of the ownership of the online casino you like the look of – the company name and postal contact details should be clearly displayed – this allows customers to make complaints in writing and, in very rare cases, take legal action if required.
All legitimate operators have a duty of care to vulnerable customers that their regulatory bodies enforce through strict codes and practice documents. All of the best regulators demand that functioning links to third party organisations offering help and advice to compulsive gamblers are displayed on the operator’s website. Services provided by organisations like begambleaware and links to blocking softwares like BetBlocker, which is totally free to use, should be accessible. There should also be facilities for players to set a range of different limits on their accounts themselves – different regulators expect different limits to be allowed but generally look for deposit and loss limits, session time limits, and the ability to ask for reality checks during play. All UKGC and MGA licensed properties must facilitate players in being able to set limits.
The final check we urge players to run is to be sure that the operator they are considering signing up to is listed positively with our Best Online Casinos list. If issues arise during play with an operator, then feel free to log a complaint with our dispute service – guidance on doing this can be located here - How to Complaint About an Online Casino.
There are other factors that should be taken into consideration before deciding which online casino is the best fit for your particular playing needs, so once you are sure an operator is trustworthy and honest, then additional steps can be taken as outlined below.
Find the Best Welcome Bonus
Possibly one of the biggest advantages of playing online rather than in land-based casinos is the fact that there are far more online casinos and so the competition between them to secure new players is fierce. For this reason, bonus offers are very common – particularly Welcome Bonus offers. This is to the player’s advantage as it helps to make their cash stretch that little bit further, so they can play a little longer at no additional cost. It is vital to take the time to read through all associated bonus terms in their entirety or risk being confronted with unpleasant news further down the line when it is too late to do anything about it. Often the largest bonuses are offered by the least reputable operators because they have no intention of paying out on any wins players experience. Don’t be rushed into accepting any bonus, no matter how large or tempting it appears to be. It is likely that a large deposit match bonus will attract a very high wagering requirement – this reduces the value of the bonus considerably and it is likely that the bonus is best avoided.
If you enjoy playing a particular game and you intend on completing the wagering requirement by playing this game, please make sure that it is actually permitted to play on this game before you take the bonus. Additionally, be aware that different game categories often contribute significantly different amounts to the wagering requirement. Many Welcome Bonuses prohibit playing anything but slot games whilst they are on a player’s account. Where play with other categories is permitted, it is quite common for live games or table games to contribute in the region of 5% of what slots games will. If you are a table games fanatic there is likely to be a bonus that fulfills your needs more adequately and this is why we encourage the in-depth study of the associated Terms and Conditions. For supplementary information on bonuses visit our bonuses page here you can locate all the details of the real money value of bonuses for different playing styles and requirements. We provide separate simulations for low, mid, high, and super high roller playing categories.
Know Your Limits
Pretty much all online casinos have set withdrawal limits. Some are dependent on the loyalty status you have with the operator that month; some are associated with deposits made in the preceding X days. Always, always, always check what the withdrawal limits are at an online casino before you sign up. We deal with a huge volume of complaints associated with withdrawal limits and if you fail in your due diligence before accepting the Terms and Conditions and go ahead and play there will be nothing anyone can do to help out. Withdrawal limits vary considerably between operators – a few have no imposed withdrawal limits at all but they tend not to be the norm – most have a set amount of £/$/€ that a player can access per day, week, and month.
Another common feature that online casinos institute is the win cap, which basically sets a limit on the amount that can be won by a player – very frequently connected with bonuses. Such caps should be laid out clearly in the Bonus Terms and Conditions or the General Terms and Conditions – check both – and be sure that you are happy to comply with this rule before you deposit any money, accept any bonuses, or play.
Who Values Loyalty?
One feature that the biggest and best online casino operators use to encourage customer retention is the Loyalty Program – also called a VIP Program. All Loyalty or VIP Programs have different requirements to attain a certain level and obviously, to encourage repeat custom, levels are updated on a monthly basis, high levels of play result in higher level benefits and rewards. It is important to recognise that you should never be influenced to deposit more than you had intended to or more than you can afford to. Instead see the rewards as cream – nice to have but not worth financially depleting yourself to obtain. Some of the perks associated with Loyalty/VIP programs may be – cashback, better bonuses, electrical products, holidays/trips, and gift vouchers. It is often difficult to find out the exact nature of all benefits at point of signup, but a general idea can be gleaned.
We get asked this all the time and it is not easy to answer. The truth is the best casino may change daily as alterations are made to bonuses, complaints, Terms and Conditions, etc. To the uneducated eye, all online casinos may look highly similar but with experience comes the knowledge of what separates the good from the bad and the frankly criminal. We work hard to produce casino reviews that help negate the need for players to accrue this knowledge themselves, so they can just play safely. If you want to know which online casinos you should be playing at check our Best Online Casinos page – it is full of the best properties in the business.
Simply put, there is no single casino that fits the needs of all players and for the most part a game has the same odds no matter which operator is offering it. The RTP of Starburst will not deviate from that set by the software developer that created it and broadly this remains constant across all games. (There are a small number of software providers that allow their operator clients to choose from a range of RTP settings). To be clear though, there are factors that may alter the odds, bonuses are one such thing as are cashback and comp points and, rules dependent, may give players a chance to achieve a better return than the RTPs naturally offered by the software provider. As ever, some offers may actually be detrimental if they attract poor terms. Every single casino review has an equivalent welcome bonus which is deconstructed and simulated by us to provide valuable data for players in order to determine its true worth.
Well, this involves trying to locate and inspect the average RTP figures for each casino you are considering playing at and go with the casino that has the highest.
We have already pointed out that RTPs are not decided by the individual casinos but rather the software providers that develop and market the game. Pretty much every game you will encounter (there are some games – very few – that this does not hold true for ) will have the same RTP no matter where you encounter it.
The truth is that the 'average RTP' for a casino is an effectively meaningless figure. If the average RTP for slot games at a casino has been 96%, but you choose a game with an RTP of 93%, it is the 93% figure that will impact your results. So the reality here is that you don't want to look for the best casino in this respect but rather the game with the best RTP figure.
They say the devil is in the detail and this is true of the answer to this question too. Of course, it is possible to be a winning player if you play at an online casino – hundreds of players win every day – from pounds to millions of pounds but overall players are more likely to lose. Never lose sight of the fact that gambling is considered an entertainment and all forms of entertainment incur a cost for the experience. Don’t ever get caught up in the notion that gambling might be the solution to all of your financial problems – it’s far more likely to cause more damage. The house edge always favours the casino – they are profitable businesses for a reason. No matter the high quality of regulation a casino is subject to, or how wonderful its reputation is – most players signing up and playing there will not be winners.
The most popular slot games are popular for good reason and so they are an excellent place to begin. Luckily most operators are well aware of the games most popular with their player demographic, and they usually allow playing these games with their Welcome Bonus and frequently, their Free Spins packages too. Games like Thunderstruck II, Gonzo’s Quest, and Dead or Alive are frequently associated with Free Spins.
Roulette is another incredibly popular game that you may prefer if your interests run more to table games. It is super simple to take part in Roulette and there are not many rules or decisions that must be undertaken, so for beginners – it’s perfect.
If you are to stand a better chance at winning you must do all that you can to reduce the house edge. So it follows that any game that incorporates the use of a particular strategy is one you should consider playing. Blackjack which can incorporate a large number of optimum playing decisions – formally known as Basic Strategy – has the lowest house edge when played absolutely accurately throughout play. Video Poker is another game that can be played optimally though it should be noted that the variance associated with it is higher than blackjack though still lower than slots games. This can mean that players experience a heavy loss rate before they hit a win but there is more chance of being a long-term winner.
In theory yes, it is; in practice, this comes with caveats. There are a number of different jurisdictional requirements when it comes to free play. The UK Gambling Commission has passed new regulations banning those domiciled in the UK from accessing demo/free play versions of games until after age verification has been successfully passed. The implication of this from the player’s perspective is that they must create an account before they can even play for free. The intent behind this action is to try and afford some level of protection to those aged below 18 in the hope that this will prevent problem gambling tendencies from occurring. Playing for free is useful for players wishing to familiarize themselves with thematic choices, bonus features or to give themselves practice in implementing optimum strategies for games like blackjack.
There are number of quality websites out there dedicated to improving player experiences with online casinos but there are also those that are happy to accept payment from operators for promotion or enhanced placement so players should do their research before deciding whose advice to go with. CasinoReviews reviews independently and allocates premium places to those operators who are demonstrably the best in terms of player experience. We are a completely independent service, reviewing and recommending casinos entirely on our own terms. All casinos appearing in our Best Online Casinos list have earned their place in it by displaying unvaryingly high levels of integrity, trustworthiness, and adherence to stringent regulatory standards.
Firstly, not all operators provide loyalty programs for their client base but when they do they can be called a number of things such as a reward program or a VIP program. Ordinarily, all loyalty programs function on a multi-level format – the idea being that the more money a player uses over the course of month, the higher the level attained, and the greater the benefits reaped. As a rule, reword points are normally accrued according to the sort of game a player elects to play and some operators offer the facility to trade in these points for real money. All loyalty programs are individual and tailored to the operator’s own specifications, so it is very difficult to give a definitive answer as to which is the best. We would recommend looking for programs that reward play on the types of games you prefer playing on and that offer the types of rewards you prefer to receive.
From our extensive handling of complaints, we are well aware that players fear that they are being cheated on a fairly regular basis. We have also noticed that this is something that tends to happen more often when a player has lost more than they meant to spend. One thing is for sure – the likelihood of you being cheated by an operator in possession of a high-quality gambling license is low. Check our section on regulators for more information on the licensing standards.
We cannot say unequivocally that all operators are offering fair and random games but we can say that for the most part those that have been outed as running “cheating” games have been unlicensed or so weakly licensed that the end result is the same.
One thing that has been more common in recent years is unlicensed operators running fake versions of popular slot games. These games are very unlikely to operate in a fair manner and they are unlikely to have gone through rigorous testing at any of the authorised and endorsed testing laboratories operating today. All testing laboratories issue testing certificates to operators and software providers to certify that the games are operating within expected norms. If you cannot locate said testing certificate by a legitimate testing house, then please do not risk playing the game.
If you carry out due diligence and follow all of the strategies for optimizing your safety with an online operator, then you will be as safe as playing anywhere else. Holding a high quality license is key for new online casinos – all such operators are held to strict regulatory standards and risk losing their license if they misbehave. Regularly, new online operators try to hit the ground running by out doing already established in terms of customer service and bonus offers so playing somewhere brand new is at times a positive experience.