With literally thousands of casinos available on the internet and new ones being launched every week, it’s more important than ever to make sure you only play on the reputable ones – but how can you spot a bad site from a good one, and which casino will suit you the best?
Firstly, you may have specific preferences for which games you want to play. This could make life hugely complicated, but thankfully there are only 4 or 5 main software manufacturers dominating the industry and we advise that you use a casino backed by one of them to ensure that you play somewhere reliable and safe. They each have their strengths, but with just a few of them around you can easily join one casino from each games maker and flit from one to the next, especially if you play online, which is increasingly recommended:
Microgaming are the largest and longest-established. They have hundreds of casinos, though our favourite is 32 Red, a site that’s won endless awards including Casinomeister’s Best Casino (Global) for the 9th year in a row. Like most Microgaming sites it has way more games than its competitors (about 600 in total) if you use the download version. Microgaming excel at different varieties of videopoker and Blackjack, and feature more Blackjack tournaments than anyone else. They also offer a dozen or so progressive jackpots, with more large jackpot games than you’ll find anywhere else.
Playtech are the second major competitor and are growing at an unprecedented rate. They’re strong on branded slot games, with endless slots based on the latest Marvel films like Blade, Elektra and The Incredible Hulk taking centre stage, though they’re constantly adding new, innovative slots inspired by all sorts of other material as well.
Even though they have less than half as many slots as Microgaming, you’ll never tire of their selection, though the real advantage with Playtech lies in their table and card games: Their 3D Roulette wheel is the best in the business and they offer some games from off the beaten track that really ought to be offered as standard these days: If you want to play Craps, Pai Gow Poker, Casino Hold ‘Em or Stravaganza then you’ll need to visit a decent Playtech site like Bet365 or Winner.
Gaining rapidly in third place are Net Entertainment, offering the sleekest gaming software on the web. Again, they don’t have as many slots as Microgaming but you won’t care as the games are so good. Whilst their table games are every bit as impressive as their competitors’, we’d recommend Net sites like Mr Greens and Guru Play for their range of 3d slots like Jack and the Beanstalk and Robin Hood: Shifting Riches. This collection offers similar levels of strategic play to slots found elsewhere, but with much more entertainment and music plus animated sequences that blow most other slots out of the water. Particularly impressive is Gonzo’s Quest, Net’s signature slot: It’s a falling block-style South American adventure and arguably the best slot game on the planet. Net have plenty more to check out as well, including a new series of movie-based slots on their way courtesy of a recent deal with Universal.
However, if you really want to see just what can be done with a 3d slot game, make sure you check out Betsoft’s Slot3 range. These are simply stunning, with immersive storylines, great characters and incredible sound and graphics. We confidently predict that within a few years somebody will actually make a movie based on a slot game rather than vice-versa – and it’ll be a Betsoft game that does it. Try out games like The Slotfather or A Night in Paris at Mr Green’s and you’ll see what we mean.
Reputation and Credentials
Once you know where to find the games you want, you need to make sure your casino is reputable:
Firstly, only use casinos that operate from a UK Whitelisted jurisdiction. Due to punitive tax rules you’ll be hard put to find any online casino operating within the UK, but certain places are deemed by the UK authorities to offer the same level of consumer protection that we get onshore, so make sure your casino is based in one of the following:
Any European Economic Area Country; Gibraltar; Tasmania; The Isle of Man; Alderney; Antigua and Barbuda
Secondly make sure they have the eCOGRA Safe and Fair seal on their homepage. eCOGRA is the premier self-regulatory body for online gaming and their endorsement doesn’t come easily, with any casino awarded the seal checked regularly to make sure they still deserve it. With the larger casinos it’s not so much of an opinion on the software being fair, but confirmation that the casino will process your business properly and pay out when they’re supposed to.
You also need to be sure that your casino uses P-128 SSL encryption if you’re going to provide them with your bank or credit card details. In fact, we’d suggest using an alternative payment method but any decent site should tell you that it uses P-128 SSL anyway.
Our final recommendation with regards to reputation is to check out any casino you’re thinking of using on a player forum, There are lots of these and you’ll hear from real players what the casino is actually like.
Next, you’ll need to look into bonuses:
Virtually all casinos offer ‘free’ money to get you playing with them when you make your first deposit and often for subsequent deposits as well. These, however, come with a catch: You’ll need to gamble your deposit plus your ‘free’ cash over and over up to as many as 50 times before you can withdraw any winnings from your deposit or bonus.
In addition, many sites will only let you play on slot games to meet the bonus conditions, so check the sites’ terms and conditions carefully –look for ‘playthrough requirements’, ‘wagering requirement multiple’ or similar phrases and you’ll find out which games to avoid and how long it’ll take you to get your winnings. For some good bonus deals at present, check out our Top 10 guide…
Finally, you’ll need to make sure you can get hold of your winnings easily. Player forums are full of disgruntled winners complaining about this, so you’ll be able to find out the score pretty quickly, however as a rule of thumb any of the high street bookmakers that have set up casinos online will have a superb record in this respect, so sites like William Hill Online, Ladbrokes or Betvictor will be a good bet.
Avoid any casino that enforces a reverse pending period. This, amazingly, is touted by some operators as a cooling-off period to benefit you, preventing you from making the ‘mistake’ of withdrawing your winnings in the heat of the moment. They’ll try and convince you that you might regret taking your winnings in cash rather than leaving it with them to gamble back at your leisure, hoping that you’ll lose patience and blow the lot. This is sharp practice and should be avoided at all costs.
However, even if your casino pays out promptly they may have no control over speed of payment if you choose a lengthy banking method:
Don’t bother expecting cheque payments to reach you in less than a month, even with a good casino. In fact, we suggest you never try this method at all. Withdrawals via credit or debit card shouldn’t take longer than 3-5 working days, though an e-wallet is the best method. These really come into their own when used with online casinos:
E-wallets (i.e., Moneybookers or Neteller) are web-based, prepaid money-holding devices that you can use to deposit casino funds and withdraw winnings. They allow winnings to be paid out quicker than any other method, often within 24 hours. Check out our banking methods guide for further information, but always pick a casino that uses e-wallets to pay out.
Last but not least, a note of common sense: Remember, all that glitters is not gold. We find that the best casinos are also the most tasteful. Lurid, multicoloured sites with endless photos of half-naked croupiers don’t tend to be as reliable as the more sober offerings. Bright, primary colours are fine within a slot game and on the corresponding icons that show them off, but if the rest of the site is every bit as flashy then you need to ask yourself why. Again, bookmaker sites tend to use low-key colour schemes in their background design, and other highly-regarded sites like Casino Luck and Mr Green’s do the same – and their reputations are second to none…