Your Guide to the Best Online Casinos
Are Online Casinos Safe? What You Want to Know
If you're depositing a large amount of money into your online casino account, whether its all in one lump sum or periodically over a couple of months; you want to ensure that both your money and details are safe. In this section, we pose and respond to the frequently asked question - Are online casinos safe?
Finding the best online casino isn't as straightforward as you might think. Different casinos cater to different types of players. That's what our helpful reviews and informative articles are for, but it's also useful to have a broad overview of what makes online casinos good for different types of players.
The information below will assist you in getting a "bird's eye" view of the UK online casino landscape and the various factors you can look at to evaluate a casino.
How Do You Know if an Online Casino is Safe and Fair?
If you deposit money with an online casino, how do you know that you'll get it back? Or if you hit that big jackpot win, how do you know that the casino will honor their end of the bargain and pay it out to you?
- Government Regulation
The first thing to do is verify that the casino is regulated by a reputable government organisation. At this website, we focus on players in the United Kingdom. That means that the online casinos we cover are all subject to regulation by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC). Read More »
The UKGC is the world's best and most thorough regulator of online casinos in its jurisdiction. To get a licence with them, casinos have to go through a rigorous process that includes demonstrating that they are solvent and passing a background check. Casinos must also agree to regular inspections of their games and business operations, and to use an approved dispute resolution service to address any complaints that players may bring. A casino must have a UKGC licence to be legally allowed to advertise in and accept players from the United Kingdom.
Online casinos will usually display their UKGC licence somewhere on their website, often toward the bottom amidst a lot of other logos. But how can you tell if this is legitimate? Simple. The UKGC maintains an online public register that you can search to verify that the casino is indeed above board.
The UKGC has also "whitelisted" certain other countries where online casinos like to do business. These are generally either countries that have a special relationship with the UK (such as dependencies) or are members of the European Union. Many of these casino centers have their own regulatory bodies, such as the Malta Gaming Authority and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. These agencies usually work with the UKGC and provide an extra layer of protection and oversight to players. « Show Less
- Third-Party Game Testing
Another sign that an online casino is legitimate is the use of an independent third-party testing service to verify that their game software is fair, such as eCOGRA. You'll usually see the logo for this agency in the mix somewhere near the bottom of an online casino's landing page, usually not far from their government licence. Read More »
Casinos that agree to be tested by such an agency give them access to their game software. These agencies also sometimes go right to the source and test the game software developers directly. In either case, they'll run millions of spins or hands on the games to make sure that the results are coming out the way they are expected to, statistically speaking. They may also analyze the game code to make sure nothing hinky is going on.
An online casino will subscribe to these services (and proudly display their logo) to let players know they are committed to running fair games. And why not? Casinos make plenty of money without having to cheat. « Show Less
Finally, it's a good idea to check the general reputation of an online casino. Having a look at reviews, forums and any online complaints can give you a good general sense of whether the casino honours its bonus terms or has any issues with payouts. Read More »
You can't take every review and comment online seriously, as some people will post negative things purely as a case of sour grapes or to hurt the business of a competitor. A lot of similar-sounding complaints coming from different legitimate sources is a red flag, however. « Show Less
What Games Are Available? Online Game Varieties
Land-based casinos, although rather large can be limited in what games they have to offer, however, online casinos don't suffer from the same problem. Online casinos are able to provide a large assortment of games, and in this section, we'll discuss a few.
What Kind of Games Do Online Casinos Have?
Online casinos have a pretty standard selection of game categories. The actual games in each category can vary greatly, but you can expect most casinos to have all of the following options available.
The "one armed bandits" may not have arms any more, but they're still the main moneymaker for all types of casinos. You can expect most online casinos to be stocked with hundreds of video slots - these are the kind that have elaborate graphics and bonus rounds, and are often themed to a popular TV series or movie. Many online casinos also carry a selection of progressive jackpot slots, which have main prizes that are constantly growing. And some have digital versions of the classic three-reels that started it all.
- Video Poker
Video poker is a relatively simple "hold 'em" game that is played without a dealer or any other players. The goal is to make the best hand possible; the better the hand, the more of a win multiplier you get. Video poker is popular as the expected return to player is among the highest of all the casino games once you learn how to play it correctly.
The world's first "wheel of fortune" remains one of the most popular table games in casinos today, including online properties. Roulette is popular because of the wide range of bet types, making the game as volatile as you would like it to be. You can go for huge wins by betting on single numbers, or enjoy some of the best odds in the house by putting your chips on red or black. Read More »
As with video poker, blackjack offers some of the best player odds in the casino once you master the game. It's not possible to count cards at most online games, but it's still possible for sharp players to get ahead with bonuses and coupons. It's also a game that can be played for a long time without eating up your gaming bankroll.
Though it has a reputation as a sophisticated and high-end table game, baccarat is actually fairly straightforward and easy to learn. It's a great game for players who like a social experience. Many online casinos offer the "punto banco" and "chemin de fer" variants of the game.
Easily the most popular of the dice games, craps is one of the most social table game experiences available. Though the online casino format is a little different, it's no less fun and exciting. Some virtual craps games even allow you to simulate shaking the dice!
Competitive poker against other players is widely available at online casinos. Some casinos opt to separate their poker operations out to a different site or app (for example, 888 Casino and 888 Poker). Online poker offers the player many advantages, such as micro-stakes for beginners and the ability to play multiple games at once for advanced players.
- Wheel Games
Spin the wheel, win a prize! Based on (but legally distinct from) a certain famous game show, these wheel spin games have you pick a number and hope it lands on a big multiplier. Some examples are Big Six and Dream Catcher.
- Pai Gow Poker
This fun variant of poker is actually an adaptation of an old domino game. The unique twist is that the player is dealt seven cards and makes two separate hands (one with five cards and one with two). Players also take turns as the banker, which is where an advantage can be gained.
- Hold'em Games
The various "hold 'em" games (like Carribean and Casino) are basically somewhere between video poker and actual poker. They are table games played with a dealer, but are much less complex than poker. The player only has to worry about beating the dealer's hand rather than taking on the whole table.
Keno can be thought of as a sort of instant lottery. Players usually pick between three and 20 numbers out of a field of 80, then hope as many of them come up as possible. You can take home a big win with a very small bet if enough of your numbers come in, which makes it popular with gamblers who really want to stretch their budget.
You can play bingo online without having to deal with messy daubers or smoking rules that you don't care for. Though bingo is struggling in land-based casinos, it's thriving online thanks to the convenience of being able to play any time you want. You can also play more boards simultaneously online than you can in a land-based casino.
- Scratch Cards
Online scratch cards are just like those you would buy in real life. Many casinos have a large variety of these. « Show Less
What Are The Different Ways To Play At Online Casinos?
There are three main options for playing at an online casino: software for desktop and laptop computers, apps for smartphones and tablets, and directly through a web browser. Read More »
Increasingly we are seeing online casinos move toward the browser-based model. That's because it solves inherent compatibility problems across all of these different types of devices; as long as you have a fairly modern web browser, you're good to go no matter what device or operating system you're using. These "no download" casinos used to be limited by compatibility and security issues inherent in scripting languages like Java and Flash, but with everything moving to the much more stable HTML5 it is likely that browser-based play will be the default for online casinos before long.
At the moment, software and apps are still popular. If an online casino offers both, you can usually expect the computer software (for desktops and laptops) to have the most complete set of games and features. That doesn't mean that apps are bad; in fact, they often have 500 or more games available. They just have less horsepower and memory to work with on mobile devices, which leads to limitations at certain games (like multi-player poker, or games that rely on video streaming or very elaborate graphics).
Desktop and laptop software is usually only available for PCs running Windows. Some casinos also support Macintosh computers, but this is not nearly as common. The good news is that it takes very little in the way of PC hardware to run casino software. Any computer made in the last five years or so will definitely be good enough to handle it, and probably a bunch of older computers will too. The system requirements of some online casinos list specs that were current on computers back in the late 1990s! If you have a Macintosh or run an operating system other than Windows, browser-based play may be an option. If not, you can probably pick up a very cheap laptop that will work.
Android and iOS are the world's two major mobile operating systems, and they are also the two that online casinos uniformly support. Each casino will set their own minimum requirements, but in general it's a good idea to be running at least Android 4.4 or iOS 8 to be confident that you can run any casino app with no problems. « Show Less
What Is A Live Casino?
The term "live casino" refers to a section of the casino site where you can play games with actual dealers. The dealers interact with you in real time by way of streaming video, and they run the games from an actual table. The dealer and other players can't see or hear you, but you can interact through a text chat window.
Common live dealer games include blackjack, roulette, baccarat, hold 'em games and Dream Catcher.
Where Do Online Casinos Get Their Games From?
There are a handful of exceptions to this, but most casinos do not develop their own game software. They instead licence it from software development houses, which is why you'll see many of the same games at different online casinos (just as you will on real-world casino floors).
You'll still see a great variety of games between different casinos, however, because there are quite a lot of software developers now. Online casinos usually make an arrangement with anywhere from 3 to 20 developers to use their games, and will often pick select titles from each developer's library rather than simply including every game they make.
How Do You Know If The Games Are Good?
The main concern for most people is simply that their casino games are fun to play. Of course, it's always more fun when you're winning! Here are some of the things to look for when judging the quality of various types of games.
Above all other types of games, slots are about fun first and foremost. Most slots players pick their games based on graphics, sound, jackpots and bonus games - they don't really care if one game has a couple of percentage points of expected return more than another. That said, if you're interested, a good range for slots games is 96 to 97% expected return to player. There are some slots online that go higher than that, even as high as 99.3%, but just getting over 96% is a realistic expectation for a decent enough payout rate.
- Video Poker
Video poker strategy is a matter of sizing up the pay tables, or the listed amount paid out for each hand. What is considered a favourable pay table changes from game to game. Games that have the best possible pay table that casinos offer are called "full pay." For example, a full pay Jacks or Better game is called a 9-6, referring to the multiplier values paid out for a full house (9) and a flush (6). Full pay Double Bonus is 10/7, and for Double Double Bonus it's 10/6. Full pay Deuces Wild pays out five units for a four-of-a-kind. You don't have to get a full pay table to get an expected return of over 99% at some of these games, but the closer you can get the better. Read More »
Favourable roulette is pretty simple; you want to see only one zero on the wheel, which is the traditional way it is played throughout Europe. American roulette adds another zero slot, which hands the house a whopping advantage. The absolute best roulette is the "French" variety in which there is just one zero and players lose only half of their wager if the ball lands on it.
Blackjack is all about the table rules. Little tweaks to rules and payouts can add up to a big difference in the player's expected return over time. The biggest factor is how much is paid out for blackjack - no less than 3:2 should be accepted for the best odds. A favourable blackjack game also requires the dealer to hit on soft 17, allows players to double freely, allows early surrender and allows for splitting of aces. There are other little rule tweaks that affect the payout percentage, but those are the really big ones. « Show Less
How Does The Signing Up Process Work? Joining Online
In order to play all the available games and win the best cash prizes that the online casino has to offer, you'll need to sign up for an account first. Here's what you can expect to provide when you sign up, to help you prepare.
What Should I Expect During Account Verification?
Each online casino requires that there only be one account per person. That's why they'll ask you for identity documents as part of the new account creation process. Read More »
At minimum, expect them to ask for scans or clear photos of a government-issued photo ID and something that demonstrates your primary residential address, such as a utility bill. Online casinos are required by law to collect this identifying information in addition to using it to ensure people don't open up multiple accounts under the same name.
While it's safe to send these identifying documents to a legitimate online casino, it's important to verify that they collect them in a safe way. First and foremost, that means no sending documents by email! The casino should ask you to upload your documents directly to their website through a properly secured and encrypted link. They may also be able to receive copies by post.
Also, note that the verification process may take several days to complete, and casinos may ask you for further information during the process. During this time they will often allow you to deposit money and continue playing, but you may not be allowed to withdraw any money until account verification is fully complete. « Show Less
What Are Welcome Bonuses?
A "welcome bonus" is a standard sort of bonus that you'll see just about every online casino in the UK market offering. Read More »
There are two main forms that these come in. One is the "no deposit" bonus, which you simply have to open up a new account to receive. The other is the "matching" bonus, where up to your first few deposits are matched with an equal amount of free play. You'll see an occasional variant like a "cash back" offer (where a certain amount of your initial losses are reimbursed with free play), but by and large you can expect UK online casinos to offer one or both of these types of welcome bonuses to all new players.
While these initial bonuses can be quite advantageous, it's important to understand that they are not completely free money (if they were, the casinos would go out of business immediately). The catch here is that they are subject to "wagering requirements." This means that either the bonus amount or the amount of money you win from the bonus funds must be put back into play a certain amount of times before you can actually withdraw any bonus winnings as cash. « Show Less
What Bonuses Can I Get? Available Bonuses
As previously mentioned, you'll generally find that casinos will offer you a 'welcome bonus' when you sign up to join their casino. However, casinos also reward their most loyal and regular customers with bonuses as well, read on to find out what bonuses you could be eligible for.
What Other Bonuses Do Online Casinos Offer?
Online casinos offer all sorts of added perks to their repeat customers.
We touched on the matching bonus concept as a standard part of a casino's welcome package. You can also expect similar matching bonuses to be offered on future deposits, albeit in smaller percentages. These are known as "refill" or "top-up" bonuses.
It's also not uncommon for casinos to offer free spins on certain slot machines as a regular perk. They often do this when they want to promote a particular slot game; for example, when a new slot is added they might offer everyone some free spins to encourage them to try it out.
Other perks include free play, cash back offers, and more. Often the quantity of and frequency with which you get these bonuses is based on the amount you play.
How Do Deposits and Withdrawals Work?
Online casinos offer a broad variety of payment options. You can expect them to allow you to deposit money to your account with a number of different credit cards, prepaid cards and e-wallet services. You may also have the option of a wire transfer, your bank's online bill pay service and even adding a charge to your phone bill. Read More »
Withdrawal options are slightly more limited, but there are still many of them. You can withdraw as a credit back to your Visa card, an e-wallet payment, or a transfer direct to your bank account, just to name a few examples that most UK online casinos offer.
An important thing to note is that many online casinos only allow you to withdraw to a payment method that you've previously made a deposit with. It usually doesn't have to be a large deposit - often the minimum will do. They just need to have that payment method on file as working and valid before they are willing to release your funds to it. Check each casino's terms and conditions page for further details.
And while you can expect most deposits to be processed anywhere from instantly to within a couple of hours, keep in mind that withdrawals usually take a little longer. They have to go through an internal review at the casino first, which can take up to 24 hours (and might get stalled out over the weekend depending on how the casino is staffed). Once the casino releases the funds, they are then subject to the payment method's own processing times before you actually get ahold of them. This can be under 24 hours for e-wallet services, up to a couple of days for credit cards and up to a week for a bank transfer. « Show Less
What Are Loyalty Programs?
Both online and offline casinos are in the practice of giving "comps" (complimentary gifts) to their regular players. The traditional way to do this at the old-school land-based casinos was to simply observe the player from afar, making the comp process opaque and inscrutable from the player's point of view. Read More »
The loyalty program is basically a way to make a standardized comp system that is clear to the player. Players know exactly what benefits they'll get in return for the amounts that they wager.
The basic structure of most loyalty programs is to grant some amount of points for every wager. When players collect enough of these points, they can cash them in for cash back, free play and other prizes.
Some loyalty programs use a more elaborate tier structure. In addition to their comp points, players also earn loyalty program points with each wager. These loyalty points propel the player through the tier system as they are collected. Each new tier brings a new set of benefits, such as faster withdrawal times and guaranteed weekly or monthly bonuses. « Show Less
What Are VIP Programs?
The VIP program is sort of like an enhanced loyalty program. There are some VIP programs that one can earn their way into with enough loyalty points, but the majority of them are invitation-only. Read More »
So how do you score an invitation? Well, it's pretty simple. Deposit a lot of money and then wager a lot of it. The casino may reach out to you about joining the VIP program if they think you're a good fit, or they may ask that you fill out an application to be considered.
If you can get into the VIP program, the perks are almost always really sweet. You get bigger and more frequent versions of all the bonuses that other players get, but it hardly ends there. You can also expect more favourable rules at private tables, invitations to special events and tournaments, and even real-world prizes like household gifts and trips to fun vacation destinations. « Show Less
What You Can Expect from Customer Support Need Help?
Hopefully, you'll be able to enjoy your online casino experience without any unexpected problems or hiccups. However, if you do ever have a bit of concern regarding something, it's good to know that there's always help at hand. Here's what you can expect from online casino's customer support services.
What Kind of Customer Support Should I Expect?
It's pretty standard for UK online casinos to offer 24/7 customer service. Not all of their contact methods may be available around the clock, but at least one of them should be (and preferably two of them). Common contact methods include live text chat in your web browser or app, telephone and email. Of these, email and telephone are the most likely ones to be available at any time.
You can also expect online casinos regulated by the UKGC to offer a strong self-exclusion policy for players who think they may be developing a problem with their gambling.
Limits and Cheating All You Need to Know About
It's normal to have concerns when handing over money or your own personal details, and we understand that. In this final section, we'll discuss the most common concerns and questions people want to ask when looking for the best online casino.
Do I Have To Worry About Cheating at Online Casinos?
Having an online UK casino cheat at their games is so unlikely that it's a virtual impossibility. We touched on the mandatory regulation and testing of games earlier, which would certainly catch any funny activity at some point. Most casinos also licence their games from software developers who service hundreds of different and unrelated casinos; it makes no financial sense for these developers to risk their entire business just to help one particular casino cheat. Finally, there's the simple fact that casinos never run games that they don't expect to profit from at least a little bit. When there's so much money to be made by running fair games, why bother cheating?
A somewhat more realistic possibility is an online casino refusing to pay out, refusing to honor bonus terms or otherwise pulling a runner with the player's money. However, at a UKGC-regulated casino, this is also an extremely remote possibility. Casinos face scrutiny about their business history and finances as part of the licencing process that is designed to weed out the types that would do this. While you see this sort of thing happen sometimes in countries with much weaker online gambling regulation, it's very rare for casinos that fall under the umbrella of the UKGC.
What Betting Limits Do Online Casinos Have?
While each casino is free to set their own limits, the following per-hand or per-spin ranges are fairly common in the UK market.
Slots: £0.01 to £100
Video Poker: £0.10 to £50
Roulette: £0.10 to £5,000
Blackjack: £0.10 to £5,000
Baccarat: £1 to £5,000
Higher limits than these will often be made available to VIP program members and/or those who have reached the highest levels of the loyalty program. Also keep in mind that table minimums will usually be higher at live dealer games than they are at the standard casino games.
Playing at the UK's Best Online Casinos
Armed with all of this information, you should be able to find the best online casinos in the UK for you and your individual preferences. There is no "one size fits all" answer when it comes to finding the best casinos, but our detailed reviews and helpful articles will help guide you to the ones that work best for you.