A quick search for online casinos on the internet will show you that there are literally thousands of sites out there. The good news is that the vast majority of these sites are safe and trouble-free - providing you with a platform off which to enjoy their games, and paying you out any winnings when you request them, and after you have met the wagering requirements.
However, it takes only one bad experience at a rogue site to put you off enjoying this very pleasant form of online entertainment. If you want to carry on playing, and protect your bankroll, there are a few things you can - and should - do before you part with your cash at a new online casino.
Taking a few short easy steps will provide you with long-term peace of mind, not to mention financial protection, allowing you to enjoy your online gambling journey.
Let's say you come across an ad for a great-sounding online casino. You like what it has to offer - great bonuses, a good selection of games and lots of other perks. You would be a fool, however, to immediately open an account and transfer funds. It takes just a few minutes to use Google to search the casino's name, preferably adding the words 'rogue' or 'bad' in the search field to see what comes up. The search should produce interesting results: If the casino has a bad reputation, you will soon know about it. Online gambling portals regularly list rogue casinos that have a poor reputation and have given trouble when it comes to paying out funds, settling disputes or providing service.
If Dr. Google doesn't provide a thorough answer, consider asking your gambling peers. Open a thread on a gambling portal and simply address your concerns, such as: "Is Casino X trustworthy?" or "Are the rumors I'm hearing about Casino Y's customer support true?" Your peers know exactly what you are looking out for in a gaming site and will provide you with honest and objective advice in most cases.
Pay the Online Casino a Visit
When you visit an online casino for the first time, try and listen to your gut feeling. First impressions are hugely important and you will want to feel good about your first visit. You should also take note of the things you learn on your first visit such as the software provider, the company that operates the site and licensing details. This information should be clearly displayed on the website and you should not need to wade through endless pages in order to find it.
If an online casino is powered by a good software company, if it is part of a reputable casino group, if it is well-accredited or if it is licensed by a reputable jurisdiction, you can be sure that they will be proud to display this information on the landing page.
More on Licensing
We've mentioned licensing, but we will add a little bit more about the importance of this issue. Good online casinos are licensed by reputable jurisdictions (Gibraltar, Malta, Alderney, UK, etc.). Rogue online casinos, for the most, are unlicensed. You may see a casino boasting about being licensed in Central America countries such as Costa Rica. You should realize that Costa Rica does not issue regulated gambling licenses, but rather normal business licenses to gambling operators. That is not to say, however, that all casinos "licensed" in Costa Rica are rogue. It simply means that you should take more care to check out the reputation of an online casino that is not licensed in a respected jurisdiction.
More on Software
Another element that is important to note is the software company that provides the online casino with its games. Keep an eye out for casinos that are powered by casino software providers with good names such as Microgaming, Playtech, Net Entertainment, Realtime Gaming and others. These groups have their industry reputations to protect, and won't risk them by pairing with online casinos that seem dodgy.
If you don't recognize the software provider, use this as a red flag. It doesn't mean that the software isn't good (after all, there are many smaller and very innovative software companies around today), however, you should pay more attention and do a bit more digging around if the software isn't instantly recognizable.
Importance of Auditing
Good online casinos don't only depend on licensors and software providers to provide input as service providers. Casinos that take their reputation seriously will also make use of auditing companies and display regular reports on their websites. This ensures transparency and shows players that the online casino is serious about its good name.
Reputed auditors that work with online casinos are Technical Systems Testing (TST) and eCOGRA, the consumer watchdog. A good site publishes monthly auditor reports on the websites, providing players with an extra layer of security and peace of mind.
How Long Has the Casino Been Around?
A good indicator of how trustworthy an online casino is could be how long it has been around in the industry. The chances are that a site which has been in operation for a long time is one that manages to attract and retain players for long lengths of time since it has something to offer them. In such a cut-throat market such as the online gambling industry, an online casino which tricks players, which doesn't pay out in time, which disputes all withdrawal requests and which doesn't keep its promises, will soon be out of business.
Check the Bonuses
An online casino can promise you the world, but if its offers are more fantasy than reality, you should take extra caution. Whenever you consider taking up a casino's bonus offer - whether fantastical or not - take some time to read the small print. Take extra care to understand the Wagering Requirements so that you can withdraw your winnings in due time. The casino should not be making unrealistic demands of you (such as 100 x playthrough requirements!), and if it does, steer clear.
In addition, some rogue casinos are waiting in the wings to brand you a 'bonus abuser', even if you are not. Some will even present hidden stipulations that were not known to you before you signed up for the bonus, and the onus is then on you to try and prove that you were not aware of the terms and conditions.
Overall, try not to give the casino any cause to brand you a bonus abuser. Don't open more than one player account at the site, don't gamble if it is illegal in your jurisdiction and obviously don't gamble if you're underage.
How is Customer Support?
An online casino should offer sound customer support, preferably through a number of channels. Your first warning light should be if the online casino only offers support via a single email address. Think of whether this is the type of communication you will want to deal with if you suddenly hit a snag at the site.
A good online casino should offer multiple ways to contact its support, such as email, free phone and live support. An absolute must is to test drive the customer support before parting with your funds at a site. This move could tell you a lot about how the site is run, and the type of service you will receive when you really need it.
Send an email to the site and ask any question. See what type of response you receive, checking for speed of reply, coherency of the text and level of professionalism. The same can be said for live chat testing. Ask the operator a number of questions beyond the "what bonuses do you offer?" Check who their software provider is and where they are licensed. The type of response you receive should provide you with enough information to make a decision about the site.
Use this checklist when looking out for safe and secure online casinos:
- What does Google say about the site's reputation?
- What do your peers on gambling portals say about the online casino?
- What was your feeling when you visited the site for the first time?
- Was important information about the site displayed on the website?
- Where is the site licensed?
- Who is the software provider?
- How long has the online casino been around?
- Are the bonuses fair and realistic?
- Did you read the fine-print pertaining to bonus offers and promotions?
- Was customer support up to standard?
In conclusion, it is clear to see that it takes common sense and open eyes to recognize a rogue online casino. A good rule of thumb is never to jump at the first offer that you see, however attractive it may seem. Take a little time to do a background check on the site. Ask pertinent questions based on the checklist above and you will be the wiser for it.