Online gambling is booming even between poker players and is becoming one of the favorite pastimes of many these days. With every day, online casino game developers are coming with ideas that are more entertaining and more exciting, attracting an increasing number of people to the industry. Interesting games, an engaging experience, and, of course, the chance to win money, are all factors that come into play.
With the increased popularity and demand, it is only natural for the offer to increase as well. Today, the number of online casinos available on the web is probably ten times bigger than what it was ten years ago – and there are new virtual casinos opening their doors almost every day.
With so many options, how does one go about choosing the best online casino site for gambling? If you aren't experienced in the industry and are someone just looking to have some fun, all these casinos may seem identical. So, we've come up with this guide that will help you make your choice so that you're guaranteed a great overall experience in all the relevant aspects, from playing the games to cashing out your winnings – and anything that comes in between.
Where to Start
If you have no idea about online gambling and have never played at an online casino, what should you do as your first step? This is a bit tricky because there isn’t a one-fit-all answer to the dilemma. It will greatly depend on what exactly you’re looking for, i.e. are you interested in playing slots or you prefer table games, whether or not you’d like to have a big welcome bonus to go along with your initial deposit or this isn’t as important, etc.
All of these aspects will be looked at in detail later on in this text, but the very first thing you need to know about your casino site of choice is if they are an honest and trustworthy business operation. You will be able to determine this looking at a couple of factors.
Online casinos, at least the reputable ones, are licensed by independent and/or governmental authorities. There are several such authorities out there and you can find more details about it online. However, without knowing anything about them, suffices to say that you’ll want to play with an online casino that displays a license by an organization such as the Malta Gambling Authority, UK Gambling Commission, or Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner. These are some of the best and strictest licenses out there and a good first step towards finding a reliable place for online gambling.
While online casinos themselves usually don’t have a section for player comments on the site, there are many reputable casino review sites where players will leave their comments and share their experiences. While most casinos will have some players complaining about this or that (due to the nature of the business), be very careful if the casino you’re looking into has many complaints concerning cashouts, confiscated funds, and similar ones. With so many options out there, you’re probably better of steering clear of such places.
Online Casino Welcome Bonuses & Other Goodies
One thing that makes the online gambling industry different from its land-based counterpart is the number of various promotions offered to players, from generous welcome bonuses to all sorts of player loyalty programs, which can be both rewarding and entertaining.
Casino welcome bonuses usually work in a way that the casino matches a part or all of the money you deposit and gives you extra cash to play with. So, for example, you might have an offer to deposit €200 and instantly get €200 more to play with. If you’re new to online gambling, this may seem too good to be true, but it is actually a fairly standard offer for a new player at many casinos.
Checking out the welcome bonus package is one of the first things you should look at when choosing your online casino. These offers can really boost your gambling bankroll and increase your winning chances, in addition to providing you with more entertainment. However, you need to know that not everything is as straightforward as it seems at a first glance.
Wagering requirements & other restrictions
The only gambling industry may be fairly generous when compared to the land-based casino industry but they’re still in the business of making money, not giving it away. This means that bonuses (welcome and otherwise) always come with certain restrictions that apply to them and you need to be aware of these.
Wagering requirements are the term you’ll encounter most frequently when talking about casino bonuses. In simple words, this is the turnover you need to achieve before the bonus cash is released to you and you’re allowed to cash it out. For example, a 30x wagering on that €200 bonus would mean you need to place €6,000 worth of bets before whatever is left of that money actually becomes yours.
It is hard to fully understand wagering requirements without getting the actual first-hand feel for them but as a general rule of thumb, anything that goes beyond 40x the bonus amount or 25x the full amount (bonus + deposit) is a raw deal. There are some exceptions, of course, but if you’re someone just starting, you’ll be able to find plenty of offers in the 30x bonus region, so you should probably stick with those.
With most welcome bonuses, there will be other restrictions in place. Most often, there is the maximum bet in place, so while you have a bonus active, you won’t be allowed to wager more than a certain amount on a single go. For example, you might be limited to €5 per slot spin or a hand of blackjack.
Finally, not all wagers are counted the same towards meeting these wagering requirements. Usually, all your play on slots is counted at 100% but your roulette or blackjack play might only count at 5% or 10% (or not at all). This is definitely something to consider if you’re planning on playing table games as with most casinos you’re probably best off going at it without a bonus.
Best online gambling sites run certain loyalty schemes where players are rewarded for their play. These days, there are so many different models that it would be impossible to even start covering them in this article. However, you should always check out what’s on offer and see if it tickles your fancy. For small time players, the value of these programs is often not found in cash returns but rather in the fun element, which is something more and more online casinos are starting to do. Many of them have setups where players have a feeling they’re playing a video game of sorts, progressing through different levels, uncovering new places, and earning modest, but entertaining rewards along the way.
Races, leaderboards, etc.
On top of all this, many places run regular races and leaderboards of different shapes and sizes. These add extra value to your play as you can win additional rewards by simply playing your favorite games. The general rule of thumb here is – the more the merrier, as every such promo can be of interest at some point down the line even if you aren’t interested in it at the moment. Plus, these can be a lot of fun as you’re pitched against other players, trying to achieve a better score than them.
Online Casino Game Selection
Even if you’re new to online gambling you’re probably not new to casinos in general and have an idea what they’re all about. One thing to look at when choosing your online casino is definitely the number and the type of games on offer. In general, you’ll find several large groups of games at most online casinos.
Slots are by far the most played type of games at online and land-based venues alike. Simple and easy to play, yet very exciting and entertaining, with a potential to produce big wins, it isn’t hard to see why slots capture the imagination of casino players of all shapes and sizes.
If you’re someone with a land-based casino background, you’re probably used to having access to a somewhat limited number of games as land-based venues have a limited floor space to use for the machines. Online, however, these problems don’t exist so you’ll find online casinos offering hundreds and even thousands of different casino slots, all in one place.
If slots are your cup of tea, you’ll be delighted by what the world of online gambling has to offer. There is practically an unlimited number of slot machines to try, with new ones being added regularly. Some of these games even offer huge progressive jackpots, where you can win seven and eight-figure amounts if you get lucky – all from the comfort of your own home.
There are quite a few online casinos that made it their mission to offer their players access to as many slots as possible. You should have no problem finding these casinos with very little effort if this is what you’re interested in and feel like you need access to a couple of thousands of slot machines.
There are games with every theme under the sky, featuring a number of pay lines from just one all the way to hundreds of thousands and even millions. You’ll find all sorts of features and mini-games embedded in these slots so it is really a never-ending source of entertainment.
Table games and video poker machines
Of course, slots aren’t the only thing available at online casinos, even if they are the most popular. Most casinos feature electronic versions of popular table games such as roulette, blackjack, baccarat, Caribbean Stud, Casino Hold’em, and much more. Unlike slots, however, some casinos might be richer in this department than the other, so if you’re interested in this particular segment, check it out before signing up, just to make sure the casino meets your expectations.
The same applies to video pokers. In today’s day and age, video poker machines have become somewhat outdated, so some casinos offer only a limited number of these. That said, you’ll still be able to find online casinos offering the full scope of video poker variations, from Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild to All American, Aces & Eights, Aces & Faces, Joker Wild, Bonus Poker, and more.
Live Dealer Casino
The development of new technologies has taken the world of online gambling to a whole new level, making possible things that were hard to even imagine a decade or so ago. The live dealer casino is one such invention, which will probably appeal to you if you’re coming from the brick and mortar casino background.
The live dealer casino is exactly what the name suggests, i.e. live dealer tables with an actual dealer, real cards, and proper roulette wheels, but the play happens over the internet instead of you having to go to a casino. So, everything is pretty much the same as if you were sitting at that blackjack table making your choices but instead of having to physically move your chips and announce your actions, it is all done through an interactive online interface.
These days, you can find a variety of popular games in live casinos provided by a number of companies, including blackjack, baccarat, roulette, Three Card Poker, Pai Gow, Caribbean Stud, Casino Hold’em, and much more.
The Money Talk: Deposits & Withdrawals
Some of the biggest concerns most people have when it comes to online gambling have to do with money. On one side, the question is how are you going to fund your account and if it is actually safe to do so. On the other, many are concerned about actually getting their money when and if they happen to win.
On the funding side of things, most online casinos have made it so that it is unbelievably easy to get money in your account. Funds can be transferred from credit and debit cards (which most people own these days), numerous e-wallets, straight from bank accounts, etc. And, if you’re concerned about your information being safe, you shouldn’t be. Properly licensed casinos, which we talked about earlier, have to stick to some very strict rules and regulations when it comes to handling your sensitive data, especially with the new GDPR coming into play.
When it comes to withdrawing, as long as you’re playing with a reputable online casino, you can rest assured your fund will be made available to you in the shortest time possible. Serious businesses are happy to pay your winnings because paying winners is an essential part of the business model. You’d never walk into your local casino if they’d confiscated your winnings for no good reason and you’ll never see it happen. The same thing applies to well regulated and serious online casinos. They want you to come back and play more and they will not scam you out of your winnings.
Fairness: Understanding the Foundations of Online Gambling
Another common concern with people when considering online casinos has to do with the fairness of it all. How can you be sure that the games you’re playing are fair and that the casino isn’t rigging the play in some way to make you lose more than you should and win less frequently?
Of course, nothing in life is 100% guaranteed and it wouldn’t be fair to say that there’s never been an online casino trying to cheat on their customers. However, in most instances, you’re probably better off playing online than in your local casino venue if the fairness is your primary concern.
All the games you’ll encounter at an online casino run based on independently verified and regularly checked Random Number Generators (RNG). This is the software that ensures the games are fully randomized and not influenced by any outside or inside factors. For the most part, casino owners and employees don’t even have the means necessary to tamper with the RNG even if they wanted.
If somehow, a casino manages to change the RNG and doesn’t disclose the fact, this wouldn’t last long, because regulators are there to check on these things and the moment any tampering was to be discovered, the casino would probably immediately lose its license and potentially face legal ramifications.
Most online slots actually come with a Return to Player figure publically announced. This is the amount of total money taken in that the machine gives back. So, if the RTP stands at 96%, this means that, over the long run, the slot will take €4 for every €100 put in. This RTP number is often not disclosed with land-based machines, at least not in most jurisdictions, so you’re actually much safer gambling online, even if it doesn’t appear so at the first glance.
Why Is Online Gambling So Entertaining?
With hundreds of thousands of people gambling online at various online casinos, there is no denying this is one of the most appealing and fastest growing industries out there. But, what is it that makes online gambling so fun and attractive to people?
At the moment, online casinos have a number of things going for them, but one of the biggest is probably the convenience. Instead of having to get all dressed up and driving to a casino that may be an hour or so away, people can simply sit in front of their computers or even fire the casino up on their mobile devices and get started within a matter of minutes.
The other big thing about online gambling is something we’ve already discussed – the game selection. Even the biggest land-based casinos have their limitations in terms of space and they can only offer a limited number of slots and table games. Online casinos can, and some of them do, pretty much offer almost every slot that’s ever been produced. The ability to play any game you can think of without any hassle is definitely a huge plus.
Playing online casino can be a much more relaxing experience for many. While some people enjoy all the bustling of live venues, for many more, it all becomes a bit too much. These people enjoy their gambling but don’t want people pushing and shoving around them and looking over their shoulders.
Finally, there is also an issue of affordability. Not many people will go to a live casino that’s an hour away just to spend €10 or €20 in five minutes and go away. It just doesn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do. With online casinos, you can put in the same €10 in quickly, have some fun, and once it is gone, you can get back to doing whatever you were doing before, without losing the extra couple of hours in the process.
So, when all these factors are added together, the appeal of online gambling becomes quite obvious. It is highly entertaining, quite affordable, and very convenient. Of course, on top of all this, there is always the chance to win, which is the underlying driving force of gambling in all of its forms.
Conclusion: Have Fun & Stay Safe
With everything discussed in this article, you should have a pretty good idea of what to look for if you want to get started with online gambling and what you can expect to find. While this is a huge subject that can be discussed at even more length, some of the general things discussed here should help get the ball rolling.
The most important takeaway is to always stay safe and play with online casinos you can trust. This is something you can conclude based on their licenses and general user reviews. If you get this right, the rest should be fine.
Welcome bonuses and promos are there to make your stay more pleasant so don’t be shy about taking advantage of these. However, always make sure to get familiar with relevant terms and conditions so you know where you’re at all times.
Finally, try to have fun, because that’s the most important bit. You can’t beat the casinos but you can find the ones where your time and money will be well-spent and you’ll feel the entertainment you got was well worth it.
Of course, every now and then, you will walk away the winner. When this happens, make sure to get some of the money out and treat yourself with the winnings because that will make the whole gambling experience so much better!
If you want a more controlled environment you can give poker a go and learn any game with many advanced poker training options available these days. So do not shy away, choose what you like to play and jump to the tables!