My goal is to offer a step by step process to help you find an online casino which meets your needs as a gambler. Of course, you can just randomly choose from the recommended online casinos here on our site. They’ve been thoroughly vetted, and I’m convinced you’d have a satisfying experience at any of them.
On the other hand, I’m also a firm believer that if you give a man a fish, you’ve fed him for a day. If you teach a man how to fish, you’ve fed him for the rest of his life. That’s the goal of this post—to teach you how to fish.
It’s also an opportunity to help you with a little bit of the critical thinking process necessary to make good decisions about online gambling sites and where to play.
1- Decide What Your Goals Are
The first step to choosing an online casino that suits your needs is knowing what your needs are. In other words, you want to know what you’re hoping to get out of your online casino experience.
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you choose between multiple otherwise great options. For example, if you know that you want to play poker and bet on sports from the same account, Bovada is probably a better option than Slots.lv.
I should warn you, though—if your goal is to find a surefire way to win money with little effort, no online casino is going to be a good fit. Sure, they have payouts and odds that resemble those of most live casinos.
But all online casinos do an excellent job of thwarting would-be advantage players.
You can’t count cards at an online casino, for example.
All online casinos have strict wagering requirements which make it almost impossible to get an edge by taking advantage of their signup bonuses.
And, like any casino, virtual or not, all the games come with a mathematical edge for the house baked into the games. In the long run, this mathematical edge just can’t be beaten.
Still, knowing what your goals are from your online gambling experience is always the first step in making a good decision about where to play.
In fact, I suggest taking out a legal pad and a pen and making some notes about what you’re hoping for from your online casino experience.
2- Browse through Some Online Gambling Guides
Not all online gambling guides are created equal. I think you’ll agree with me that the depth and quality of the recommendations on this site are excellent, but you don’t have to limit yourself to the information here.
If you do go looking at other online gambling guides, here are some things to keep in mind:
At any rate, when money’s involved, people’s principles become flexible. The more money that’s involved, the more flexible those principles become.
In fact, have you ever seen an online gambling site that lists the top casinos in order of their overall payback percentages?
I talked with someone in the know at one of the online casinos once, and he told me that those are almost always just made-up numbers. He said that he couldn’t recall ever giving an advertiser information about their casino’s overall payback percentage, so he just assumed they made those numbers up.
In fact, my assumption is always that the casinos are listed in the order of who’s willing to pay the most advertising dollars to the owners of the website.
Consider how even-handed and objective the writing on such a website seems to be. If the reviews are over-the-top and list no drawbacks to playing at an online casino, it’s probable that you’re just dealing with a shill for the casino. That shill might not even have played there.
Also look for content with a byline. Anonymous content is less trustworthy than content that’s attributed to a specific author. A website with a robust “about us” page is usually more trustworthy than a website lacking such information.
But take everything you read on every online gambling guide with a grain of salt. You still need to take responsibility for your decision-making when it comes to choosing an online casino.
3- Look at the Software Options
There are at least 4000 different online casinos which are willing to take your money. Only a small percentage of them (maybe 5%) accept play from players in the United States, though. Of those, most are powered by one of a dozen or so software providers.
Most online casinos don’t use proprietary software. They lease software from a company called an online casino game software company.
Some of these software programs offer better games than others. Some of these software programs are flat out awful, while others are good for certain games and bad for others.
One notorious example is Amigotechs. A few years ago, a player reported that he played close to 1000 hands of video poker and never saw a winning hand. The odds of this happening with a truly random video poker game that’s working correctly are astronomical.
Luckily, casino software providers who cheat are the exception, not the rule. In fact, I’m not sure why an online casino software company would feel the need to cheat. The math for all these games is already in favor of the casinos in the long run anyway. See any of our articles about how the house edge works.
On the other hand, Realtime Gaming casinos tend to offer a wide variety of fast-playing games, and they’re extremely U.S. friendly.
Rival is another U.S. friendly software option. I like RTG casino games better, but your mileage may vary.
If you have no experience with any of this software, try finding some of the casinos using this software and play their free games. See how you like them.
After all, if you’re going to be playing casino games online, you should at least play casino games that are fun to play. And individual preferences vary.
4- Look at the Cashout Policies at the Casino
When you see gamblers on forums complaining about online casinos, the #1 legitimate complaint they have has to do with cashing out. (You’ll see a lot of complaints about tight slot machines or rigged games, but those are usually just sour grapes.)
And cashing out at online casinos has multiple factors to account for. For one thing, most online casinos allow you to reverse your pending cashout. The longer that option is available to you, the worse.
You win $300 at the casino. You cash out. When that happens, your payment is now in “pending” status while the casino processes your cashout.
At most casinos, you have a certain amount of time to change your mind and cancel the pending cashout. This moves the money back into your casino account, where you can lose it playing slot machines, blackjack, or whatever game you enjoy.
The worst online casinos make this option available for 48 hours or more. You’re better off finding a casino that has a reverse time of less than 12 hours. If you can find a casino where there is no option to reverse your cashout, that’s the best situation of all.
The reverse time is related to the length of time it takes to process your cashout. The faster a casino processes your withdrawals, the better—for obvious reasons. When you’ve won some money gambling, you want to get your hands on that money as soon as possible.
The worst casinos take 72 hours or more to process your withdrawals. This is processing time for the casino, by the way—this doesn’t mean you get your money instantly after 72 hours. It means the casino starts the transfer 72 hours after your cashout request.
Any casino that processes your cashouts in less than 24 hours is doing an excellent job. Anything over 72 hours is too long. You’ll need to make your own decisions about any lag time that falls in between those 2 ranges.
Finally, some casinos have limits to the amount of money you can withdraw each week or each month. The best situation for you, obviously, is a casino that has no maximum withdrawal amount. After all, if you win a $10,000 slots jackpot, it’s better to just go ahead and get your money in one payment.
The worst casinos have cashout limits of $2000 or so per week. They’re largely catering to low rollers, but my concern with a casino with such a low cashout limit is that it might be under-capitalized. A casino with a policy like that might have trouble paying me out if I win big.
The last thing I need is to win money from a casino that can’t afford to pay me my winnings.
If the information about these aspects of cashing out isn’t clearly spelled out somewhere on the site, it’s a good opportunity to ask the customer service team some questions. (See #7)
5- Look at Where the Casino Is Licensed
Online casinos that accept players from the United States are usually licensed and regulated by governments that aren’t necessarily as protective of the casinos’ customers as some governments might be. The quasi-legal nature of the online casino business—especially as it pertains to United States players—is what causes this phenomenon.
Countries like Antigua, Costa Rica, and Cyprus offer licensing with little oversight. This shouldn’t prevent you from opening an account at such a property. I know of many quality properties that have their gambling license in Antigua, for example. The point is to use this when you analyze the overall picture of the casino.
On the other hand, if a casino is licensed by someplace like the Isle of Man or the United Kingdom, you’re in a lot better hands. Getting a license in such jurisdictions costs more money, which weeds out some of the riff raff from the start.
But those jurisdictions also provide more oversight and player protection than some of the other countries that license online casinos.
Also, some states in the USA have started regulating online casinos. New Jersey, for example, has online casino action available to its residents. Those are the cream of the crop. In fact, if you live in a state that has legalized and regulated online gambling, the best thing you can do is stick to those local casinos and avoid the offshore casinos entirely.
6- Read What Other Casino Players Are Saying about Them
You’ll find plenty of forums and other sites which post player feedback about online casinos publicly. You should read through this feedback, but don’t believe everything you read. Some of the more positive commenters might be shillers. Some of the most negative feedback can be from sore losers.
The important thing to watch for are complaints about the time it takes to cash out your money. If someone is having trouble getting their funds from a casino, and the casino seems to have little reasonable explanation for it, you might think twice about signing up for that property.
You’ll find some casinos where the customer service team is active in the forums. This is a point in the casino’s favor. In fact, you can get a good feel for how such a property treats its customers just based on the demeanor of their representatives in the forums.
You’ve probably noticed by now that none of the factors I’ve suggested you consider are deal-breakers all by themselves. That’s true of player feedback, too. This is just one more piece of the puzzle as you’re doing your due diligence before putting money into an online casino.
Go with your gut feeling here, but read carefully and with attention to how legitimate these comments seem to be.
7- Contact Their Customer Service Team and Ask Them a Couple of Questions
My favorite way to evaluate whether I’ll like a casino is to contact the customer service team with some questions about the games and the rules there. You can gauge how well such a casino takes care of its customers by the nature of these interactions.
Many times, the online casino’s website doesn’t contain as much information about their operation as you might prefer. The details about cashout policies might be vague, for example. Or it might be hard to tell how many games they have or what the specific rules are for blackjack.
These are perfect opportunities to take the customer service team at an online casino for a test drive.
On a related note, all the online casinos at which I’ve ever played offered free versions of almost all their games to the public. You’d be a fool to not take advantage of this aspect of their business.
Some online casinos offer free games that are rigged with better odds for the player. The idea is that you’ll see how easy it is to win and sign up to play for real money based on a fake gambling experience.
So use the free games as an opportunity to try out the graphics and sound effects of the software. Pay no attention to how easy or hard it seems to be to win play money on the play money games.
Choosing an online casino is easier when you have some kind of framework to start from. You should, of course, have your own list of must-have’s when evaluating an online casino. This might be as specific as the availability of a certain game or game type.
When you do settle on an online casino, I recommend depositing only a small amount of money there to begin with. See how things go with the property as a customer, and gradually increase the amount of money you trust the site with over time.
You might find that you’re not as comfortable with a casino as you thought at first. Wouldn’t it be better to only have $100 tied up there in that case, instead of $1000?