The steady technological progress we have been witnessing over the last two decades has caused gambling to make a transfer from the floors of lavish landbased establishments to the internet, where one can find hundreds of online casinos, accepting players from all around the world.
Unlike landbased gambling, online gambling allows for greater dynamics and a faster pace of play since there is no interaction between players to slow down the games. Enhanced convenience is also a factor that has lead to the proliferation of online casinos since players are granted access to their preferred games at all times.
Additionally, web-based casinos allow for a broader choice as they offer hundreds of different games from branded and progressive slots to dozens upon dozens variations of classics like roulette, blackjack, and baccarat. The majority of these are embellished with fantastic graphics, life-like animations, and immersive sounds which greatly contribute to one’s authentic gaming experience. Furthermore, many of the most popular games have been adapted for mobile devices like iOS, Windows Phone OS, and Android, making it possible for players to bet and potentially win big as they go.
If you are preparing to delve into the world of interactive gambling, the following article may be of interest to you as we explain how online casinos work, how payments are processed and what types of games you can find there, along with various other aspects of the casinos’ operation, concerning fairness, security and privacy.
Legality, Licensing and Regulation
One of the burning questions on all online casino players’ minds concerns the legality and reliability of gambling operators. Not all online casinos are created equal and while there are plenty of dependable and well-regulated operators, there are also those which should be avoided at all costs.
The first steps towards a regulated and legitimate online gambling industry were made when special licensing and regulatory commissions were created to issue licenses, protect players, ensure fairness, and oversee the casinos’ operations. Some of the most respected regulatory authorities in the industry include the Malta Gaming Authority, the Gibraltar Gambling Commission, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, the UK Gambling Commission, and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.
If a given casino provider is licensed by one of the above-mentioned commissions, this indicates it adheres to the local gambling laws and guidelines and operates legally. This results in a number of benefits for players themselves. To begin with, if players have complaints against a gambling operator, they can direct their concerns to the regulatory body and rely on the problem to be resolved in a fair and timely manner.
Additionally, regulated and legitimate online casinos need to meet specific criteria in regard to the theoretical return of their games – normally, there are minimum payout percentages that need to be met and these are determined by the regulatory authorities issuing the casino’s license. Players’ money is well protected against insolvency because there is usually a condition on behalf of regulators for the funds to be kept in a separate account from that the casino uses for its operations.
Licensing jurisdictions also benefit from the regulation of online casino operators as each licensee is expected to contribute with taxes. Depending on the jurisdiction, these taxes can be flat or can amount to a specific percentage of the casino’s annual turnover. In some cases, separate licenses need to be issued for the different types of games the casino offers. A percentage of these funds goes towards the prevention and treatment of compulsive gambling. Since the operators are sometimes expected to open offices in the jurisdiction issuing their license, this also helps create job positions for the locals.
Please keep in mind the legality of online gambling differs from one country to another. Because of this, players are advised to first check what the legislation in their jurisdiction is and then proceed to open their accounts at their preferred online casinos. Players from the UK, however, have nothing to worry about since online gambling is fully legal in their jurisdiction and is strictly regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
Types of Online Casinos
Virtual casinos can generally be grouped into three categories and each one has its own merits. At the dawn of online gambling when the first interactive casinos were launched in the mid 1990s, players were required to download and install the casino’s software on their desktop computers. Many operators continue to offer downloadable clients to this day where players often benefit from higher quality graphics and faster, more reliable gameplay. On the downside, one can play the games only on the device they have installed the casino client on and will not be able to access the gaming portfolio from other desktop computers.
Because of this, many players prefer online casinos where the games are available for instant play, meaning that they can be loaded directly into the internet browser and the installation of additional software is not necessary. This increases flexibility because the player can access their casino account from any desktop device they like, using their existing log-in credentials. Additionally, there will be no need to waste storage space to install bulky casino clients. Many operators give their customers a choice between downloadable clients and instant play as both options are supported.
Portable devices have become an integral part of modern people’s lives so it makes sense the majority of online casinos support mobile play on commonly used smartphones and tablets like those running on Android, iOS and Windows Phone OS. The websites of all well-known operators are compatible with mobile devices and the games can be run in-browser. There is no need to sign up again if you already have an account at a given online casino – you can log in via your phone using your existing username and password. A number of reputable gambling operators provide their customers with the option to download a free iOS or Android application on their phones or tablets.
Prominent Developers of Online Casino Software
Today, when online gambling has already exploded all over the internet, there are plenty of companies, committed to developing bespoke games to offer and license to casino operators. However, some names are better known than others and have been leading the interactive gambling industry towards innovation for over two decades.
One such developer is Microgaming, a company whose name is associated with the launch of the first online casino in history, the Gaming Club, back in 1994. The company then decided to veer off in a different direction and license its software for other online casino operators to use. This was a key decision for Microgaming as it allowed them to devote themselves entirely to creating bespoke and innovative games, which are instantly recognisable by their superb visuals, realistic sound effects, and user-friendly interface. Today, the company boasts an impressive catalogue which spans over 850 state-of-the-art casino games and is one of the world’s leading suppliers of interactive gaming software.
Another notable brand name is that of software developer Playtech. The latter was founded a few years after Microgaming, in 1999, but quickly succeeded in cementing its rock-solid position in the industry. Playtech is associated with some of the most loved and widely played slots in the world, with many of the titles being based on well-known movies, comic books, and TV series. Playtech’s developers are also to be held responsible for some of the best mobile casino games in the world. But this is not all – in addition to its comprehensive portfolio of premium casino games, the company offers operators various other services including binary options, share trading, and customer support.
Established in 1996, NetEnt is one of the biggest names around and is entirely committed to delivering the very best in online gambling. The software developer serves over 170 of the world’s most respected casino operators, offering them an extensive selection of more than 200 premium games. These range from various award-winning slots to authentic table games like baccarat, roulette, and blackjack. NetEnt’s live dealer offering is one of the best in the world and allows players to enjoy a life-like interaction with professional croupiers, thanks to the high quality of the stream.
Many renowned online casinos have teamed up with more than one developer in order to give their players a wider choice and diversity in terms of graphic design, themes, and betting limits. So, do not be surprised if you come across an online casino with games that are courtesy of all of the above-mentioned software providers.
The success of online casinos is quite easy to understand since they place players’ favourite games in a single spot, making them easily accessible from all locations and on all devices, mobile or desktop. In most instances, it is possible to test the available titles free of charge prior to processing a payment and making real-money bets.
One of the main game categories consists of online slots – all top-rated gambling operators offer hundreds of titles one can choose from. There are classic, 3-reel titles which are more suitable for traditionalists but one can also bet on modern video slots with multiple paylines, advanced graphics, enticing animations, and plenty of extra features. What is more, some of the slots have colossal progressive prizes which can beat anything landbased casinos can offer as far as jackpots are concerned.
Fans of traditional table games no longer have to pay a visit to a landbased casino in order to place a few bets on craps or roulette. Online casinos are home to a nice range of mainstays which are available in all variations one can possibly think of. Some variants can be played exclusively online and are not offered in brick-and-mortar venues. There are plenty of roulette, baccarat, and poker variants to pick from and players usually have the option to engage in multi-hand games as well. The betting limits are rather flexible so they can suit every pocket.
Video poker fans will not be disappointed, either, with a plethora of variants at their fingertips. At many online casinos, one is usually provided with the choice to make real-money bets on Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Tens or Better, Bonus Poker, and Aces and Faces, to mention just a few of the most popular titles. There is usually the option to play multiple hands at the same time.
Players who lack previous experience with casino games are not left without options since many online casinos have a separate section, devoted to arcades, keno, bingo and scratch cards. Casino fans interested in more interactive games can add further excitement to their experience by visiting the live-dealer section where they can play against professionally trained dealers in real time.
Live Dealer Casinos and How They Work
Live Dealer casinos are growing in popularity these days since they offer a more authentic experience, one you can taste only at the floors of a prestigious gambling establishment. The only difference is, however, one does not have to leave the comfort of their home in order to play.
The authentic casino atmosphere is accurately recreated with a live, high-definition stream using high-end cameras to show professional and highly-skilled croupiers hosting the games in real time. Thus, players are given the chance to see and hear real cards being shuffled, cut and dealt, the rolling of real dice, and the tossing of real roulette balls instead of the usual computer-generated graphics and sounds. Normally, there is a zoom feature enabling players to take a closer look at the tables. These games also allow for a greater social interaction as players can converse with each other or the dealer via the live chat box.
You can use the interactive control panel to make bets, read instructions on how to play the games, look at previous rounds’ history, and keep track of your current account balance. Similarly to landbased casinos, players can also toke their dealers if they are happy with the service since there is a tip box in the control panel for this particular purpose. The games that are most commonly offered in live-dealer casinos include classics like craps, blackjack, roulette, Sic Bo, baccarat, and Hold’em poker.
Online Casino Deposits and Withdrawals
There is one main trait all respected online gambling operators share – players who register with them are enabled to process payments to and from their accounts safely, efficiently and quickly. Such online casinos offer their customers a multitude of deposit and withdrawal methods, so that everyone can find the payment solution they are most comfortable with. Little does it matter whether you prefer to use credit or debit cards, digital wallets, prepaid vouchers, online banking, eChecks, or virtual cards – in all cases, you will find a payment solution that corresponds to your needs and preferences.
Deposits are normally processed immediately and no fees are involved on behalf of the casino operators. Sometimes, players are even rewarded with bonuses upon depositing via specific payment methods. Withdrawals, on the other hand, usually take some time (several business days at most) because of the verification procedures of the casinos, which aim at ensuring the money is sent safely and to the right person. Some of the payment methods are exclusive to specific regions and countries so that players from all jurisdiction can find a method that suits them. The winnings are normally paid back via the same payment solution the player had used when processing their deposit.
Players can completely immerse themselves in their casino experience without having to worry over the safety of their funds and personal information. All highly esteemed online casinos implement the latest SSL encryptions to hide their customers’ sensitive information from ill-intentioned fraudsters. Basically, processing a payment to your favourite virtual casino is just as secure as paying your utility bills online.
How Return Percentages are Determined in Online Casinos
Those who are just making a transition from landbased to online gaming often doubt the fairness of the available games. The truth of the matter is many online casinos actually offer higher return percentages than their brick-and-mortar cousins. Furthermore, at landbased casinos, it is impossible for players to obtain information as to the payback percentage of a given blackjack or roulette variation, for example.
This is not so if you play online where the outcomes of all games are governed by programmes called Random Number Generators, or shortly RNGs. The only exception are the live dealer games which take place in real time. The RNG is an elaborate piece of software which produces long sequences of random numbers using complicated algorithms. These long sequences are then reduced to simplified numbers corresponding to a specific card, slot symbol or a given number on the roulette wheel.
The main idea behind this is to ensure the results of all virtual casino games are entirely random and therefore, fair, so that all players have equal chances of collecting a payout. All reputable online casinos publish the theoretical Return to Player percentages (RTP) of their games. An online casino rookie may ask themselves why are these return percentages so important. They are, in fact, beyond important as they serve as indicators as to the overall winnings amount, returned to players over the long run.
Independent Testing Agencies – the Bastion of Fair Play
Sceptics continue to question the fairness of online casino games despite the use of the RNGs. And indeed, they partially have a right to do so because like any other software that relies on algorithms and computations, the RNGs can be meddled with. This is where independent testing agencies play a crucial role.
Regulatory and licensing authorities typically require their licensees to undergo regular tests of their gaming software. These audits are performed by third-party testing agencies to ensure impartiality and accuracy of the results. The job of the auditors is to make sure the RNGs of the games are running correctly as well as to detect any bias towards specific results, i.e. towards certain cards, reel symbols, roulette numbers, and dice combinations. Thus, the specialists at the testing agencies verify the theoretical return percentages and if everything is in correct working order, the online casino is given a certificate of approval to publish on its website.
These audits sometimes happen on a monthly basis and the majority of respected gambling operators publish the results for all players to see. There are several reputable non-profit organisations which deal with casino games testing, with the most notable names being iTech Labs, Gaming Associates, TST (Technical Systems Testing), GLI (Gaming Laboratories International), and of course, eCOGRA – testing and player protection agency, co-founded by Microgaming.
Bonuses Offered by Online Casinos
Online casinos are preferred over their landbased counterparts by many players because of their unprecedented generosity. Players are given the chance to boost their balance, make risk-free bets, and extend the time they spend playing online from the very moment they sign up with real-money accounts. There is a widespread practice among online casinos to reward newcomers with Welcome bonuses upon making their first deposits. Some operators even greet new customers with appealing offers where no deposit is necessary in order to receive the free casino credits.
The deposit method one uses can also earn them additional credits at some online casinos, where players receive Reload bonuses each time they transfer a payment to their accounts. There are always ongoing promotions to participate in, from various free spins offers, to cash backs and different giveaways.
While landbased casinos treat their regular customers to junkets and comps, their online counterparts reward loyal players with points each time they bet real money on any of the available games. There are multi-tier loyalty schemes and players are able to benefit from greater rewards as they progress from one level to the next. The points can be converted into cash or free casino credits but there are online casinos which reward their most regular players with various non-monetary prizes as well, including vacations, tickets for exclusive events, and free tournament entries.
Customer Support and How to Reach it
Adequate customer care is a sure-proof sign a given online casino is reputable and respects its player community enough to respond quickly and clearly to individual enquiries. There are several channels of communication, with the live chat facility being the quickest and most convenient one.
The live chat agents of established online casinos normally undergo rigorous and detailed training so that they can answer all types of queries, not to mention the support representatives are on standby seven days a week, including on public holidays. Should any problem arise, it will be resolved as quickly and professionally as possible because good customer care ensures players will not only stick with a given casino, but will potentially attract new members by word of month.
Calling on the phone is also an option and the good news is that many gambling operators have toll-free support lines to spare their customers the additional expenses. Of course, communicating via email is also an alternative, albeit a slower one. Despite that, players usually receive a response within a couple of hours, which is still quite reasonable.
Security Measures and Privacy Policies
A bit earlier, we broached the subject of security and online casinos. Now we would like to further elaborate on this topic and explain how gambling operators protect the information players share with them. If you load the website of a virtual casino, you may notice there is a small padlock in the address bar next to the address. This indicates a secure SSL connection has been established to encrypt all data that is transmitted to and from the casino’s website.
The SSL encryption consists of two “keys”. One key is public and establishes the encrypted connection between the casino’s website and the web browser of the player. The second key is private and serves the purpose of decrypting the information that was previously encoded.
Another way to protect the money of players is by placing them in a separate bank account than the one the casino uses for its own operations. This condition is actually listed among the guidelines of many regulatory bodies and aims at protecting the funds players have deposited should the casino declare insolvency.
Finally, renowned gambling operators are also committed to the protection of their customers’ privacy. The data customers disclose in the process of opening their accounts is not shared with third-parties, except for the instances when the information is requested by the above-mentioned testing agencies, by the casino’s contractors or the regulatory body, issuing its license. In such cases, the information is used predominantly for diagnostics and research.