Playing Online – Quickstart

I’ve been playing online casinos since 2003 and have tried pretty much all the different software platforms and probably in the region of 120 different casinos over that period. The purpose of this article is primarily to explain how a player determines the good online casinos from the bad ones – not only what to look for, but what you generally won’t find out by reading!

Before you start playing, there are essentially three basic points that are going to affect where you play: the casino’s games, the service they provide players and security. Most online casinos licence their slots from one of several casino software manufacturers and you will find the games are therefore the same at different casinos. In the right hand margin you will see some of these groupings listed as “Microgaming Casinos”, “RTG Casinos” and “IGT Casinos”. Microgaming, RTG and IGT are three of the largest casino software providers and, along with WMS and Playtech, are the largest in the industry. All are independently certified for fairness.

Online Casinos: What To Look For
Personally, when I see the “Microgaming”, “WMS” or “IGT” logos on a casino site, I pretty much trust the casino from the off. Certainly if there was ever a problem where the casino was at fault, the licences from these two ensure that the responsibiliies are recognised. This was recently highlighted when a long-time Microgaming casino group went under due to inept managemnet following a takeover, and Microgaming ensured that all the players and affiliates were paid what they were due. IGT are similarly responsible. In their case, their “software” is browser based and the casinos are generally referred to as “Flash casinos”. Microgaming, Playtech and RTG are principally software based (download and install) and offer more games, however they do in many cases have a cut-down “Flash” version. All of the above providers carry a shedload of games – all the ones you’d expect and lots more. For slots players, Microgaming and RTG are best – check out the Microgaming Slots vs RTG Slots article I wrote up.

With RTG and Playtech, the “trust” issue is not quite so cut and dried. There are in my opinion, 3 RTG casinos I trust (listed right) and while Microgaming casinos accept some US players, these RTG casinos accept ALL US players (ref. article Best Online Casinos For US Players). Trouble is with RTG and Playtech that their licensing criteria isn’t as strict and you have a history of dodgy operators – especially on RTG – which means you really should know who’s good before you play. It’s even worse for US players since US politicians passed the UIGEA in 2006, there are no regulated games online except in a few States like New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.

Playtech software is very good actually – second to Microgaming in my book – but many of the casinos are what I would term “money focused” – ie: their service to players isn’t as good and they rely heavily on bonuses to attract and keep players – never a good sign, espceially when the bonuses come with some very strict terms attached. Only the really, really savvy player is going to come out with a profit from a signup bonus, and that requires a lot of luck.

ID & Security
All players should be aware that online casinos will at some point ask you for Photo ID and some sort of proof of address – normally a utility bill. These requests normally come when you first cashout a decent sum, or if you have played with a bonus in a way they would term you an “advantage player” – IE: a player looking to turn a profit from free money. You can photograph and email these normally but be aware they will be required at some point. Proof of age and money laundering regulations are strict .

Licencing Jurisdictions – Take Care!
Sometimes it’s not always possible to tell what software online casinos use – some indeed use their own although with very, very few exceptions I try to avoid these because they are harder to prove fair gaming. In instances where you don’t see a “Microgaming”, “WMS” or similar logo, look for where the casino is licenced and regulated. If the casino is regulated in Gibraltar, Alderney or the Isle Of Man, these are very stirct jurisdictions and personally this is a good flag. If they are licenced in Malta, a relatively new jurisdiction, this too at least means that they are probably “UK whitelisted” – a governement regulatory requirement for pitching for business in the UK. If you see “Kahnawake”, then unless you see a “Microgaming” logo, I’d do further research. Same applies to Costa Rica, Antigua & Barbuda and Curacao. That doesn’t mean all online casinos licenced in these jurisdictions are bad, but many are. Just be careful!

Obviously you won’t go far wrong with the online casinos listed here (see right margin) as long as you aren’t defrauding, underage or gambling in an illegal jurisdiction. Good luck at the tables!

Footnote: I have also contributed extensively to the list of online casinos on the AZOC directory website which provides background information including cashout times and software among other data, much of which only really becomes obvious by playing. The lists have around 150 safe and established online casinos for comparison purposes.