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Online casinos have come a long way in a fairly short time, and are now among the most popular of all internet-based pursuits in the world. If you’ve been considering playing casino games online (or even on your phone), our beginner’s guide is the perfect place to start.
Not only will it introduce you to all of the key factors that create a good online casino, but it also doubles as a handy reference guide and companion. Use this guide to ensure that you always choose the best slot sites & casinos for your needs.
From an outside perspective, online casinos can seem rather straight forward. After all, what is there really to know about them? They provide a range of games from slots to table games like roulette and blackjack. You sign up, put some money in your account, and take your chances.
Here’s the thing though. If it really were that simple and easy, no one would ever run into any problems. For instance, just Google how many people have run into problems with either losing all their money, playing games they just don’t understand, or signing up with a dodgy casino that made all of their money ‘disappear’. You may be quite shocked at what you find on the web.
This is why it is so crucial to actually do a bit of homework before diving in and signing up with the first new casino site that pops up on your search engine page.
You need to know:
- The difference between online casino brands.
- Do they accept players from your region or country?
- What their reputation is like.
- User opinions about them.
- If they hold legitimate licenses from respected regulatory bodies.
- The type and quality of software they use.
- Can you play games from them on your mobile device?
- If you put your money in, can you get it back out again easily?
- Do they care about their customers through quality, responsive customer support?
- Is it really safe to play games or upload your personal data on their servers?
While this may seem quite intimidating or overwhelming, it is essential advice. Now, before you decide that it’s all just too much and you’d rather just stick to your PlayStation, please keep reading.
Once you’ve successfully processed the information contained within this guide, you’ll see that picking a good online casino and playing the right sort of games for your style, personality and budget is actually easier than grabbing one at random.
If you are struggling with time, we also offer a complete list of pre-approved best online casino sites, designed especially for UK players. Each of the brands on our recommended list has been thoroughly vetted and tested for safe and secure gaming, reputation, licensing, software, customer support, and other key factors.
Opening a Player Account
Once you’ve read through this guide, you’ll be ready to pick your first online casino. You basically have two options here. You can go it alone, using this guide as your reference, or you can simply choose one of our recommended online sites, where all the leg work has already been done for you.
In either case, once you’ve picked the site that appeals to you the most, it’s time to go through the sign-up or registration process. With most decent online casinos, the registration process is very simple and is designed to be as quick as possible.
If you’ve ever signed up for any online accounts, eBay, Facebook, Twitter or any other type of internet account, you won’t have any difficulties here.
On the brand’s homepage, click on the sign-up button. Some sites will call their sign-up button the register or join button, but it’s all the same thing. Clicking on the button will usually bring up a second page or a pop-up page, containing a number of blank spaces that you need to fill in.
While there are slight differences between casinos, the basics are always the same and include:
- Real name
- Email address
- Personal address details
- Mobile number
- Date of birth
- Credit card information
- Payment option choice
- Select to receive marketing info (emails for bonuses, promos, etc)
- Select confirmation that you have read and understood their terms and conditions
Once you’ve filled in all the relevant spaces, chosen to opt in or out of received marketing promos from them (we recommend opting in), and acknowledged that you understand their T’s and C’s, you’re ready to roll.
Depending on the casino, you can choose your preferred payment option during sign up, and even make your first deposit, or once your registration process has successfully been completed.
If you want to start out right away playing real money games, you can simply visit the cashier page (banking page), scroll through the list of available payment options (more on those later), choose the one you like, add a payment and voila, you’re ready to play real money casino games.
About Welcome Bonuses and Packages
One of the first things that you will notice about any online casino, is the way it tries to attract your attention. When the first digital or virtual versions of brick and mortar spots began to operate on the web, there were only a handful of them. At that stage supply was most certainly outstripping demand, as the average person was still figuring out how to use the internet, never mind still gambling on it!
However, as time went by, and as more people began to discover online casinos, demand grew. Pretty soon, demand was beginning to outstrip supply but only for a short while. The new breed of online casino began to appear in the early 2000s, with a much larger capacity and more sophisticated software. Competition between different brands began to increase sharply, as brand new slot sites & casinos were launched virtually every week.
Within its own niche market, casinos had to devise ways to attract new customers and still retain the old ones. Free money, in the form of a ‘bonus’, became the standard method of getting new feet through the virtual door and old feet from exiting through that same door.
However, since online gaming sites are naturally in competition with each other, more innovative and on the ball brands began to come up bigger and better ways to attract new players – enter the free welcome bonus package that we all know today.
It is important to understand that not all welcome bonuses are created equal, and the sort of offer you may get at one website, you won’t necessarily get at another. Each operator decides what works for them, based on their needs at that particular time.
For example, an online casino that has been around for a while and is looking to attract a slightly younger crowd may take advantage of the buzz that a new slot has been generating on the web. They would then put together a brand-new welcome package, which would include a cash boost on your deposit as a new player above a certain amount (usually no less than £10).
In addition to the cash boost on your deposit, they would also give you a set of free spins, which you could then use to try out that new slot that everyone is talking about, virtually for free. Again, the amount of free spins that are added to the welcome bonus package is largely dependent on the operator.
Some will add a modest amount, say 25 to 50 free spins but offer a much larger cash portion to compensate. Others may feature a smaller cash portion matched with a much larger free spins portion, anywhere up to 200 to 250 free spins.
It then becomes more a case of which is more important to you, free cash or free spins?
Generally speaking, if you’re the sort of player that prefers playing non-slot games such as roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat or even video poker, a welcome package with a larger cash incentive might be the way to go.
On the flip side of the coin, if playing all sorts of slots, from classics to video slots is more your thing, taking a package with a lot more bonus spins might be more sensible.
However, keep in mind that some operators may restrict where you can spend your free spins and limit you to just one or two games. Still, in most cases, if it’s a promoted slot, it will be a good title anyway (think Starburst, etc).
That, in a nutshell, is a welcome bonus package. Now, let’s take a closer look at the different sorts of best casino bonus offers that you will find around the web.
The No Deposit Bonus
As its name implies, you can find certain casinos online that are willing to give you some free money, without you needing to add any money of your own first. While this may sound a bit too good to be true, it’s actually a fairly common practice.
You’ll often find somewhat newer online brands offering a no deposit bonus as it is one of the easiest ways to attract some interest to their brand.
How Do You Get a No Deposit Bonus?
Getting or qualifying for a no deposit bonus couldn’t be easier. Since you don’t need to worry about depositing any of your own money in order to unlock the offer, all the casino requires of you is to open an account with them. It really is that simple.
Get your no deposit bonus in 5 easy steps:
- Visit the operator's homepage
- Click on the register/sign up/ join now button
- Fill in your required details
- Complete the registration process and opt-in for the no deposit offer
- Play the games you like with the free money deposited in your account
Things to Note about the No Deposit Bonus
Just like any sort of bonus offer, each casino will decide exactly what their no deposit bonus offer will consist of. However, the one feature that is fairly consistent across the board is the fact that virtually all no deposit offers are quite small. No one really minds though, since you are essentially getting money for free here.
Okay, so it isn’t really free in the sense that all no deposit bonus offers come with certain terms and conditions attached. Again, each operator will decide exactly what those terms and conditions are but, for the most part, you can be sure that you will need to wager your little bonus a certain number of times before you can entertain any hopes of withdrawing any winnings accrued from its use.
Some no deposit offers are purely for show, and you will not be able to keep any winnings. Some do allow you to keep what you win, but will usually deposit that value back into your account as another sort of ‘bonus’. So, the money always stays with the casino which is understandable since it is their money, to begin with.
No deposit offers can be great if you are looking at a short list of potential sites and need to really field test them first. The fact that you don’t have to worry about wasting your own money in doing so is the real bonus here!
The Cash Deposit Bonus
By far the most common of all offers, the deposit bonus is the backbone of casino promotions in general. Unlike no deposit offers, cash deposit offers require you to deposit some of your own cash into your player account. Yes, the welcome bonus offers discussed earlier would most certainly fall into this category.
In most instances, the amount that you would need to deposit to unlock the offer is on the low side and usually around £10 to £20, which is not a lot of money by most standards.
Cash deposit offers work on what is known as a percentage match on your money. In other words, if you decide that you would like to make a deposit of £50, the casino will then add a certain percentage to that total, effectively boosting your bankroll in an instant.
The most common of all percentage matches is 100%. So, if you deposit £50; the operator would match that amount by 100%, giving you £100 to play with in total.
As you have probably guessed by now, each casino decides what their percentage match will be, based on their needs and objectives. While 100% is the most common, match offers can range from 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, 150% and all the way up to 200%. You might find even higher match percentages on high roller bonus offers, designed to attract players that love to go large.
Some operators will also divide their offer over several deposits, thereby encouraging new players to make several deposits and really commit to the brand in the process. Each of these will have its own amount and its own percentage match. It is up to you to decide which offer is worthwhile based on your own needs, budget and of course, expectations.
What Are Bonus Codes?
Bonus codes are interesting promos which you will find at a number of top online gambling sites as well as affiliated sites. The idea here is to provide you with an offer that is unique and can only be unlocked when you use a special code.
These codes usually feature a name and number code combo such as NEW200 for example. The way to read these codes is simple. In this example, NEW refers to an offer that is exclusively available to new players. The numbers represent the value of the offer, in this case, 200 (GBP, EUR or USD).
The value that each code represents is added to your account when you enter them into a special space provided, either on the promotions page, your account page or on the banking page when you make your qualifying deposit.
Understanding Wagering Requirements
The importance of reading the terms and conditions that are attached to every single bonus offer that you will ever receive cannot be overstated enough. There are countless sad stories of overeager players, dazzled by the bright lights and big numbers of huge bonus offers, diving right in without reading the T’s & C’s first.
What inevitably ends up happening is that they fail to read conditions that effectively render their winnings and withdrawal of those winnings, void. Don’t let this happen to you – always read the T’s & C’s of every single offer before committing your hard-earned money.
Of all the bonus T’s & C’s you may encounter, which includes time limits to accept the offer, time limits to complete wagering requirements, game restrictions and withdrawal restrictions, the actual wagering requirements are right up there.
Wagering requirements let you know whether or not a particular offer is really worth your time and effort, or if you should rather look for something else. Never be dazzled by huge offers if the wagering requirements are completely unreasonable to the point of not being able to meet them at all.
Wagering requirements are simply the number of times that the casino expects you to wager your bonus amount on their games before being able to make a withdrawal from your account.
Some operators will expect you to wager your bonus amount plus your deposit amount as one total, so be sure which it is before taking the offer.
To understand how wagering requirements, work, let’s look at a simple example:
Let’s say that you’re looking at an offer that is worth £100 and the wagering requirements attached are 30x your bonus amount only.
This effectively means that you need to wager your bonus amount thirty times on select games. Your wagering amount grand total will depend on how much you take as a bonus. If you choose to take the full £100, your total wagering requirement will come to £3,000 (£100x30).
Taking less will obviously reduce this amount. Taking a £50 bonus will result in wagering requirements amounting to £1,500 and so forth. Always choose the bonus size that you can reasonably afford to wager within the stipulated time frame.
Finally, game restrictions are something that goes hand in hand with wagering requirements and is just as important to look at these as the actual wagering requirement amount.
Game restrictions refer to the games that count towards you meeting your wagering requirements. Not all games, or types of wagers, will count towards you meeting your requirements, mostly because they are considered as ‘safe bets’ or easy bets. For example, betting on either red or black in roulette (an even money bet), will not count since it is considered to be a safe bet.
Each operator is different and will publish their particular game restriction list amongst their full T’s & C’s page.
Here’s an example of what gaming restrictions look like. This one is taken from Jackpot City's terms and conditions page:
"5.8.1 Play at certain games will contribute a different percentage of the playthrough requirement"
- 100% is applicable on all slot games, keno games and scratch card games (Re-spins on the slot games contribute at a total of 10%)
- 8% applies on all table poker games, all roulette games, all video or power poker games (apart from All Aces and Jacks or Better video poker games), and all blackjack games (besides Classic Blackjack) and Casino War
- 2% on all classic blackjack games, All Aces video poker games, all Jacks or Better video pokers
- 0% applies on all baccarat games, all craps, Sic Bo and Red Dog games
The casino states that if you play on the excluded games (0%) before meeting playthrough, then you accept that they have the right to void any wins made from these games.
They also mention that any wagers made with a gamble feature on all slots or the double feature on all Video or Power Pokers will not count towards playthrough requirements.
They go on to say that the contribution percentage values and wagering requirements may change per promotion and/or region. In this case, the percentages and playthrough values quoted in the promotion's Terms and Conditions will apply.
Sorting Out Your Banking
Banking is another very important aspect to understand about online gambling as this can make a huge difference to your overall experience.
Banking refers to both the actual payment options that you can enjoy as well as the key functions of safely deposit your money and quickly withdrawing your winnings.
Sorting out your banking is the next most important step after signing up, and supersedes acquiring a sign-up bonus since not everyone is interested in them anyway. Depending on the site, you will be required to select your preferred payment option from a dropdown menu during the sign-up process or will be required to visit the banking page after your registration has been successful.
In either instance, simply scroll through the list of available options, and pick the one that best suits your needs based on its specific characteristics and features.
While some prefer sticking to the safety and reliability of their credit card, others are reluctant to divulge their credit card details to an online site. However, if you choose a verified, reputable site with solid data encryption capabilities, there is no need to fret about online credit card security.
Some may not qualify for a credit card, in which case a debit card works just as well. In fact, many players actually prefer using their debit card to upload funds since it eliminates the risk of overspending. Debit cards are an effective way of controlling your playing budget because you need to have existing funds in your bank in order to use the card.
Aside from the standard credit card and debit card options, savvy internet users enjoy modern and convenient electronic wallets or eWallets. These work by acting as a middleman between your bank and the site you are purchasing from (or deposit as the case may be). There is a myriad of payment options available today, from eWallets and prepaid cards to pay by phone casino sites and beyond. You can find out a bit more about each a little further down the page.
Some additional interesting info about data encryption
Most online gambling sites will use one of two data encryption protocols –
- SSL or Secure Socket Layer Certificate encryption
- TLS or Transport Layer Security
SSL Certification is still the most widely used and ensures that a browser connects to a website securely. Your browser will request that the server you are trying to connect to, identifies itself. The server will then send your browser a copy of its SSL Certificate as well as its public key. You can recognise a site that uses SSL protocol by looking at the IP address in your search bar. A secure site will feature the https prefix, indicating a secure site (as opposed to just HTTP prefix).
TLS is the newer protocol and is intended to succeed SSL. While it works in more or less the same way as SSL, TSL is an improved protocol with improved protection of data transfer. Some sites will use both, but either is effective in protecting your data.
Playing with Real Money
This is largely a matter of personal choice and most online casino sites will offer the option of playing their games for fun or for real money.
When you choose to play for fun, you are effectively playing the game in a demo mode, which allows you to try a game out without the need to use real money. This is one of the best ways to find out how different games work, which ones you like and which ones you don’t, and to practice various strategies and so on.
Most casino games are available in a demo mode, including slots, video pokers, virtual roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker, and others. The only real exception to this rule is live dealer games, which can only be played for real money by virtue of their nature.
If you do choose to play any of these games for real money, you will need to ensure that you have enough funds available in your player account. You can also choose to opt in for a bonus offer at this stage, or go it alone and not have to worry about wagering requirements, deadlines and so forth.
Remember, if you are new to these games, don’t overdo it. You will be surprised at just how quickly you can burn through your budget playing a stubborn game.
Here are some basic tips to consider when playing for real money:
- Take your time and don’t rush your bets
- Try a game out for free (demo) first before switching to a real money game
- Keep a close eye on your budget
- Set a session limit and stick to it, that way you will avoid going over your playing budget (bankroll)
- Never chase losses, rather take a break an come back another day
- Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose
- Keep your playing money separate from your money for rent, living expenses, etc
- Don’t rush in and bet the largest coin size or have all the paylines active on every spin unless your playing budget is massive and you can afford to do so comfortably
- Take advantage of bonuses or free money offers but remember that they all include wagering requirements and other stipulations
Common or Popular Banking Options
We touched on the different banking options that you will find at most online gambling sites. Here’s a slightly more detailed breakdown for you:
Electronic wallets or eWallets are hugely popular with online gamblers as well as anyone who tends to enjoy purchasing things securely online. The great thing about eWallets is that there are tons of different ones to choose from, so finding one that suits your needs, personality and preference is easy.
Before you can sign up for a eWallet, you will need to ensure that you have an active bank account that features online banking. The reason for this is that you will need to link your eWallet to your online bank facility. The eWallet acts as the ‘middleman’ between your online bank facility and the site where you are purchasing from or depositing into.
Once you’ve activated your online banking, the next step is to visit the website of the eWallet you fancy and registering an account with them. The process is similar to opening an online casino account, social media account and so forth. Once your eWallet is active, link the two together and you will now be able to instantly transfer funds from your bank to your eWallet, in preparation for further use. Nothing could be easier.
There are many eWallets to choose from online including:
Credit Cards, Debit Cards and Prepaid Cards
We’ve chatted about the pros and cons of credit cards and debit cards earlier and knowing which one is best for you will largely depend on your own personal circumstances. Credit cards offer fantastic online security but not everyone qualifies for one, and not everyone is comfortable using their credit card for gambling purposes.
On the other hand, debit cards are much easier to get a hold of and offer excellent flexibility. By contrast, most gamblers prefer using debit cards for their online gambling since it works so well as a bankroll manager. Since you can only spend what is already in your debit card, there is no chance of going into credit debt by overspending.
Prepaid cards are another option for fans of debit cards and work in much the same way, with one main difference. While standard debit cards allow you to decide how much money is on your debit card at any one-time, prepaid cards offer a fixed amount only. In other words, you buy the prepaid card preloaded with a certain sum of money, say £50, and can use that card accordingly or choose a prepaid card with a larger (or lesser) value.
The big plus here is that the prepaid cards are not linked to your bank account (like debit cards are) so you can enjoy an even greater level of personal security when using them. Prepaid cards are also available in a reloadable version as well as a disposable version. The reloadable type is convenient if you always deposit the same amount every time, while the disposable variety is good for one-offs or if you like to vary the amount you deposit.
Popular prepaid card options include:
- Visa Prepaid
- Paysafe Card
- MasterCard Prepaid
You’ll also find that quite a few casino brands and gambling sites are now offering their own branded prepaid cards, also known as gift cards. This can be a very convenient payment option for fans of the prepaid method.
Instant banking is another popular payment option that, as the name suggests, works instantly for your online deposits. Instant banking is simple to use, and you don’t have to worry about involving a middle man as you would with eWallets. Simply visit your gambling site banking page, choose instant banking from the list of available options, select your specific bank from the list of options, add your amount, click done and that’s it.
Mobile banking is quickly becoming the number one way in which everyone is now paying for the things they want, or indeed, receiving money on the go. Most top online gambling sites now offer mobile banking on either their dedicated mobile app or through an adapted version on their banking page. You can use virtually all the same options described here for your mobile banking and the same level of digital security and speed is employed for instant deposits and fast withdrawals to your bank via your mobile device.
Depositing funds into your new casino account is quick and easy and, as we’ve demonstrated here, absolutely safe and secure, as long as you choose a reputable, licensed site.
The process of deposit funds is very simple and, once you’ve done it once, every other time becomes routine.
- Login to your online casino account
- Once securely logged in (ensure the https prefix shows in your browser) click on the banking tab/page
- Scroll to your preferred payment method
- Click on the payment method logo to open up your depositing options
- Follow the instructions attached to your preferred option and add the amount you wish to deposit
- If redirected to a third party (eWallet, online bank, etc), ensure that the amount you wish to deposit is available and confirm the transfer
- On your banking (casino) payment page, check the amount is correct and confirm to complete the transaction
Withdrawing funds can be slightly more complicated but only for the first time. If you have opted in for a bonus, be sure that you have met all of your bonus T’s & C’s including wagering requirements and so on. Failure to do so may result in you losing your bonus, or your account being terminated.
You will also need to make sure that all of your paperwork is in order. This includes submitting accurate information when signing up for the first time as well as completing your required KYC documentation.
The KYC, or Know Your Customer documentation, is mandatory and is required by law. KYC entails your proof of identity such as a copy of your driver's license or passport including a photograph of you, as well as proof of address. This can be a utility bill of some kind, as long as it proves that your address is real and valid.
Once you have all of the necessary paperwork sorted out, you can go ahead and begin to make withdrawals from your player account. The same steps and process apply here as they do for depositing, for most payment options. Remember, if you get stuck in any way, do not hesitate to contact customer support, who should be able to sort out any issue you are experiencing quickly.
Playing Casino Games
Next up is casino games. Once you’ve sorted out your membership by signing up, made a deposit if you’re planning on playing games for real money, and sorted out your bonus (optional), you can begin to explore the range of games that are available to you.
By far the most popular of all gambling games, slots generally take up around 70% to 90% of a casino's gaming library. The reason for this is simple; slots are the easiest of all games to play. There is no steep learning curve here and no need to worry about complex strategies or gameplay. You simply select your coin size (value), select your paylines (non-fixed payline slots) and click on the bet button to spin the reels.
To make finding the sort of slots that you want to play easier, slots are categorised based on their:
- Format (3-reel, 5-reel, fixed payline, Way to Win, etc)
- Theme (Marvel Comics, fairy tale, adventure, cartoon, etc)
- Volatility (some pay out often but in smaller amounts, while others pay out less frequently but in bigger amounts)
- Bonus rounds (free spins, multiplier bonus rounds, wheel of fortune bonus, etc)
- Jackpots (fixed jackpot or progressive)
This way, once you find the slots style that you like, finding other titles that use the same format becomes very easy.
These are the original slots your grandparents or parents might have played when they were young. Classic slots are known as fruit machines or just ‘fruities’ in the UK because of their constant use of different fruit as playing symbols. Most classic slots are very simple and feature 3 reels and usually 1 to 3 paylines.
Video slots are the modern cousin to the classic fruit machines and are far more sophisticated affairs. Video slots typically feature 5 reels, although you will find ones these days that feature 6 reels or even 7 reels.
Video slots are hugely popular because they make use of cutting-edge 3D graphics and animation sequences, along with special game symbols like wilds, scatters and multipliers, and bonus rounds containing free spins, jackpots and more.
The term jackpot slots can be used to describe virtually any slot that features a main monetary prize, aka a jackpot. Jackpots are generally divided into two main categories:
- Fixed jackpots
- Progressive jackpots
With fixed jackpots, the software provider sets the amount of the jackpot and, no matter how many times you play that slot, the jackpot total never changes. Depending on the slot, you may need to play at max bet, which basically means you need to have the maximum coin size selected and have all paylines active on ever spin.
With progressive jackpots, on the other hand, the potential jackpot total that you could win is always changing. The reason for this is that progressive jackpot slots take a small percentage of each wager and add it to the jackpot. In other words, the jackpot keeps growing or ‘progresses’.
Progressive jackpot slots also come in various types, namely:
- Standalone progressive jackpot: Standalone progressive jackpots will only be available with a specific slot found at a casino. These types of progressive jackpots are usually smaller but can sometimes be easier to trigger.
- Local network progressive jackpot: Local network progressive jackpots refer to a number of machines that are tied together within the same site. These will usually produce a larger total jackpot than standalone machines as more than one machine on a site contribute towards the jackpot total.
- Global network progressive jackpot: Global network progressive jackpots take it a step further by tying machines together over different sites. These will usually yield the biggest possible progressive jackpot. A good example of these types of progressive jackpots is Microgaming’s Mega Moolah, arguably the biggest progressive jackpot game ever created.
If you don’t happen to be a particularly huge fan of slots, then perhaps table games would better suit your gaming needs. Table games are the umbrella term given to casino games that are played on some sort of a table. This can include card games and dice games. In the case of roulette, it is neither, although the numbered wheel does act as a sort of dice.
Table games include:
Virtual table games use sophisticated software to create a version of the sort of games you would find in brick and mortar gambling establishments. However, instead of a real dealer, the computer software controls the flow of the game by spinning the roulette wheel, dealing cards in baccarat, poker, and blackjack, or throwing the dice in craps.
When virtual table games first made their appearance online, many gamblers were initially sceptical, since it seemed that there was plenty of room for cheating. However, virtual table games, like all other virtual casino games, use highly advanced RNG’s or Random Number Generators, to ensure that every result is as random as possible.
Video Poker Games
Video poker is an interesting gaming option that is available at most good sites. If you love playing all sorts of slots but are yearning for something that offers more of a strategic challenge, video poker may be just the thing.
One of the reasons for the popularity of video poker is that it retains a lot of the format and structure of slots, but adds the element of challenging 5 card poker hands. Most slot players are not that interested in playing table games or even full-blown poker. It's too complicated and for many, takes too long.
Video poker, by contrast, is fast and the average game runs over two rounds. The idea here is simple. The first round starts off with five poker cards, all face up. You need to decide which of those five cards has value and which do not. You can then discard the ones you don’t want and these will be replaced in the second round. The game will then decide what you’ve won based on your 5 card hand combination.
Each video poker game comes with its own pay table which tells you exactly what each combination is worth. Combinations like Full House, Straight Flush, Royal Flush, Two Pair, Pair, and other classic poker hands are all there.
There are all sorts of video poker variations that you can find online, including:
- Jacks or Better
- Aces and Faces
- Aces and Eights
- Deuces Wild
- Jokers Wild
- Joker Poker
- All American Poker
Everyone loves playing scratch cards whenever they go to the shops, petrol station or mall. Scratch cards are fun, quick and easy to play and the joy of scratching off the opaque film to reveal a potential prize is irresistible. Believe it or not, you can now play scratch cards online and they are every bit as fun and exciting as the real thing.
Virtual scratch cards even look like your favourite ‘real’ scratch card and they even have the opaque film covering the hidden symbols. You can even ‘scratch’ the surface by using your mouse or controller to reveal the hidden symbols beneath.
However, it wouldn’t be digital if it wasn’t super convenient and used the latest technology. By simply pressing the ‘reveal all’ button, you can instantly know if you’ve won anything or not. This allows you to play as many scratch cards you like in a short space of time. There are hundreds of different scratch card games to choose from, sporting all sorts of designs, themes and prize values.
You’ll also find plenty of other interesting games that aren’t like slots or table games. The variety of other games will vary from one site to another but most include keno, which is a form of lotto, bingo, Instant Win and arcade-style games. You can play these games for free or for real money too.
Live Casino or Live Dealer Games
When virtual casinos first began to appear in the late nineteen-nineties, most gamblers were amazed that they could now play the same games that they enjoyed occasionally at brick and mortar establishments, all the time from the convenience of their own homes.
There was just one slight drawback to these virtual table games; they lacked the realism and excitement that brick and mortar establishments had in spades.
However, as web technology improved, smart software providers were able to create actual live table games and stream them directly to a user’s computer.
This is called live casino or live dealer gaming and it has totally transformed the online gaming industry.
Top software providers like Playtech, NetEnt, Ezugi and Evolution Gaming have created state of the art studios, designed to look just like brick and mortar gaming rooms.
Games are controlled by real live, highly trained dealers and croupiers, who deal real cards and spin real roulette wheels. All of this happens in real time and is streamed directly to your desktop, laptop or even your phone or tablet.
Live dealer gaming focuses on the classic table games including:
- Live roulette: Featuring French, American and European roulette plus other versions like Lightning Roulette, Double Ball Roulette, etc.
- Live Blackjack: Featuring Single Deck Blackjack, VIP Blackjack, European Blackjack, Blackjack Double Exposure, etc.
- Live Baccarat: Featuring Standard Baccarat, Baccarat Controlled Squeeze, Punto Banco, etc.
- Live Poker: Featuring Texas Hold’em, Caribbean Stud Poker, Casino Hold’em, etc.
Poker is a classic card game that is played and enjoyed all over the world. With the advent of the internet, dedicated poker rooms sprang up all over the web. However, not everyone wants to join a dedicated poker room, or can’t find a seat at popular online poker sites.
Some operators provide a dedicated poker page where you can enjoy the same quality of virtual poker as you would at dedicated poker rooms. This includes games like:
- Texas Hold’em
- Caribbean Stud Poker
- Omaha Hold’em
- Pai Gow Poker
- Red Dog
- Casino Hold’em
Online sports betting has become hugely popular over the past few years, with dozens of dedicated online sportsbooks taking bets around the clock on all sorts of sporting events.
Online sports betting presents gamblers with an additional opportunity to make money by betting on a wide range of top international sports including soccer (football), rugby, golf, basketball, American football, tennis, cricket, horse racing, motorsports, boxing and much more.
You’ll also find far more ‘combo sites’ in the UK in particular that combine a full-size virtual platform, live dealer and online sportsbook all in one site. The best part about this is that you only need one account to be able to enjoy all of their gambling opportunities.
Mobile Casino Games
Mobile gaming has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past few years and is now the number one way in which people choose to play digital games online. Thanks to HTML5, you don’t even need to concern yourself with downloading a dedicated casino app to your device anymore.
The best sites will automatically adjust to your device's specifications to give you the best possible user experience. Mobile games include all the popular ones such as slots, virtual and live dealer table games, video poker, bingo and more.
You’ll also be able to enjoy other benefits on the go, including full mobile customer support, on the go banking options, special mobile bonus offers and promotions and much more. The vast majority of UK mobile casinos will work on your iOS device, Android, Windows, and Blackberry smartphone or tablet.
Game providers, also known as software providers, are the heartbeat of any online gambling operation. Depending on the software provider, they do more than just supply online sites with slots and other games; they also provide the software that actually runs the site.
When online casinos first started out in the mid to late nineties, there was only one software provider powering its own online gambling site – Microgaming. However, Playtech and Net Entertainment, now known simply as ‘NetEnt’, were hot on their heels with their own online platforms.
Today there are dozens of top game providers supplying some of the best sites in the world with high quality, innovative and rewarding games. While some game providers tend to specialise in a certain gaming genre, others will be far more generalised and offer games in every popular genre.
The same can be said for online casinos. Some will stick to a single source provider such as NetEnt or Microgaming, while others partner with a dozen or more game providers, allowing for a massive and eclectic gaming library.
Deciding which you prefer is largely subjective and it may be a good idea to try one of each. See what a single software provider site feels like compared to one that features games from dozens of providers. Some players prefer the focused consistency that a single source provider can bring, while others prefer the often-crazy complexity of dozens upon dozens of different games.
It’s also a good idea to know what different game providers tend to be good at. For example, if you love playing live dealer games, signing up with a gambling site that uses Evolution Games live software is a good idea. That way you can be sure that you are getting the best available live dealer games in the business.
On the other hand, if you love slots, going with a site that features games from Betsoft, NetEnt, and Yggdrasil, will ensure you enjoy the widest variety of fun, innovative and rewarding slots. Still, others will give you a balanced combination of great slots as well as great table games and other options. Start with what you prefer and decide from there.
Some of the best game providers in the UK include:
- NetEnt (Net Entertainment)
- Evolution Gaming
- NextGen Gaming
- WMS Gaming
- Blueprint Gaming
- 1x2 Gaming
Licensing in the UK
Licensing of online gambling sites is critical and is the only way to ensure that the site you choose is legitimate and safe. In the UK, licensing of online gambling sites as well as brick and mortar ones is handled exclusively by the UK Gambling Commission or UKGC for short.
The UKGC is actually part of the UK government and replaced the old Gaming Board for Britain in 2007. The UKGC was established as a direct result of the new Gambling Act of 2005, aimed at improving both the scope and reach of the gambling regulator. The UKGC is an all-encompassing regulator that oversees every aspect of gambling in the UK, both in the real world and in the virtual one.
This includes inspecting, approving and issuing gaming licenses to arcades, bingo halls, brick and mortar establishments, high street betting shops, virtual sportsbooks (online), virtual casinos, all lotteries and so forth. Remote gambling, which is what all online gambling sites operating in the UK fall under, is also part of their mandate, and includes gambling online, betting by telephone and gambling via any communication device (computers and mobile phones) within the territory of the United Kingdom.
When you’re looking for a dependable, reliable and trustworthy online gambling site within the UK, always ensure that the site displays the UKGC logo. However, since rogue sites are everywhere, it is important not to be fooled either.
Some sites will display a ‘version’ of the UKGC logo but it isn’t actually a legitimate license, and they are not regulated by the UKGC at all. To be sure if an UKGC licensed site is legitimate, click on the logo displayed.
The logo should contain a link to the official UKGC site and list that particular gambling site as legitimately licensed and regulated by them. If you can’t click on the logo, it would be best to avoid the site altogether and better yet, report them to the UKGC.
Casino platforms, Game Platforms and "White Labels"
These days, casino platforms are available in a number of different versions, depending on the online gambling site. Some older sites will still offer a full download of their platform. This basically means that you can download the entire platform, complete with all features, to your desktop. Some of the more seasoned gamblers prefer this option as it allows full access to every game in the suite as well the option to tweak various settings. Some also believe that a full download platform functions at a higher level and is inherently safer.
However, you will find that most of the newer online gambling sites have completely abandoned the full download platform in favour of the Flash or Instant Play platform. These platforms are fast and easier to access as you simply log in to the platform from your web browser.
When browser-based platforms first appeared, the range of available games was still relatively limited, hence the favouritism towards full download platforms. However, with recent web technology developments, this is no longer the case. Gamblers can now access the full range of games, features, and services from their preferred browser including Google Chrome, Firefox, iOS Safari, Opera, Microsoft Edge, and others.
The same can be said for mobile gambling platforms. The first mobile gaming platforms followed a similar route to the older desktop downloadable platforms in so far as you would need to download an app to your device. The apps could either be downloaded from the site itself or from the user’s app store.
Not everyone was in favour of the app option since it took up valuable space on an already limited mobile device, and only iOS and Android users could use them. However, the advances brought about by the introduction of HTML5 meant that sites could now cater to all mobile users through an adaptable website platform. This simply means that you can now login to your preferred online casino from virtually any mobile device using iOS, Android as well as Blackberry and Windows operating systems.
Innovative software providers such as SoftSwiss and others provide what a service known as white label platforms. These white label platforms have helped to exponentially increase the number of online gambling sites that are available today. You may have noticed that, over the past few years, the number of online casinos has increased dramatically; this is completely due to white label services.
A white label is a service provided by an online software provider whereby a site is completely set up, including back end applications, games, and other technical features. The site is then supplied as a wholesale platform to a third party that can then rebrand the site in whichever way they choose to. The advantages of white labels are that they allow virtually anyone that wants to operate a casino online, to do so.
Everything is provided by the software company, which then takes a cut of the profits of the operation. This is precisely why you see so many new online gambling sites popping up on the web, which has allowed the online gambling industry to blossom. However, as with anything, caution should always be exercised and you should still look for all of those important hallmarks discussed in this guide.
Support for Players
There are a number of aspects that go into player support and it includes ensuring the overall safety of players whilst online, ensuring that no fraud is being committed which could potentially place all players in jeopardy, and providing adequate logistical support to all players.
All good online operators have a number of sophisticated programs and actions in place to detect any signs of fraud from players. Every player that signs up for an account must submit a number of verifiable pieces of information, which the casinos will then add to their database. Every player's activity is monitored including wagering activities, deposit and withdrawal activities and so forth. Any irregularities in any of these areas are immediately noted and, if found to be fraudulent, could result in the suspension of the players account as well as submissions to relevant authorities.
When it comes to supporting players, top sites will do this in a number of ways. Firstly, communication channels between players and support staff are made available, with most online sites offering 24-hour communication. Popular communication options include live chat, email contact, and phone support. Out of the three, live chat is the most popular and the most widely used as it provides an instant communication facility to get support instantly.
Sites will also provide a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page, which covers most of the basics that you should know about the site. This is always a great place to start if you are a new player since what you need to know is more than likely already covered, without having to contact support.
We’ve come to the end of our complete beginner’s guide to online casinos. If we’ve done our bit right, we leave you armed with all the knowledge you need to create the most rewarding, fun and interesting online gambling experience possible.
Remember, as long as you follow this guide, do your homework and only play at legitimately licensed and reputable gambling sites, you won’t go wrong. Before you get started, here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts when gambling online.
- Read our in-depth reviews before signing up with any site
- Ensure that that site uses the latest SSL encryption technology before uploading your details
- Check to see if the site is registered and licensed through the UKGC
- Contact their customer support and ask them all the questions that you need to before signing up with them
- Try their games for free first to see if you like them and if they are worth signing up with
- Read all the terms and conditions first, especially those related to any bonus offers
- If playing for real money, be sure to stick to your budget and never go over it – no matter what
- Sign up to any site without first checking them out thoroughly
- Play with money that you can’t spare for online gambling purposes
- Take a bonus without being sure of the wagering requirements first
- Submit false information or lie on your KYC forms
- Attempt to withdraw money from your account if you haven’t met your obligations first
- Play at any site that has not been tested or vetted by us, or does not feature legitimate licensing through UKGC