Not All Online Casinos Are Legitimate – These 5 Steps Will Help You Spot the Fakes
There are plenty of completely legitimate and trustworthy online casinos out there – many with track records going back 10 years or more. Unfortunately, you will find the occasional rogue outfit, with pirated games, dodgy payment records or in the worst case a complete fraud.
This page shows you how to tell which is which.
While there are several details involved – you will find a shortcut. The biggest and most popular brands, particularly those running for a while (3+ years as a minimum, 5+ ideally) are very rarely the fakes. After all, a casino can’t survive long if they do not pay out players, word gets around and their reputations are ruined. There are plenty of resources here at HighTechGambling.com covering the biggest and best brands. If you are located in the US, then head to this article on the Best US Online Casinos. If you are outside of the US then you have even more options of bigger and popular brands, check out this article covering Online Casino Sites for the latest info.
Back to spotting fakes. I have a checklist which will keep you out of trouble. There are 5 criteria in total, and any one of these could be a potential ‘red flag’.
Spotting Fake Casinos #1 – Unlicensed Casinos
Every casino needs an operating license. These are awarded by jurisdictions dotted around the world. US casinos are licensed by the Kahnawake tribe in Canada, Caribbean island nations including Antigua and Curacao, or Central American countries including Costa Rica and Panama. European jurisdictions such as Gibraltar, Malta and Alderney are considered some of the most reputable casino regulators in the world.
While having a license is not enough on its own to guarantee that a casino is not a fake – not having a license is a very big ‘red flag’.
I would personally never deposit at a casino without a license, and recommend that you do not do this either. You’ll find badges with links on the homepage of legitimate casinos – make sure that you double check if that link is broken or the jurisdiction unclear.
Spotting Fake Casinos #2 – Scandals Online
If a casino does not pay winnings, chances the terms of its bonus at short notice or comes up with strange reasons to close your (profitable) account – then this information will find it’s way online very quickly. A quick check at sites like casinomeister.com will reveal lists of rogue casinos. Not all of these are completely fake. In fact some change minor terms and conditions retroactively and appear on this list!
The fact that bad casinos are flagged very fast online gives you an opportunity.
If you find a casino which has been running for more than say 5 years, and does not have any complaints, scandals or payment issues – you can be very sure that you have found a legitimate outfit… Of course, some angry idiot will always go online with their conspiracy theories after losing 5 blackjack hands in a row… so you need to be selective about the information available.
Spotting Fake Casinos #3 – Casinos Hiding Behind Web Forms
Fake casinos do not want to tell you who the owners are, or give you too many ways to get in touch with them. Compare this to the bigger legitimate casinos. Here you will find ownership information, addresses and phone numbers, multiple e-mail contact addresses and often live-chat on their homepage. If all you have is a website with a simple ‘contact us’ form and no further options – then I recommend you dig a little deeper with the other items on this checklist.
Spotting Fake Casinos #4 – Lack of Testing Certification
Most casinos want to demonstrate the fairness of their games (and contrary to what many believe, spins and deals are usually completely fair!). To do this specialist auditing companies are employed to run the games millions of times. This data is then used to demonstrate that the deal is random, and also to show that the published returns (RTP %) are accurate.
There are several companies providing these services. 3 of the best known are eCogra, Technical Systems Testing and iGaming Labs.
Casinos include badges with links to their certificates on their homepage so you can check. Again, this could be faked – so make sure that you double check with whichever testing company is shown that the audit is up to date.
No testing certificate would be enough of a red flag for me that I would move on and find another casino.
Spotting Fake Casinos #5 – Deposit Options
One trust signal I take very seriously applies to casinos outside of the US / Canada only. If you see PayPal deposits (this link goes to my other site - SitandGoPlanet.com) are allowed, this is an excellent sign. PayPal are very selective about who they do business with, and only the biggest and best brands are allowed to use this.
More generally, it is the lack of deposit options which can be a warning sign. While all US friendly casinos are restricted (thanks to the US banking system and UIGEA laws), they should still be able to offer a range of ways to deposit. I like to see at least one credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Amex are the most common), money transfer options and Bitcoin as a minimum. If a casino only accepts Bitcoin, or maybe some obscure prepaid voucher system – then I like to dig deeper before depositing.
For more on depositing at US gambling sites, check out the following guides:
- Sports Betting Deposit Methods FAQ (very detailed!)
Reducing Your Risks with Online Casinos – Choosing Popular Brands
Competition from new and upcoming casinos is important, and keeps the industry innovating – though if safety is your first priority then the biggest brands are a safe bet.
For US based players this should involve Bovada, which has more than 10 years of experience (they were once branded as Bodog). This casino has a well-deserved reputation for great service and prompt payouts. They also have the best selection of software... combining games and slots from RTG, BetSoft and Rival. Bovada pass the 'safe' test with flying colors - check them out for yourself at www.bovada.lv
The list of established and popular brands for players worldwide is huge. Your choice here will depend on your game preferences and devices as much as anything else. Check out the excellent 32Red Casino for MicroGaming titles, or the giant (and PayPal friendly!) www.unibet.com for the biggest selection of slots of any household name casino.
Remember to carry out the 5 quick checks above before you make a deposit!
More Practical Guides for Online Casino Fans:
- Skrill online slots (slot casinos welcoming the Skrill payment method)
- Casino Gambling Main Page (for links to a ton more articles!)