The Ultimate Guide to Casinos


Introduction to Online Casinos 201

In reading our Introduction to Online Casinos 101 you already know a little about online casinos and you have maybe put that knowledge to the test through one of our recommended first casinos.  You might want to stretch your wings a bit and check out some of the excitement that can be found on other casinos or just know a little more about online gambling and this guide covers a lot of extra knowledge.

This guide covers how to choose online casinos yourself and highlights some important steps that you should take when choosing an online casino.  Although we recommend reading this before you play at any other casinos if you want to hop straight onto casinos then either check out our reviews or list of recommended casinos.

Understanding Casino Software

Although there are over 1000 casinos online at the moment there are only about 50 providers of casino gaming software and of these Microgaming, NetEnt, RTG, Party Gaming, Random Logic, IGT, Playtech and Cryptologic probably cover 95% or more of the software casinos use.  Each software has different strengths and weaknesses, a different feel and have games and options that will cater for different tastes.  It is becoming increasingly common for casinos to offer games by multiple software firms as this gives the player more choice.  We have produced a short guide to casino software and you might want to check that out to help understand which software appeals to you most or to discover some new games to check out.

Understanding Groups and Skins

Although there are many, many casinos on the market it is quite common for several brands to be either owned by the same group or linked closely with other brands within a group.  At each casino in a group you might get slightly different bonus offers and the casinos may look differently but it is like being in different rooms in the same nightclub, the price of the drinks, the location, the service and the management is basically the same.  Think Coke Zero and Diet Coke – same product but with different branding.

Groups and skins cause one key problem for the inexperienced gambler.  If you deposit at Platinum Play which is part of the Fortune Lounge Group then you are not allowed to claim a new player bonus on any other site in the Fortune Lounge Group.  You are also not allowed to create a new account on any of the other sites in the group although you can play on any of the other casinos using your existing Fortune Lounge account.  So whenever you play at a casino you should check out to see if they are part of a group of casinos to ensure that if they have restrictions on new player bonus offers that you comply to their rules and also take advantage of the bonus that works best for you.  If you do not check this out you risk your winnings being voided just through playing at a casino that seemed to want to take your money.

Some casino groups allow you to claim multiple bonuses on their different sites but even then they usually have a clause to decline bonuses at their discretion so you might want to space out taking advantage sign up offers within these groups.  There are advantages in playing with a group of casinos, for example Fortune Lounge give players the ability to play at all their casinos through one account and being able to play in tournaments and take advantage of some bonuses with a wider pool of players.

Understanding Bonuses

Make sure you understand the bonus terms before signing up to a bonus.  Read our bonus guide for more information and remember a good sounding bonus can be spoiled by terms and conditions, terrible software or dishonest and tricky casino operators.

Keeping Records

Many players get tempted to take advantage of bonus offers – we recommend you keep a list of the casinos and groups that you sign up with together with your deposits and withdrawals.  This is so:

  • You know how much you are gambling and are tracking your winnings and losses
  • You know which bonus offers you are entitled to
  • You know you are being paid properly
Understanding RTP and Optimal strategy
When you gamble in a pub on a slot machine you know that your expected payout rate (Return To Player) is over 70% if you are in the UK but you do not know what the landlord has actually set it to. When you are in a pub you have little choice of gambling options but the same is not true when you are gambling online. We believe that players have a right to know what the house cut is on all their wagers and what the expected Return To Player (RTP) is. There is a huge difference between a 98.5% return and a 95% RTP and you will quickly notice this if you wager on different games with these payout rates.  Unfortunately it can sometimes take a little bit of work to find out what the RTP’s are for different games.  NetEnt software shows all its RTP’s in the information section of individual games and Redbet has recently published a list of the RTP’s for the Microgaming software that they use in their “blue” casino here. Virgin Casino also shows you the RTP’s through looking at their games in “list” view. Some software providers offer their games to casinos with different payout rates, just like land based slot machines including IGT so it is well worth making sure you are getting the best return on your favorite IGT games as this will give you more play and greater chances of coming out ahead.
We have provided some tips on some of the most popular games for how to play closer to optimal strategy.  If you look at RTP’s for games such as Blackjack these are based on players using perfect strategy and many players make significant errors or deviations from this strategy.  If you want to give yourself the best chances of succeeding then you might want to either learn optimal strategy or stick with games that are 100% luck and where each bet you make has an equal chance of winning.

Due Diligence

Before you start at an online casino that we do not recommend in our reviews you should definitely do the following:

  • Are they part of a group – if so can I take advantage of their bonus offer will it stop me taking advantage of a better offer?
  • Is their software safe and fair – has it been independently audited, what are the RTP’s for the games if not Microgaming, Playtech or NetEnt?
  • Is the Casino safe and fair? – search for reviews and complaints against the casino.  Are they on any Blacklists?  If they are at all iffy or you do not get substantial information about them but you still want to play there then make sure you take extra precautions when dealing with them such as getting agreements in writing for anything.
  • Are their terms and conditions fair and do they let you play the way you want to?  Are they precise enough for you to know where you stand?  If certain terms are vague either get clarification in writing from the operator or make sure that they do not have a record for using vague terms such as “playing against the spirit of the bonus” against players like you.
  • Safety and Security – how financially secure are they? What recourse will you have (eCOGRA, Casinomeister PAB, legal action etc.) if you get into any disagreements with them?  You want to be able to withdraw your winnings without problems such as them not having the money to pay you.   The world of online casinos is full of casino operators who go bust,  some casinos over leverage themselves offering great sign up bonuses that can lead to slow payments to players at best and sometimes going bust so it is worth taking care.

Choosing the Casino

Now you know a little more about online casinos you are ready to make your choice.  Here is a summary of some of the key factors to consider when making your choice.  Remember there are over 1000 casinos out there, why settle for one that does not meet all of your needs.

a)      Are they fair and safe to gamble with? – Either stick to the casinos we recommend or do some research online before choosing a casino.  Make sure the software used is fair and audited independently if not on our list of software recommendations.  Also you want to make sure that they have the cash flow and finance to pay your winnings.  Many firms have gone bust by offering unsustainable bonuses and over leveraging themselves.

b)      What bonuses do they offer ? – Size is not everything, terms make the difference between a bonus that is great and a bonus that just stops you from gambling the way you want to without adding any value to your experience.  Pick a bonus that adds great value to your gambling experience or play without a bonus.

c)       Do you like the software they use and is their enough variety and choice of the games you like to play?

d)      Customer service and player focus – We all have different levels of what we need here.  At the very least you want a site that will pay you your winnings and respond to issues fairly and promptly but why go to a site without first class support when there are dozens of great casinos offering this unless it is to briefly take advantage of a bonus

f)       Do you like the look, feel and approach of the site? – Different online casinos have a very different feel to them, compare for instance Mr Green Casino, Cherry Casino and Harry Casino – all offer many similar games but feel very different.

g)      Are there any particular features such as Live Casinos, Mobile Casinos, Tournaments, Skill Games, sports betting options etc that you want? – if so find a casino that offers these.  It may be that you want fast cash-outs or high bet requirements or it may be that you want a casino to offer large progressive jackpots that are paid out in a lump sum and not over 20 years as some casinos do.  What ever your requirements make sure your casino meets them.

For different gamblers different elements will be more and less important.  Some people will only want to play with a casino that they really like the look or feel of, some people will only play at Microgaming casinos, some people want the best bonuses where as others want easy to understand terms and conditions and great customer service.  Why not either check out some of our reviews or look at some of our casino suggestions to find the right casinos for you?

Here are some casino recommendations below:-

Great Sites to Stick with 32 Red Casino Great VIP program, good on-going bonuses, quick payouts and excellent customer service.  Perhaps the best Microgaming Casino out there
Bet 365 Casino Huge selection of games offering both a comprehensive Playtech casino and a great mixed platform Instant Casino, great customer service and good on-going bonuses
Great Sites for Progressive Jackpot Fans Bet 365 Casino Bet 365 Casino offer Playtech Progressive Jackpots including the very popular and large Marvel Progressives.  They also offer some extra Progressive Jackpot games in their instant casino and they will pay your winnings in one lump sum not over 20 years as some casinos do
32 Red Casino A great, highly reputed Microgaming casino.  Microgaming offer the very best Progressive Jackpot Games that are out there with a huge player base and they pay your winnings in one lump sum.
Jackpot Party Unlike the other recommendations their Progressive Jackpots are tiny in comparison but you can win their progressives on any of their slot games on any stakes and with a tiny player base you have a very good chance of winning their jackpots.  A great casino too!
Great Casinos with Proprietary Software Jackpot Party At the moment this is the only casino where you can play WMS Gaming software online which include about 60 excellent slot games
3Dice A casino with a superb reputation for customer service but their own software is also interesting and well worth checking out too
Intercasino Owned by Cryptologic and the best place to play their great games, even though many are available by lots of other casinos here is the best place to play their full range
Slotland Actually runs in html so fine on any computer including many mobiles – may look a little dated but still provides a unique and enjoyable experience
Great Casinos offering something different Solera Casino Offers a good range of Leander Games as well as Sheriff games both of which are not seen all that often but good fun
Mr Green Offers a great range of games including NetEnt, Microgaming and Betsoft amongst others but it is the approach that really is different here with interesting facts appearing during play etc
Paddy Power Casino Offers a good range of skill games such as heads up Blackjack as well as a huge range of standard casino offerings including a Playtech casino.
Casinos offering great “no deposit” bonuses Offer a neat no deposit bonus which is a great incentive to check out some of their unique games.  There are better no-deposit bonuses out there but this one is good fun
High Noon Casino 60$ free chip bonus on an RTG casino
DomGame 50 Euro free with a casino using Rival Software
Platinum Play Casino There are many great freeplay bonuses with MG casinos and they are great fun – this is well worth checking out.  This is not the same as a “non-deposit” bonus as it is more like playing for your deposit bonus but it is still a great way to try out the casino although this will disqualify you from taking advantage of other Fortune Lounge Casinos
Non-withdrawable bonuses – can get more playing credit from these bonuses but they are not for the faint hearted Mecca Bingo 50£ 100% bonus that is not cashable but only needs to be played through once before you can withdraw your winnings.  Casino is very pink too.  Ideal for slot fans
Lucky Red casino RTG casinos offer some decent bonuses although they often come with lots of restrictions and limitations the 400% deposit bonus make it less good than it sounds but it is still a great signup bonus
Great Playtech Casinos for Sign up Bonuses Bet365 One of the very best Playtech Bonuses 150%
Vegas Red Casino A Playtech casino with a 10$ no deposit bonus (need a 20$ deposit to withdraw and there is a winnings cap of 100$) but still great – also a 122% deposit bonus which is good for Playtech – don’t have a fantastic reputation but bonus lovers will definitely want to consider this
Great Mini Deposit bonuses Nostalgia Casino Deposit 1$ get 20$ free with generous playthrough of 30 times bonus
Coral Casino Deposit 10 get 50$ free – Coral Casino offer a Playtech casino and a good Instant Play casino.
River Nile Casino Deposit 25$ and get 50$ free and 50 free spins too, a great bonus on a good MG site
Great Microgaming deposit bonuses River Nile Casino Deposit £25 get £50 free and get 50 free spins too!  This is with Vegas Partner Lounge Group
32Red Casino Deposit 50$ and claim a 160% bonus that is a pretty easy to clear cashable bonus 30 times bonus
Vegas Towers Great 100% bonus with no playthrough requirements – what more could you want?  Also as part of Fortune Lounge you can try out other fortune lounge casinos from the same account too
Highrollers Lucky Red Casino Deposit bonuses for both slots and table players offering up to 400% for deposits up to $1000 although these bonuses are non-withdrawable.  This casino uses the RTG platform and offers decent on-going bonuses that will appeal to high rollers too
32 Red Casino Great on-going bonuses and VIP programme rewards you better than any other making this an ideal casino for the highroller.  Uses MG software.
Lucky Nugget Good sign up to £1000 with a match 100% bonus using Microgaming software
Best casinos for skill games Poker Stars Not a casino but the best place online for poker
Mahjong Time A great site to play and gamble Mahjong online – one of the most skilful and fun gambling games around although there is a huge learning curve if you want to come out ahead.
Party Backgammon Another great site for a great skill game
Paddy Power A good range of player vs player skill games
Platinum Play A great site for Casino Tournaments that pit you against other players using the Microgaming Platform.