Playing at an online casino should be a joyful experience. For most gamblers, it’s an enjoyable pastime, and one that’s hopefully rewarded with a dose of good luck. But not all casinos are created equal. One of the first and most important decisions you need to make about gambling online is choosing a casino that’s worthy of your business. Online casino guide.
At its worst, there are some corners of the online gambling industry that offer a far from level playing field. Indeed, there have even been reports of straight up scams, with rogue elements posing as casinos with the sole intention of fleecing their customers. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the big brands, and the reputable names in the industry, determined to provide a high quality experience and an enjoyable platform for gamblers.
When it comes to choosing a casino that’s right for you, it’s important that you’re attracted to these reputable operators, and in the process avoiding the fly-by-night scammers and rigged platforms. But even amongst the legitimate operators, there are substantial differences. It’s up to you to weigh up all the attributes of a given casino, versus the competition, before deciding to sign up for an account there.
So what are the important elements of choosing a UK online casino, and how can you best navigate your way to a good end result?
Your starting point should always be the licensing and regulatory position of any online casino. When you walk into a high street betting shop, or a major bricks and mortar casino in the UK, you can be pretty sure you’re covered –, any operator setting up shop in the UK needs to be licensed and regulated by the Gambling Commission, whose job it is to ensure you get a fair deal.
Online, things aren’t so clear cut. Anyone from anywhere in the world can establish a casino and open their doors to UK players, and there’s no need for the Gambling Commission to ever be involved.
That doesn’t mean licensing isn’t important –, far from it. While UK-based operators must be licensed by the Gambling Commission for your peace of mind, many of the major, recognisable casino brands are in fact headquartered offshore. This means they may be regulated by a foreign gambling authority, for example in Malta, Alderney, Belize, Cyprus or somewhere else.
The key criteria here when you’re choosing a casino is to make sure it is in fact licensed and regulated by one of these statutory bodies in its country of domicile. This allows you to at least be confident there’s an independent third party monitoring that casino, and some higher authority to hold them to account so they run fair, transparent games.
Don’t open an account with a casino that isn’t regulated by one of these authorities. You can even check with the authority directly to confirm the casino is regulated if you’re unsure. That way, you have peace of mind that you’re dealing with a reputable, legitimate casino operator, as the first step on your journey to finding the best place to gamble.
Once you’ve got the regulatory stuff out the way and you know your money is safe, it’s time to delve further into the nitty-gritty of what makes a casino great. A casino is only as strong as the games it offers, and it’s important to sign up for a casino that offers a wide selection –, even if there’s one game in particular you’re keen to try out.
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Signing up for a casino with a narrow selection of games is the best way to guarantee you’ll find yourself in the same position in a few weeks’ time –, trawling the Internet to find another legitimate, good quality casino to spend your time. Instead, look for casinos that have a wide range of table games, slots, video poker and whatever else you enjoy playing –, you’ll save time later on, as well as bagging the best gambling experience now. Or for experienced players who feel they have already explored every ounce of online property there is, angle for a new direction by choosing providers like Dragon Fish’,s Casino Group or Party’,s Online Casino where you may find an array of unique games to better quench your thirst.
Another important distinction between casinos is the software they use, both in terms of powering your user experience, and the range of games that are available. Every online casino requires software for driving their games, and there are a number of third party games developers, such as Microgaming and Playtech, which provide industry-leading games software on license to reputable casinos. You should also look at whether the casino runs any proprietary software, including its own games –, many of the best casinos use a combination of third party and in-house developed games software to provide the optimal experience.
You should also pay attention to compatibility. Some casinos still require download, while the majority of reputable operators allow you to play in-browser and on mobile with equal ease. It all factors in to your decision as to which casino is right for you.
If you’re anything like the majority of online gamblers, you won’t just be restricting your play to your desktop PC, or laptop. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets means it is more important than ever before for casinos to offer access across a range of devices. Even if you don’t initially intend to gamble on mobile, it’s a good idea to check out the mobile situation before signing up –, you never know when that might come in handy. Some will offer downloadable apps, particularly if you’re an Android user, while iPhone users will often be looking more towards casinos that allow a native experience for mobile users in-browser.
Luckily, most good casinos are pretty upfront about mobile access to their games and platform, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty establishing whether there is an app or in-browser mobile compatibility at any online casino you’re reviewing.
It’s an often repeated story –, players win money at their online casino, and then reach cash-out, only to discover there’s a long lead time on payments, and a range of other processes involved before they can gain access to their winnings. In reality, casinos do need to ensure they are paying out in accordance with regulations and to avoid money laundering and fraud. This often leads to some delay in processing cash-outs, but it needn’t become a barrier to your gaming experience.
Casinos will usually detail how long it takes them to process transactions, both on the deposit and withdrawal side. Many players get stung because they simply don’t do enough research before signing up. Don’t make the same mistake. Be sure to review the turnaround times for cash out before signing up for an account, so you know what to expect when it comes time to withdraw your winnings.
A casino withdrawal is often a two-step process. When the withdrawal is requested, there is the verification, or pending stage, and then the processing stage, where the transaction is processed by the casino and ultimately sent to your chosen withdrawal method. During this time, some casinos offer a reversal period, where players can choose to reverse the withdrawal, and instead to continue gambling with their funds.
Manual flushing is the process of irrevocably moving your withdrawal from pending to processing, where it can no longer be reversed into your gaming funds. This essentially means you can secure faster withdrawals where manual flushing is an option, eliminating the reversal period so you can get quicker access to your funds. Again, make sure you do your homework when choosing a casino, and look for whether or not manual flushing is an option before making your final decision.
If you haven’t signed up and played at an online casino before, you’ve probably only given a passing thought to the deposit method you intend to use for funding your bankroll. In reality, it’s another key decision you need to bear in mind when you’re trying to choose between two casinos.
Common deposit methods include credit and debit cards, ewallets like Skrill and Neteller, online bank transfers and even cheque in some cases. The range of deposit methods available to you, plus the corresponding turnaround time for processing these transactions, add up to make it an important factor for players in choosing the right casino. It’s no use signing up, only to find out your payment method of choice isn’t supported, or takes an impractically long time to process payments.
Do your research into different payment methods ahead of time, so you have a strong idea of how you’re going to fund your account. This enables you to make a more informed decision, once you’ve seen the deposit and withdrawal methods supported by each casino, so you’re in a better position to make the right call.
When casino bonuses first appeared on the scene, it wasn’t long before they became a staple marketing tool right throughout the gambling industry. Welcome bonuses, reload bonuses, no deposit bonuses –, there are a number of different types of these rewards on offer, to the point where now it’s virtually a guarantee that you’ll be in line for some kind of bonus when you’re looking to set up an account.
Like the casinos themselves, bonuses are not a one-size-fits-all offer, and their amounts, format, terms and conditions will vary radically between different operators. All free bonuses are restricted to a greater or lesser degree –, so when you see a casino offer £1,000 as a sign up bonus, you can rest assured there’s a little more to it than just free cash in your pocket.
Generally, these amounts are credited to your gambling account directly, and can’t be withdrawn in their own right. If casinos allowed this money to be credited and withdrawn, they’d go bankrupt overnight, simply from abuse of the system. Instead, players must usually meet terms known as ‘wagering requirements’ before they can withdraw their bonus, or any of the winnings from it.
Wagering requirements are usually expressed as a multiple of the bonus amount you need to stake to withdraw your winnings. Sometimes these even also include the deposit amount. So if you have a deposit of £100 and a corresponding 100% match bonus of £100, in some cases you’ll need to wager £200 a required number of times to activate withdrawal –, while others required a more generous £100.
Whether it’s your bonus alone, or the bonus plus the deposit, you need to ensure you’re meeting the wagering multiple. This could be anything from 30x the stake right up to 100x –, and the higher the multiple, the more difficult it is to withdraw the bonus profitably.
It makes good sense to read the terms and conditions of any bonus offer you’re attracted to. While one casino might be offering £100 and another offering £1000, it doesn’t always stack up to choose the higher amount. In fact, as a rule of thumb, the higher the bonus, the more onerous the terms on players. Don’t get caught out by not reading the terms and conditions –, they don’t often make for an exciting read, but it’s important you are diligent if you want the best deal.
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Some casinos offer very little in the way of customer support and assistance. Others go the opposite way, with live chat, phone support and email support available around the clock. This is one of those points that might not cross your mind when you’re optimistically searching for somewhere to play. But as soon as you need assistance, you can quickly regret not being more discerning on the customer choice leg of your comparison.
Priority should be given to casinos who have a range of customer support channels available, including the ability to communicate with live support where available. It also helps if they have a good reputation for customer support too –, some casinos aren’t as interested as you might hope in helping out their customers. The reviews of other players can be useful in establishing a picture of their reputation, or if you’re more confident in other areas of the brand, you can simply double check there are a range of support methods available, should you need any help with your account in future.
So it’s clear there’s a lot more to it than simply picking a casino you’ve heard of and creating an account. Casinos differ massively in the structure of their offers, the games, and the overall gambling experience they offer to players, and making the wrong decision can seriously affect your enjoyment, not to mention your security.
By doing your homework, and taking particular note of each of the factors we’ve outlined above, it’s possible to find a casino that checks all your boxes, and becomes you go-to operator for gambling online.