It’s no secret that online gambling has become a global phenomenon, shaking up the industry and creating more opportunities than ever before for those who like to have a flutter. It’s a success story that has been almost thirty years in the making, but a combination of rapid technology growth and the pandemic have accelerated growth at an unprecedented rate in the multi-billion-dollar industry.
The rapid rise of the sector has sparked concern amongst some for the welfare of players. While the number of legal online casino sites on offer has increased, so has the number of black market online casinos.
Research carried out by the UK’s Betting and Gaming Council in partnership with YouGov has found that black market gambling has doubled in just two years, from 220,00 users to 46,000 users. Billions of pounds have been staked at illegal casino sites where players are unprotected from gambling harms and are vulnerable to scams.
Research your safe online casino
While these findings are alarming, it is still possible to discern legal and safe online casinos from those that operate in the black market. An array of review sites has popped up in the US to guide players in their search for safe online casinos, due to the changing legal statuses of online gambling there.
Consumers in the UK can also find trusted review sites to help them make an informed decision. Sites that include detailed breakdowns of why certain online gambling sites are safe are a great way to help you learn how to accurately identify reputable online casinos for yourself. Readers should however be wary of sites that accept money for positive reviews.
Sites that include user ratings are also a great way to find out what other like-minded players think of casinos online. Don’t take the word of one review site as gold though. Look at a number of sites to compare safe online casinos and help you reach an informed and unbiased decision.
How to spot licensed, legit online casinos
At first glance, telling apart licensed and unlicensed casinos online might seem like a minefield. However, there are a number of tell-tale signs that you can look out for to help you recognise legit online casinos.
All safe online casinos are legally required to carry a license, which allows them to operate in their jurisdiction. Licenses only apply to the location in which they have been issued, so a license from Italy is no use if you’re playing online in France.
In the UK, licenses are issued by the Gambling Commission, which regulates the industry there. The Gambling Commission’s mission is to prevent crime, ensure that casino games are carried out in a safe and fair way, and to protect children and vulnerable people from harm. Operators are subject to strict licensing conditions, which they can be penalised for breaching.
Secure online casinos in the US vs. UK
In the US, online casino licenses are issued state by state. This is because not every state has legalised online casino sites yet. The good news for players is that online gambling is on the rise, and the number of states choosing to allow the practice is increasing.
US players should ensure that the online casino that they want to play at is licensed by the regulatory agency local to their state. For example, in Pennsylvania the sector is overseen by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. In New Jersey, licensed casinos are handled by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement.
How online gambling is governed varies from state to state. Many gambling authorities act as casino auditors, testing online casino games in the Technical Services Bureau. This adds an extra layer of safety, as they can choose to exclude casino games that they think could pose a risk of harm to players.
Legal requirements, such as slots payouts, also vary across the US. The bottom line is that all safe online casinos in the US must carry the appropriate license for their jurisdiction and the services they offer. License terms require that legit online casinos in the states must have responsible gambling and player safety tools in place.
Players in the US can look at their state’s gambling page online to find a list of the safest online casinos regulated where they are. This is a great resource which can be used to ensure that casino sites are reputable and safe to play at. If a gambling site is not on the list, it is probably best to avoid using it.
All legit online casinos have to display the fact that they have a license on the home page of their website. This can usually be found by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page. In the US, logos for state regulators are used to indicate an online casino’s license.
In the UK, you’ll see the Gambling Commission emblem. Clicking on this should take you through to the Commission’s public register, showing the business’s license. You can check if the details of the license, such as the casino’s domain name, match the public register.
Avoid black market casinos
Spotting legitimate online casinos is a big step in the right direction, but it’s also important to be aware of how to spot rogue casinos. Black market online casinos are casinos that are illegal. Playing at these gambling sites puts players at risk of problem gambling as well financial risk.
In the US, it is usually best to avoid offshore casinos. US courts do not have any jurisdiction outside of the United States, so offshore casinos are definitely not the safest casinos online. Offshore casinos hark back to the era when online gambling was effectively illegal in the states. Online casinos that based themselves offshore could still operate through a legal loophole.
These gambling sites did not have to adhere to key safety standards, as they didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the US. Now that online gambling is legal in the US, there is no good reason to use an offshore casino, and many do still operate. Legalisation has sought to raise safety standards and address gambling addiction, so you are infinitely better off at a US legal secure online casino.
In the UK, the law around offshore casinos is less clear. Many gambling firms which legally operate in the UK have offshore operations. By and large, these are simply used to serve overseas customers. It is not an offence for a UK citizen to gamble with a foreign operator, even if that gambling firm does not carry a UK gambling license.
Players in the UK can access online casinos that are licensed in jurisdictions like Curacao. However, like in the US, these casinos carry with them their own set of risks. These are not the safest online casinos as many do not partner with self-restriction schemes, which puts players at risk of harmful gambling.
It is also easier to fall victim to a scam gambling site that doesn’t carry a license at all, which could put your finances at risk. Many consumers have reported that making deposits at offshore casinos is easy, but withdrawing sums is complicated with few methods accepted.
What are blacklisted online casinos?
While many casinos operate perfectly legally in the UK and in the US, some have become viewed unfavorably amongst their customers. Blacklisted casinos are online casinos that have gained bad reputations online. Many disgruntled consumers choose to vent online, so it’s a good idea to check out reviews before depositing any of your own cash at an online casino.
There are a variety of reasons as to why a seemingly legit online casino may be blacklisted. Most often, it is because it doesn’t pay out when players win. Sometimes online casinos can be far from clear when it comes to terms and conditions. It’s always worth checking the finer details so that you understand exactly what you are betting on.
Some players have flagged online casinos that rig their games, meaning that players are always put on the back foot. False advertising is a recurring issue, as is spamming players once they have signed up for casino site accounts.
Bad customer service is another reason why online casinos may be slated online. Whether you have a question about a game or you want help to restrict your wagering, online casinos should treat you with respect and address your complaints seriously. Sadly, not all online casinos take their obligations towards customers seriously enough.
Sites like Google Reviews and Trustpilot, as well as specialised sites that only review online gambling operators, are an invaluable resource when it comes to digging the dirt on shoddy service. You can also find a curated casino blacklist to help you decide which ones to avoid.
Safer gambling features at online casinos
Problem gambling is a serious issue that all safe casinos are obliged to address. While regulators have included safer gambling measures in the license conditions of online casinos, how effectively those are actioned can vary.
The safest online casinos are good at signposting customers to tools which can be used to help them stop or reduce their gambling. Nowadays there are heaps of safer gambling tools to choose from, each catered to different ways of gambling safely.
Deposit, loss and wagering limits are useful tools for those who want to reign in their spending. Many safe casinos offer a feature that allows users to put a cap on their account, ensuring that they do not exceed spending a certain amount. Those who also like to gamble at a land based casino can set similar limits.
Taking a timeout from gambling is another good way to make sure that you don’t chase your losses. Take regular breaks and take time to clear your head. Track your spending to make sure that you aren’t gambling beyond your means or becoming dependent on gambling.
Players can also monitor how often they are gambling. Many gambling sites will provide access to account activity, letting you see how often you’ve logged in and when you’ve gambled. You can also check how much money you’ve spent during a gambling session as well as how much time overall you have spent on the casino site
Those who want to take a longer break can self-exclude for six months or more. Software like GamBan is useful for gamblers that think they may be addicted to casino games and want help to stop. Another option is GAMSTOP, a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme that all gambling operators in the UK must participate in.
Consumers can also contact their bank for help with blocking gambling payments. This may entail freezing a card or blocking payments to gambling websites.
The UK Gambling Commission recommends that people consider the reasons why they are gambling. For example, is it a social activity or something that has turned into a habit? Gambling should never be used as a means to improve one’s personal finances.
Organisations like GambleAware and GamCare offer information and support for those who are concerned about their own gambling or somebody else’s. Confidential advice can also be sought 24/7, by calling the National Gambling Helpline at 0808 8020 133.
When choosing a trustworthy online casino, take a look at what kind of support they offer their customers. 24/7 support is ideal, as many gamblers like to play late into the night. Live chat and phone services are a good sign, as are clear contact details.
Players in the US can choose from an equivalent array of options. Wagering and deposit limits, time out sessions and self-exclusion are all options that should be supported by most trusted online casinos.
GamBan is available in the US, as are resources like the National Council on Problem Gambling and Gamblers Anonymous. Look out for RG and 800Gambler emblems at the footer of the casino site, as these are good indicators that an online casino is committed to responsible gambling.
Online casino payment methods
When choosing a trusted online casino, it’s not just about playing safely. As with any financial transactions you make online, you need to be assured that your personal details are in safe hands. A legit casino will offer players a variety of quality payment methods.
Look out for the best-known banking methods like PayPal, Visa and Mastercard. These are all reputable payment methods that have extra security and you won’t find them at black market casinos. Another trusted payment method is Play+, which has been developed specifically for online casinos. You can also try a bank transfer, but while safe and secure this method can sometimes be slow.
Crypto online casinos
With the rise of cryptocurrencies, a growing number of people are looking for ways to build on their assets. Alternative currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin are amongst the most popular, and some online casinos in the world have opted to accept these as legitimate banking methods.
If you live in the US, unfortunately you’ll have to avoid gambling with crypto currencies. Gambling with crypto is not legal, so if you stumble across an online casino claiming to accept crypto in the US chances are its offshore and not a safe casino. There is a chance that in the future the law could change on gambling with crypto. For now, crypto casinos are a hard pass if you’re in search of legit online casinos.
It’s a similar story in the UK, where gambling with crypto currencies falls into a gray area. Residents can access online crypto casinos, but again these are based offshore and are not the most trusted online casinos. It is always safer for UK consumers to play at legit online casinos that are licensed by the Gambling Commission.
The regulator has cited concerns over money laundering, security of funds and issues with the fluctuating value of cryptocurrencies in its decision not to hand out licenses to crypto currencies. Some people assume that their crypto assets are protected by the FCA, but there has been very little international coordination when it comes to regulating crypto.
When it comes to playing at a mobile gambling site there’s no reason to sacrifice your online safety. Mobile casino sites are safe and secure just as long as they are licensed in your country or state. Some users find that particular online casinos aren’t optimised well for mobile play, but you can usually expect to access upwards of 95% of what you’d find on the desktop version.
Over half of online casino fans choose to use their phones to play, and that number is set to rise. Many online casinos have now produced their own mobile apps, which are by far the best way to play on the go. Again, review sites are a great way to discover which mobile casinos come out on top with punters.
The top tier of mobile casinos should have 700 or more casino games for players to choose from. Mobile gaming is a competitive market, so you can also expect a good variation of online games; from online poker and slots, to live dealer games. Bonuses should be equally competitive, so look out for deposit offers, free spins and 100% deposit match bonuses.
While well-established mobile casinos are most likely to offer the best array of casino games and deposit and withdrawal options, it can be worth checking out the newest mobile casinos on the block. These will often have competitive deposit offers or a welcome bonus for those signing up to a new casino account. New mobile casino apps will also take advantage of the latest technology, making for a cutting-edge user experience.
Some players may be disappointed to find that many online casinos that have great desktop websites don’t live up to that experience when it comes to playing on a mobile or tablet device. Be sure to choose a legit online casino that is compatible with the device you intend to play on.
Online casino bonuses
We have already mentioned bonuses briefly, so let’s go into some more detail about what players can expect to find. Online casino bonuses are a great way for gamblers to make the most of their bankroll and enjoy their play. There are heaps of different bonuses on offer, which can make the process of choosing a safe online casino overwhelming for newcomers.
First of all, it’s important to be aware that all fair bonuses and offers come with terms and conditions. Always familiarise yourself with the small print before agreeing to anything, or you may find that a welcome bonus is not as alluring as it seems. No deposit bonuses are a good place to start, as are free spins.
At secure online casinos you can’t avoid wagering requirements. This means that customers must play a game a set number of times before they can withdraw their winnings. While some casinos may only require players to play with their bonus money just once, at most top online casinos this could be up to fifteen times.
Even at the most trusted online casino, it is not uncommon for bonuses to come with an expiry date. This means that players must wager within a set time frame in order to receive their bonus, and it has been known to catch some people out.
Players should also be aware of max cash withdrawal limits. A reputable casino will clearly state how much its customers can withdraw a week, and how long it will take. In the US, a good max cash withdrawal limit is at least $5000 a week, which should take no longer than 24 hours.
Some types of bonuses, for instance deposit match bonuses, will mean that your casino account balance contains both cash funds and bonus money. Top online casinos will use your bonus to fund your wagering before taking money from your cash balance, but this is always worth checking.
Before leaping into your favorite game, make sure to check that it is covered by the welcome bonus you want to take advantage of. Sometimes online casinos protect themselves by limiting jackpot options, so that they don’t give away huge cash prizes to those playing with bonus funds. It’s also worth checking free spins validity, as you don’t want to pick a bonus excluded from your favorite slot. A high free spins max is a good determiner of whether a bonus is worth trying out.
Safe online casino games
When it comes to online gambling, the most important thing is to choose the safest casinos. As long as it’s a legit casino, all the games on offer will be safe and secure to play. Some of the best online casinos will let you play for free before you commit any of your own money. This is a great way to get to grips with casino games that are more complicated and decide which style of play suits you best.
Bear in mind that not all of the games you’ll find at online gambling sites are the same. With games of chance, like slots and roulette, whether you win comes down to luck. All games have an RTP, or a Return to Player. This percentage is the estimated amount that a game will give back to players, so the higher the RTP the better. For online slots 95% or higher is a good benchmark.
Games of skill are a different matter, and are a safer bet if you’re good at them. However, it all depends who you are playing against. Even the most experienced poker players can slip up, so playing safely means not putting all of your eggs in one basket!
Safety doesn’t stop at secure online casino sites
Even at the most trusted online casinos, safety can still be an issue. Top online casinos aren’t realistically going to improve your chances of hitting the jackpot. Don’t be fooled if a casino game looks like a sure thing; it’s still gambling. When it comes to personal safety, if something doesn’t look right there’s a chance it isn’t.
Don’t risk cash that you don’t have for the chance of a big win. You should never be gambling for the purpose of earning money, and never beyond your means. Cash out regularly and keep track of exactly how much you’re spending. If you bear these golden rules in mind and gamble at only the safest online casinos, you can play with peace of mind that you’re safe and secure.
Please play responsibly. For more information and advice visit https://www.begambleaware.org