Most people are aware that everything on the internet is not what it seems and there are unscrupulous people out there who look to take advantage of unsuspecting people. The online gambling sector is no different in this regard to other corners of the internet.
As an online gambler, how do you distinguish between legitimate online casinos from the ones that are up to no good? Can you trust online casino review sites to give honest reviews on online casinos?
These are some very important questions that all users of the internet should ask when they use websites where they are going to be transacting and there is the potential they could become a victim of cybercrime.
There are several factors you can check and some clues you can look out for when investigating whether an online casino is operating on the fringes of the law or is running a legitimate operation. The first and most important foundation to establish however is whether gambling online is legal in your location or not.
Many online gamblers rely on online casino reviews to determine if a site is legit, or whether the site should be regarded with caution. This brings another aspect to the table that online gamblers should question; how legitimate are the online casino reviews?
Our intention for this article is to increase your awareness in order for you to take responsibility for your own protection when you explore the world of online casinos. We will present some guidelines that will help you to identify potential problem casinos before you have an unpleasant experience.
This will allow you to determine for yourself firstly whether an online casino is safe and secondly, whether the review site you are relying on for information is offering fair and unbiased reviews.
Is Online Gambling Legal Where You Live
When the online casino grants you membership to their site, the responsibility does not only lie with them to establish whether your location allows online gambling or not. The onus is on you to make sure that any online gambling activity that you undertake is condoned by your location’s laws as a legal activity.
In our modern age of computers and technology, there are many ways that an online user’s location can be disguised, making it difficult for an online casino to establish the country of origin of its members. This makes it possible that members can join from countries where online gambling is considered an illegal activity.
Services such as VPN’s can mask a user’s location and give a false country location as to the user’s origin. In cases like this, the online casino will need to rely on the honesty of the member signing up and request that they agree to terms and conditions of use document where they declare that gambling is a legitimate undertaking where they live.
Beyond this, it is almost impossible for an online casino to completely protect themselves from gamblers who sign up from countries where gambling is illegal!
Now that we have established the role you as an active participant play in keeping online gambling legitimate, let’s take a look at some guidelines on how to establish the legitimacy of an online gambling site.
How To Know If An Online Casino Is Legit
Many of the online casino review sites would research this information for you and present the information to you so that you don’t have to investigate each site for yourself. It is generally in the interests of an online casino review site to offer fair and honest reviews to maintain their reputation and keep users coming back to their website!
It is a good idea to be aware of the criteria that an online casino review site would use to investigate an online casino so that you can double-check this information for yourself should you feel some concern as to the legitimacy of a particular site.
There are several regulatory bodies that govern online casinos and regulate the behaviour and generally accepted practices for these sites. The regulators put boundaries in place for online casinos to operate within and act as a consumer watchdog for the industry.
The regulatory body that an online casino is registered with will largely depend on the location the casino is based in. There are regulatory bodies that cover North and Central America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, and some international bodies.
One such approved regulator is the eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance body, (eCOGRA), which operates internationally. The purpose of this regulator is to ensure fair, safe gambling, institute rules to protect the online player, and ensure the operators who subscribe to their mandate comply with responsible operator values.
The approved regulator issues certification badges to all casino operators who have passed their investigative audits and comply with the standards as set out by the regulatory body. These certifications are not issued without the proper procedures being followed by both the regulatory body and the casino. Compliant casino operators will display their certification badges on their website with links to verify their membership and compliance.
The monitoring of online casinos is not a once-off inspection at the time membership is applied for, but is an ongoing process by regulatory staff who are specially trained to assess the online casino systems and procedures.
As a player who may be concerned about a site, you can inspect their regulatory body certification and if necessary contact the regulator to confirm compliance.
Online Government Licensing
Many online casinos, particularly those operating in the USA, need to obtain licenses from the state they operate in to carry on a gambling concern. Legitimate sites will be upfront about their location and the gambling licenses they have obtained from their relevant government authorities. Checking a site for such licenses can quickly show if a site is legitimate, and if they are trying to hide their location, or not displaying license information, they should be viewed with suspicion.
Casinos that subscribe to a regulatory body are required to undergo regular audits to ensure that their winning percentages are within their stated odds and various other points to make sure their practices are fair.
Online casinos should display their latest regulatory audit results on their site, which should give a prospective player a level of assurance that the site is legitimate.
Many online casino review sites, portals, and player forums keep a blacklist of casino sites that regularly display unfair or blatantly prejudicial behaviour towards players.
These casinos are often called rogue casinos and if they have made it onto such a list, it is probably wise to take your business to a different operator. Of course, the one caveat is that the online casinos review site must be a trustworthy one – if it is not, then nothing, including an online casino blacklist, can be trusted.
Many people are familiar with searching the internet including social media, forums, blog sites, and other platforms such as Hello Peter to investigate companies they want to do business with. Online casinos can be investigated in the same way, and you will soon find if there is a prevailing trend of negative experiences on a particular gambling platform.
Complaint sites need to be taken with some judgment as to the nature of the complaint. Many people will put a negative comment or a complaint about a casino after they have had a significant loss. The thing to look out for on these sites is trends, not isolated complaints.
Legit Online Casino Review Sites
Online casino review sites are a resource that many online gamblers rely on to vet and recommend reputable gambling sites where they can be assured of a good experience and a fair gambling chance on the games.
Many of the online casino review sites undertake several steps to ensure that gambling sites that they recommend are legitimate and will offer a potential customer a good overall experience and that the practices on the site are fair.
Some online casino review sites do not investigate all the online gambling sites that they recommend but are willing to display their details due to rewards that the site offers them. These sites cannot be relied upon to give honest and unbiased opinions on the services offered by the casino.
The way you can tell if a review site is not legitimate is to do some basic google searches about the site and see if people have negatively rated the review site or sites that the review site has recommended.
A review site that is confident in the sites they recommend will offer information on how they have established the legitimacy of the online casinos. They will have a process in place to evaluate the documents, reputation and usability of their recommended sites.
Some of the criteria that a legitimate review site would investigate for a casino that they are prepared to recommend would be the indicators we have already discussed but also may include additional characteristics of the website or software that could affect a players experience.
Other aspects a review site would inspect regarding an online casino that they recommend can include the following.
This would involve the checking of the data storage protocols for the site. When dealing with banking transactions and people’s money, gambling sites need to take the necessary precautions to protect those transactions, such as encrypted data and documented licensing.
Make sure that any online casino or betting site you use is SSL encrypted and has a valid up to date security certificate. If the security certificate is not valid your browser should warn you not to proceed – take this advice.
Also, make sure that the online casino url is https (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) by checking the address bar and looking for the lock icon and the letters https before the website name.
Software quality and variety
Poorly crafted software on an online casino will make for a poor user experience and should be part of the criteria that a review site would check.
It’s great to try out software providers you’ve never heard of before, but if an online casino has NO well known casino software providers that is cause for concern. Look for quality, award winning software providers such as NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, Betsoft and Evolution Gaming. If none of these are present, then this brings into question the quality and variety of online casino games offered.
Bonuses, offers and promotions
The welcome offers and promotions that a casino offers need to be confirmed to be authentic and of actual value to the player and not just a marketing ploy. Benefits for longstanding, regular players, often termed loyalty bonuses, is also considered a good sign.
Very often these come in the form of a multi-tiered VIP program that can bring players weekly rewards which are based on betting turnover.
The terms and conditions of all online casino bonuses are different – check the “rollover amount” (i.e. the amount of times you need to wager a bonus before you can withdraw). Compare the amount required before choosing between any online casinos.
A process on an online casino that is used often is the deposit and withdrawal process. This system needs to be secure, but easy for the member to navigate and access to make deposits and withdrawals of winnings from the site.
You shouldn’t be pulling your hair out in frustration or be irked in any way when performing transactions at an online casino – it should always be convenient.
An online casino review site will check the support that is offered to online players in regards to resolving software issues, transaction problems and resolution of disputes. The support function should be available to gamblers 24 hours, 7 days a week via email, live chat and even via a phone call.
If your language is not supported by the online casino, then it’s probably a good idea to rather find an online casino where you can speak to support staff in your native tongue.
Many online players access their favourite gambling sites via mobile devices. Review sites will check the compatibility of these sites on multiple mobile platforms and devices to ensure a good mobile experience.
Games and all transactions should run as smoothly on a mobile device as they do on a desktop. The fun and user-friendliness of an online casino or gambling site shouldn’t be impaired in any way when playing on a mobile device. Sure it will look different, but it should be at least on a par.
Online casino review sites will investigate not only the diversity of casino games offered for gameplay but also the number of languages the site supports and the number of different currencies the site will accept for deposits and payouts, including crypto-currencies.
Finally, beware if an online casino review site is scant in details and value added content such as articles and gambling guides. A legitimate online casino review site has content which can not only help players increase their winning chances, but also inform, educate and entertain.
Signs That An Online Gambling Site Is Not Legit
Our discussion thus far has mostly been concerning proving the legitimacy of an online casino’s operation. But there are some quick indicators that will give you cause to hesitate if a site is NOT legit.
Poor quality website
This is a sure sign that the site is suspicious, as most legitimate sites want to establish a long term relationship with their members and therefore try to make the environment as appealing as possible.
If you find menus that don’t open, search bars that don’t work or pages that take forever to load then perhaps move your gambling dollars to another online casino. Website design has been greatly simplified and enhanced in recent years – there shouldn’t be any excuses. An online casino should have invested properly in website design and had it tested thoroughly. If they didn’t have the capital to do that, how will they ever pay you your winnings?
Missing regulatory certificates
Stay away from sites that are not members of a regulatory body. The reason for this is that if you would have no recourse in the case of a dispute. Regulatory bodies are what keep online casinos and gambling sites “in line” – without them the punter is not protected. Laws are there to make sure that your money is safe, your details are protected and that your winnings are paid.
No licensing documentation
No licensing document displays. Licence certificates, or details thereof, should be either displayed at the bottom of the home page or in the “About Us” section.
Lack of user experience
Obvious lack of concern for the user experience.This should ring alarm bells because an online casino’s first and foremost priority should be the customer. The user experience should be seamless, hassle-free and fun. If it’s not then the online casino clearly hasn’t invested enough in development. This can be a result of a number of things, the most likely of which is lack of funds.
No support measures
No measures to support responsible gambling to prevent addicts or underage persons from accessing the site. Legitimate sites would be interested in the well-being of their members and of maintaining their good reputation.
Look out at the bottom of the home page or in the “About Us” section for links to ‘Responsible Gambling’ organisations. There should also hopefully be a statement supporting responsible gambling.
The withdrawal process
The withdrawal process is unnecessarily long and complicated. This is a warning sign that this site may not be interested in fairness keeping you as a long term member and is an indication that you should take your business to another site.
If you find yourself being shuffled from one withdrawal window to another, needing to re-submit identity or address details – BEWARE. Some online casinos of ill-repute make it difficult or impossible to withdraw for obvious reasons – they don’t want to pay.
The online gambling sector is not exempt from the activities of people with nefarious intent! There will always be unscrupulous people who are out to take advantage of unsuspecting people in all walks of life.
There are surprisingly few outright fraudulent online casino sites and this is probably due to increased awareness and savvy among online gamblers, the diligence offered by online casino review sites, and the great job that regulatory bodies are doing in the industry.
There are probably more people trying to scam online casino sites than casino sites trying to scam people!
This is, however, no reason to become blasé about your vigilance when signing up to play on an online casino site. You never know when a more sophisticated scam site will surface and be enough to fool a casual passerby!
As customers of these sites, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to find out as much as we can about a site where we are going to be putting money down. As online players, we also have a responsibility to speak up should we come across suspect behaviour from an online casino operator.
If the casino displays membership to a regulatory body, contact the regulatory body and register a complaint. Be forthcoming and give the regulator any information that they request from you in order to investigate and resolve the case you have raised.
If the site does not display a membership or certification from a regulatory body, you can report the incident to the Gambling Commission of the country where you live, or where the casino is operating from.
The bottom line is that people research the type of cereal they eat, the car they drive, the holiday destination they go to – yet, many are blasé when it comes to selecting an online casino or betting site. Why is that? Maybe it’s a mindset of not being concerned because it’s expendable income that’s being wagered. Or maybe it’s the rush of adrenalin when finding a new place to ‘have a flutter’. Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t make sense.
We need to find trusted sources to verify the integrity, safety and enjoyment to be had at an online casino. Only then can we have a complete gambling experience, devoid of worry and hassle free – a gambling journey that is fun, memorable and hopefully incredibly profitable!
So, remember, before you choose your next online casino or sports betting site, do a little homework. We’re not talking about intense research – just a little light reading from a trusted source can make the difference between a horrible online casino experience and one filled with joy.