How to Choose a Casino
Imagine the thrill and excitement of a Vegas-esque casino, complete with all of your favorite games like blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, and of course slots. Now envision playing in the privacy of your own home. This is the allure of online gambling.
While online casinos are plentiful, not all offer the same variety, ease-of-play, and reliability. In addition, it is important to choose a casino that is legal, licensed, and regulated. Need help getting started? Follow our simple guide for choosing a casino.
1. Do Your Research
You wouldn’t make a purchase from an unfamiliar website without doing some research first, right? It only makes sense to do a little probing before choosing an online casino. Before registering an account, take a few moments to Google the history and reputation of the company.
You can also gain valuable feedback by joining online casino forums where players post their opinions and experiences. Casino forums are online communities made up of casino players and enthusiasts who discuss gambling and the best online casinos. Join in the conversation to learn what you can expect.
Not all online casinos accept players from every country. Don’t waste your time setting up an account on a casino website that does not accept players from your country. Navigate to the terms and conditions page and locate the section that lists restricted countries. Note that certain territories may also be restricted. For example, an online casino may accept all U.S. players with the exception of gamblers in Montana, Illinois, Louisiana, Indiana, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Washington. While there is no federal law that prohibits online gambling, these states specifically ban online gambling activities.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down your options, test out a few of your top picks. Most casino sites allow players to try out games for free, often times without having to make a deposit. Also take some time to read website reviews from previous players. This is a great way to weigh a site’s pros and cons.
2. Understand Your Options
Don’t have a PC? No problem. The online casino industry is growing at a steady pace, bringing gamblers new ways to play. Some options include:
- Casino Software – Some players prefer to download the casino interface directly to their computers. While most gambling is done directly on the web nowadays, there is still casino software available for old school gamblers.
- Internet-Based Games – The earliest online casino games were released in the mid- ‘90s. Today, you can gamble using speedy languages like Flash without having to download software directly to your computer.
- Mobile Games – Most gamblers like the option to play directly from their smartphone or tablet. With mobile-friendly games, you can play on your device’s browser anywhere internet is available.
- Casino Apps – For even faster access to your favorite casino games, download an app directly to your phone or device. These apps store login information, are easy to navigate, and can be launched on multiple mobile platforms.
Online gambling is not just limited to a few select games and betting options. You can find the same wide variety of casino games online that you would in brick-and-mortar gaming houses. Online casinos are the most complex type of online gambling. These websites reflect real-world experiences and offer many of the same games you can find at physical casinos. Reputable websites offer hundreds of slots, tables, and specialty games to suit all tastes.
Sports betting is also a major sector in the online gambling industry. This type of online gambling involves making bets on sporting events, such as football or horseracing. It wasn’t until recently that sports betting became legal in many states in the U.S. However, while some states have legalized sports betting, not all have started accepting wagers.
Poker rooms are also a specialty area of gambling with websites dedicated specifically to the card game. Currently, only four U.S. states offer regulated online poker rooms, including New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. If you are in a state that permits online gambling, you can play online poker for real money in the U.S. Good online poker rooms have a wide selection of games and buy-ins. Some of the top sites also run regular poker tournaments with some high limit poker cash games available.
3. Consider the Game Selection
While you may think all casinos are basically the same, they can actually be quite different. Some online casinos are limited in the number of games they offer, while others offer hundreds of selections. When choosing a casino, opt for a site that has a wide variety of games, so you don’t get bored playing the same ones over and over.
While there are countless games available to play online, some of the most popular casino game categories include:
Slots – Gain access to thousands of slot machine games online, ranging from traditional three reels spinning to more modern options featuring five or more reels and rows of symbols. Many slot games are themed to make them even more fun. Bonus features are also common and offer players the chance to win more money.
Blackjack – Also known as twenty-one, blackjack is a classic table game played with a standard deck of 52-cards. Each card is assigned a point value. Cards between 2 and 10 have face value. Jacks, queens, and kings are each worth 10 points each. Aces are worth 1 or 11. Whichever player gets closest to 21 without going over wins.
Keno – Keno is a lottery-style casino game that involves the prediction of numbers. Players must wager by choosing numbers between 1 and 80. Once the wagers are made, 20 numbers are drawn at random and the winning player is paid based on how many numbers were chosen, the wager, and the number of matches. Winning an online keno game can result in instant cash prizes.
Video Poker – Online video poker games can vary based on each game’s paytable. There many game variants available online but most are very user-friendly and take just a short amount of time to master. Video poker involves placing a bet, hitting ‘Deal’ to draw cards, and choosing which cards to hold. Hit ‘Deal’ again and see your final cards. If game play is successful, you can then receive your winnings.
Baccarat – While baccarat is all about luck, it’s a simple game with only three possible outcomes – ‘Player,’ ‘Banker,’ or ‘Tie.’ To play, each player places a bet on the Banker’s or the Player’s cards. Next, two cards are dealt to the Banker and two are dealt to the Player. The winner is the person who made a bet on the hand that totals closest to 9.
Roulette – Online roulette is a thrilling game of chance that is played with a wheel that displays 36 numbered slots, as well as a 0 slot. The 0 slot is green while the other 36 are either red or black. A spin of the wheel sends a small white ball rolling past the numbers. It is up to the players to predict which number the ball will land on.
Craps – Craps is a type of dice game in which numerous different bets can be made. These bets are made on the roll’s outcome. Each player must bet against one another or against the bank. If you’re new to craps, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, with a little practice you can increase your odds at winning this popular casino game.
4. Check the Payout Percentage
Although most casinos list their payout percentages, not many people pay attention to these numbers. Why is payout percentage important? It tells you the amount of bet money that a casino returns to its players as winnings. This means that if a casino has a high payout percentage, more money is going to players instead of lining the pockets of the casino owners.
Some casinos are more hush-hush when it comes to mentioning their payout percentage. This can be a little concerning, especially if you have little to no experience with online gambling. It’s better to be safe than sorry and choose a casino that is direct with their payout percentages.
Some of the top online casinos release information on a consistent basis to independent testing organizations like eCOGRA or Gaming Laboratories International (GLI). These organizations put together monthly reports that state the percentage payout of the casino. As payout percentages can range from month-to-month and from casino-to-casino, reviewing this information can be useful.
Once you have found the best paying online casinos, you still have to do some digging. In some scenarios, casinos that pay well may lack in other departments. For example, a casino with a high payout percentage may take a long time to payout. To qualify as one of the best online casinos, a website has to offer a high payout percentage and fast payouts. Some online casinos even offer same-day payouts.
Online casinos have naturally higher payout percentages compared to land-based casinos. While the average brick-and-mortar casino has a payout rate between 70 and 80%, a majority of online casinos have an average return to player (RTP) rate of 93 to 98 percent. This can mean big earnings for seasoned gamblers. Never play at an online casino that has an RTP of lower than 90%.
5. Review the Payment Methods
The best online casinos offer a variety of casino deposit methods. This makes it easy to securely deposit money into your account and start playing your favorite casino games in minutes. Some of the most common casino deposit methods include:
- Credit Cards – Credit cards remain the most common method for depositing funds into your online casino accounts. Nearly all online casinos accept credit cards from major credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa.
- Debit Cards – For players who do not use credit cards, debit cards are a popular alternative for depositing money. While not all online casinos accept debit cards, many accept cards backed by major credit card companies like Visa.
- Prepaid Cards – Prepaid cards are an effective solution for those who do not want to give out their private credit or debit card information but want to enjoy the excitement of online gambling. Most prepaid cards can be quickly topped off so you can enjoy uninterrupted games.
- E-Wallets – Also referred to as a digital wallet, an e-wallet is a secure source containing one or multiple currency purses. With an e-wallet, you can easily make online transactions using a wide range of services, such as PayPal, EcoPayz, Skrill, and Neteller.
- Bank Transfers – Most online casinos allow players to deposit funds directly from their checking or savings accounts. A wire transfer is a great option if you are making large deposits. However, a bank transfer often comes with a small fee.
When choosing a casino, be sure to consider what sites offer which payment methods. Depending on your unique situation, you may prefer one option over another. For example, if you want to get started playing right away, a bank transfer is not a good option as it can take an average of two to five business days for your funds to transfer. E-wallets are one of the fastest methods, along with credit and debit cards. However, all of the payment methods mentioned above are considered safe and secure options.
Withdrawing money should also be straightforward. When you win money at an online casino, you want to know you’ll be able to easily withdraw your winnings. Unfortunately, some casinos make this difficult by placing strict limits on how much or how often you can withdraw and what payment methods you can use. Check the casino’s withdrawal methods page before signing up to see what options are available. Note that winnings are generally paid back into the payment method that you used to deposit your funds.
6. Ask About Promotions
Many of the top online casinos offer promotions or bonuses that can help you get an edge on the house. While these bonuses are not always worth it, especially if they have wagering requirements that are hard to meet, many can earn you extra money with minimal effort. However, before signing up be sure to read the terms and conditions.
Also see what casinos offer VIP or loyalty programs to their customers. Like any good loyalty program, the more often you play the higher your status. A loyalty program may also get you:
- Bonus spins
- Free entry into tournaments
- Comp points
While not all promotional offers are equally advantageous, many can be claimed easily with no risk. However, you’ll want to make sure that you fulfill any wagering requirements tied to these bonuses. Wagering requirements refer to the conditions associated with an offer. In some instances, a player may need to bet a certain amount of money before a bonus becomes available. Pay attention to these rules to avoid wasted time.
7. Make Customer Support a Priority
Many players do not give much thought to a website’s customer support until a situation arises that requires you to get in touch with a site’s representative. Ideally, a casino should provide round-the-clock customer support which allows players to remedy issues with payment, website use, and other problems in a timely manner.
How you’re able to contact a site’s representatives also makes a big difference in customer satisfaction. Some casino websites only permit contract through email. The problem with contact method is that it can take several days to receive a response. Look for online casinos that provide multiple ways to contact support, such as email, phone, and live chat. The casino’s contact information should be made available on the website and should be easy to find.
Keep in mind, if you choose an online casino based in a different country, there may be some language barriers. While most online casinos translate their site to accommodate players from all over the world, you may have trouble communicating with customer support representatives whose first language is not English.
8. Confirm the Website Is Secure
While there are many credible online casinos, there are just as many fraudulent ones. Before giving a website any of your personal details, confirm that the site is safe and secure.
Start by checking the SSL Certificate. If the website’s URL begins with a “https” instead of a “http,” it means that the website is secured with an SSL Certificate. SSL Certificates are designed to secure data that is transmitted from your browser to the site’s server. To receive an SSL Certificate, a business must complete a validation process.
Reputable casino websites will often display other visible signs that indicate that it’s secure. Scroll to the bottom of the website to see if it has earned a “Secure and Verified” badge. By clicking on the badge, you can determine if the badge information aligns with the website. If it doesn’t, it may be a fraudulent webpage.
Even online casinos must follow strict regulations. Acquiring a license and maintaining its validity is important for online casinos, no matter how big or small the business is. Having an online gambling license shows that the company is transparent in their business operations and are willing to take the necessary steps to meet regulations in their jurisdiction.
How to Get Started
With a large number of options, it’s never been easier to find a reputable online casino that has the games you like to play. However, you want to be cautious when choosing a casino to ensure that your transaction information is kept private. Stick with casinos that are licensed, regulated, and have received a seal of approval from a regulatory or governing board. With these tips in mind, start your search for the best online casino.