Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard about the revolution in online gambling that continues to sweep across the globe. Where fans were previously forced to travel to gambling meccas such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City in person (or join expensive private members clubs), they’re now free to enjoy a full range of classic casino games from the comfort of wherever they happen to be on a device of their choosing. From virtually anywhere on earth, you can now play in an online casino for real money any time you like.
A combination of factors has made this happy state of affairs possible. On the one hand, globally ubiquitous broadband has helped push the technological envelope and offers instant connectivity to all for just a few dollars per month. Simultaneously, the arrival of a new wave of powerful portable devices that can securely handle online transactions means users are no longer chained to the desktop when it comes to enjoying a little online action.
Casino and software providers worldwide were naturally quick to jump on the opportunities these two phenomena opened up. A new generation of online casino software quickly emerged offering new levels of realistic gameplay, 3D entertainment, and bulletproof security.
Against this backdrop, there’s never been a better time to play in an online casino for real money. Before you dive in, however, it’s worth doing a little research to get the most out of the experience. In this article, we’ll take you on a whirlwind tour of the main points to bear in mind as you start to explore seriously playing online.
Let’s set the scene with a quick look at the size of the industry before getting into specifics on the account level.
Online gambling has quickly become one of the hottest growth industries on the planet. The EU market alone is worth over €86 billion per year and pressure is growing for legislators to unlock the potential of the American market by finally legalising online gambling for all.
Major players such as 32 Red, Mr Green, and NetBet now compete worldwide to attract players to their modern online casinos but there’s still plenty of room for growth. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that a mere 5% of adults have taken advantage of online betting options to date. With literally thousands of online casinos vying for your business, there’s never been a better time to sign up as a new player and try your luck on the tables!
As our previous section makes clear, there’s no shortage of providers out there competing for your business. How to select the best online casino for your particular needs is a decision you should be prepared to spend a little time on before getting down to business. Choosing the right casino is largely a matter of doing some background digging and applying a little common sense. Here’s a quick list of points to consider while you search:
- Online reputation: The majority of major casino providers enjoy excellent online reputations when it comes to security, gameplay, and customer service. It’s still always worth doing some background research of your own by checking your provider’s reputation on gambling forums and elsewhere online. You’re looking for overwhelmingly positive user reports and absolutely no recorded problems with payments or transfer of funds.
- An established offline presence: This one is by no means an absolute necessity, but it’s usually a pretty solid sign that you’re dealing with a legitimate outfit. Many of the larger providers have existing, long-running offline presences with offline casino or sportsbook options and long track records of satisfying customers.
- A full range of customer service options: You’ll naturally have to get in touch with your casino provider at various stages of your account’s lifetime to clarify certain options. The last thing you want when there’s a pressing question that needs immediate action is any type of delay or difficulty getting through to customer service. Make sure any provider you’re considering offers a full range of customer service options. You want to be sure you can contact them by phone, email, and live chat whenever necessary.
- Straightforward terms and conditions: No matter how attractive and shiny the marketing pages of a casino site are, it always pays to check the small print in detail before signing up. Make sure you completely understand the structure of any account fees and terms and conditions before signing up to avoid confusion down the line.
By doing your basic due diligence using our common sense points above, you should be able to whittle down your list of potential online casino providers to a sensible shortlist. At this stage, it’s time to consider what type of bonuses or wider incentives are on offer before making your final decision.
As we mentioned earlier, the world of online casinos is an incredibly competitive one. As a potentially new signup, you’re worth a large amount of money to each provider and they’ll do their very best to lure you in their direction with a variety of special bonuses and incentives. Here’s a quick breakdown of the main offers you’ll come across:
- Deposit Bonuses: You’ll see this type of bonus on offer for both your initial deposit as a welcome and, in some cases, subsequent funds that you add to your account. Casinos will typically offer to match a percentage of the money you add to your account in the form of free funds and it’s not unusual to see offers of 100% to 200% available. It’s worth noting, this isn’t usually “free money” strictly speaking. There are terms and conditions attached that you’ll need to be aware of, and the offers are usually capped with a top limit.
- No-deposit Bonuses: This type of bonus is best considered as an opportunity to quickly test the overall performance of a casino account. In this case, you’re not required to lodge any money to get started and are given a small amount of virtual funds to gamble with for free. Again, there’ll be playthrough requirements and terms and conditions to be aware of.
- Refer-a-friend Bonuses: These probably won’t be top of your list of initial bonuses to check, but they’re worth bearing in mind for the long haul. Virtually every casino will offer attractive bonuses for sending more business their way so if you have a peer group who are also looking for accounts, this can be a lucrative option.
- Ongoing promotions: In addition to sign-up and deposit bonuses, many casino providers will provide a series of ongoing promotions both on and offline. The best place to get a feel for what sort of approach an individual casino takes is generally to have a good look through their recent blog and Facebook posts for details of previous one-off promotions.
Though bonus chasing is a tempting option, it shouldn’t be the main factor driving your decision on which online casino to favour with your business. All other factors being equal, it can naturally put a particular provider out in front, but try to avoid making it your main criteria. Also be certain that you fully understand the playthrough requirements and small print surrounding any individual bonus offer to avoid misunderstandings down the line.
Speaking of terms and conditions, let’s now briefly turn to the wider subject of the legality of online casinos in different jurisdictions.
Though the online casino industry has spread around the globe, the legal position regarding gambling online varies considerably from country to country and, in some cases, from state to state.
Here at Metap, we strongly recommend that you doublecheck the legal situation where you happen to be based in order not to fall foul of the law. Here’s a quick top-level overview of the legal situation in major parts of the world:
- Europe: Online gambling is legal across the entire European Union with very few legal obstacles anywhere on the continent. Regulations governing gambling are in place but this is actually good news for gamers as they can be certain European-based providers are operating within a reputable legal framework. Many of the largest names in the online casino industry are actually based in Europe.
- United States: Much to the frustration of many stateside casino fans, the legal situation regarding online gambling in the USA remains somewhat problematic. Thanks to the Federal Wire Act, gambling online is still illegal in most of the country, though exceptions are made on a state-by-state level. If you happen to be based in Las Vegas or New Jersey, for example, then you’re free to enjoy the full range of online casino games. Other states are unfortunately not so lucky.
- Asia: The situation across Asia varies considerably from country to country. Countries such as the Philippines enjoy a mature and permissive gambling environment whereas other territories such as Singapore have banned gambling entirely. Be sure to check local laws carefully before considering opening an account.
For players new to the world of online casinos, one of the most critical aspects to understand is the whole question of funds transfer – i.e. how to get money into and out of your account. As with many other facets of online gambling, this is an area where there’s been considerable improvement thanks to technology over the last ten years. Put simply, it’s never been easier to quickly and safely transfer money online.
As a player, you typically want to have more than one funding and withdrawal option available to you so you’re not overly reliable on any one solution. With that in mind, here’s a quick list of the most popular options you’ll find online:
- Wire transfer: The most old-fashioned way of transferring money in and out of your account remains as popular as ever, and still offers advantages in certain circumstances. If you’re looking to move large amounts in and out of an account with a trusted provider, it’s a potentially frictionless way of doing so. Be sure, however, to thoroughly check any applicable fees from your bank as they can add up quickly if you’re moving money across territories.
- Credit cards: Credit cards offer you flexibility, convenience, and world-class standards of security when it comes to online use. Popular cards such as Mastercard and Visa are accepted at practically all online casinos and you also stand to gain from attractive reward programmes with their use.
- PayPal: Though it’s no longer the only e-wallet option out there, PayPal remains the most popular choice for millions of users worldwide and is hard to beat for the range of currencies it supports and speed of funds transfer. You’ll find PayPal supported at the majority of online casinos outside the United States and setting up an account for use with your online gambling is a sensible step to take. Alternatives such as Skrill and Neteller are also increasingly popular in many European countries.
- Bitcoin: Bitcoin may be a bridge too far for those just starting out, but it’s an interesting option to explore for tech-savvy players with an appetite for risk. The digital currency has had its share of ups and downs over the years with controversy and significant shifts in exchange rates, but it has started to be included as a funding option with many smaller online casinos.
One of the factors that’s not always immediately clear when you’re starting out with exploring online casinos is that the entire industry is powered by a relatively small group of software providers.
Though the look and feel of individual casinos and their specific marketing offers will vary considerably, the technology running the show in the background is made by just a few firms. Knowing a little bit about these companies will help you navigate the various competing offers of casinos a little bit more easily. Here are the main names to look out for online:
- Microgaming: This Isle of Man based software giant was out of the blocks early with the very first online casino all the way back in 1994. They remain a dominant force in the industry with their online poker network proving particularly popular with players worldwide. You can find out more in our guide to Microgaming casinos.
- Betsoft: Betsoft have carved out a reputation for best of breed cinematic 3D gaming with their range of top notch slot titles. They also provide full online casino backends to thousands of sites worldwide. Find out more about Betsoft casinos in our online guide.
- Playtech: Playtech are one of the largest casino software providers on earth and the only ones currently listed on the London Stock Exchange and prestigious FTSE 250 Index. With over 3500 employees and one of the world’s leading online poker platforms, you can expect to see Playtech software powering operations at many of the leading online casinos worldwide.
The good news for online players is that you should expect to find virtually exactly the same mix of games available at online casinos that you’d expect from glamour locations such as Las Vegas.
With many online casinos, you can even enjoy live dealer games where you’re interacting directly with a real person running the show. Here’s a quick breakdown of the games you can expect to find online when playing for real cash:
- Poker: As you’d expect from its offline popularity, poker is near the top of the list for online gamblers and you can expect to find a full range of variants and pot sizes available at any online casino worth its salt. Whether your game is straight poker, Texas Hold ‘Em, or Seven Card Stud, you’ll be able to pit your wits against the best online.
- Blackjack: Loved by strategic players and casual gamblers alike, blackjack is available at pretty much every online casino and you can choose between automated and live dealer games at many providers. Special high-roller tables are also easily found.
- Roulette: It’s not just card games that you can expect to enjoy online. Recent advances in 3D graphics mean that you can also take part in incredibly realistic roulette gaming that nearly matches the glamour and excitement of traditional offline versions.
- Slots: Slots have long been a great way of enjoying some casual low-stakes action offline and you’ll find a truly impressive range of titles available in most online casinos. The latest wave of titles take advantage of audio and video elements with impressively high production values to deliver a truly immersive experience for players.
As we’ve hopefully made clear above, now is a wonderful time to start exploring the many options available when it comes to exploring online casinos for real money. We encourage you to use the full range of resources available on our site to guide you on your way and explore the reputable providers that we’ve highlighted.
Good luck out there on the tables!
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