How to Choose an Online Casino

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The great variety of games and differing financial aspects of online casinos can seem a bit intimidating to newcomers. The best web site operators understand this and make it as easy as possible for new players to join in the action. They offer promotional incentives ranging from free bets to cash refunds on losses. But sorting through all the sign-up offers can be confusing, too. What should one look for in choosing an online casino?

Just like their land-based counterparts, online casinos have a history. Some have been around since the inception of Internet gaming in the mid-1990s. New ones seem to be cropping up each day. It is safe to say, any web site that has been in operation for five years or more has met the challenge of time and fickle markets. A quick search of online reviews and user feedback can help identify which casinos are well-established and trusted, as well as those to steer clear of.

Industry standards can also be looked to for assurance. The most reputable online casinos display certifications, such those issued by the non-profit Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), and eCommerce and Online Gambling Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA). To earn such “Seals of Approval,” web sites must demonstrate that they operate responsibly and honestly, their financial transactions are secure, and their games have been tested and proven to be fair.

Once the field of potential prospects has been narrowed to a manageable number, direct comparisons are possible, and one of the first things to consider is how games are accessed. It used to be necessary to download a bulky application in order to play a casino’s tables and slots, but nowadays most sites offer a “flash” or “instant play” option for immediate access. For those players who use more than one computer to go online, this can be a big advantage—no need to install software everywhere they play. The downside is usually less game variety, lower quality graphics and sound, and sometimes sluggish response times.

Along the same lines, connection via mobile device is now offered by many online casinos. The same trade-off applies: fewer games and lower quality in exchange for anywhere, anytime access. An easy comparison to make is how many games each provider offers and what kind. A player who is only interested in slots may soon become bored if only a handful of options are available.

Comparing online casinos on the basis of games can be both quantitative and qualitative. Number of games, types of games offered, betting limits, highest jackpot, payout percentage, and frequency of new games added are just a few ways in which sites can be evaluated side-to-side. Intangibles, such as quality of the gaming experience and the “fun factor,” may be more difficult to compare directly, but should be equally important to anyone who intends to spend hours and cash at a site.

For this reason, sampling is recommended. Most of the big gaming sites provide a “for fun” or “for free” mode, with no money required to play and nothing to lose. Without risking a penny, players can try out selected games for as long as they like, gaining familiarity, proficiency and confidence before opening cash accounts.

The financial aspect of playing at online casinos is an important one, and it should raise plenty of questions. Among them: What is the primary currency of the site? What methods are available for transferring funds? How easy is it to make a deposit or withdrawal? Are transfers instantaneous or are waiting periods involved? And are there any associated fees?

Although new player promotions are often the first aspect of an online casino one notices, they should be considered only after all the other factors have been compared. Assuming all else is equal, a generous welcome bonus can be the decider. But it is absolutely necessary to read the fine print in the Terms & Conditions when comparing sign-up incentives.

For example, the promise of a “100% match” for a first deposit typically requires meeting certain conditions. Those may include rules regarding the amount of deposit, method of deposit, minimum amount of play before withdrawals can be made, and even restrictions on the games the free credits can be used for. The admonition “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) certainly applies when it comes to evaluating online casino promotions.

Lastly, most online casinos also offer loyalty schemes to reward regular players. Over time, these usually turn out to be more important to a player than the welcome bonuses that expire soon after joining. Things to compare include how loyalty points are accumulated, types of rewards available, frequency of rewards, how to qualify for VIP status or higher levels of reward, and the availability of customer support. Again, qualitative aspects come into play. An online casino that “feels right” may be the best choice in the long term.

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