What makes a good online casino? Our in-depth guide highlights the main factors to consider such as licences, games, bonuses, customer service and payout times

Choosing online casinos

We were all new players once upon a time, and in the past it was a case of trial and error trying to find the best online casino to match our needs. Even today, the online gambling industry is still full of the good, the bad and the ugly, but as a newcomer it's a tricky task separating them.

The purpose of this article is to offer a list of pointers that you can use as a guide to finding your ultimate online gambling site. Yet, before diving in, we just want to clarify this is not us telling you Casino "ABC" is better than "XYZ". We understand that every player has their own desires, so certain aspects of a casino are of greater importance, thus the choice of where to play differs.

Licences

Regardless of what games you like or the type of bonuses you are looking for, choosing an online casino that holds valid remote gaming licences should be in the first point in your checklist. The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and Gibraltar Betting and Gambling Association (GBGA) are two of the most respected international regulators.

There are also several country-specific governing bodies such as the Danish Gambling Authority and UK Gambling Commission which are held in high regard. Joining an operator that is licenced and regulated delivers a sense of security and protection. The games offered are regularly checked to ensure they are fair to the player.

Also, industry-standard SSL data encryption software is used so all personal and financial information is totally safe, plus in some cases, the licensor can help with dispute resolution over winnings and payouts. We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of checking a casino's licence before signing up. It could well save you a lot of headaches later down the road.

Variety of Games

Some gaming platforms may offer a couple of hundred games whilst others have libraries containing over 1,000. These will include traditional video slots and progressive jackpot games, card games such as blackjack, Caribbean stud poker and baccarat, roulette, craps, video poker, keno and much more. We all have our own preferences as to what games we prefer, so you must match your tastes with the right casino.

Live dealer games are all the rage right now, but once again, certain sites have a more comprehensive selection than others. If you are a high-roller, does the casino cater for your needs with a range of big money games? Those who are searching for their first online casino, take some time and explore the free-play games, so you can find your favourites and that will help you locate the ideal operator to meet your gaming desires.

Bonuses & Promotions

With so many brands saturating the market nowadays, the range of bonuses and promotions available to players is outstanding. From no deposit offers that give you a chance to sample the real money games without dipping into your own pocket to matched deposit bonuses, free spins, cash back deals and many others. There's literally something for everyone.

However, not all that glitters is gold. Before accepting any bonus, you want to check the terms of the offer. Many will have wagering requirements. This determines how much you need to bet before the bonus funds are deemed as withdrawable cash. You can find some no wagering bonuses on the market - these are excellent from a player's perspective. So, check out a few offers to get an idea of the terms and see how they vary. This will point you in the direction of which casino suits you the best.

Awards

A good sign of a casino's reputation and standing among industry experts can be gauged by the awards it has picked up down the years. The eGaming Review (EGR) Awards are referred to as The Oscars of the gaming industry, so you know that the ones boasting these are obviously doing something right.

International Gaming and Gaming Intelligence are two other prominent awards operators can pick up. This is definitely a good pointer to help you decide upon a respected brand.

Customer Service

Your online casino needs to have first-class customer support. Every player, especially those new to the scene, will have a question or two at some point, and you want to know that they'll be answered swiftly and effectively. A good starting point is the FAQ section, how thorough is it and does it cover multiple topics? From there, the other options will be email, telephone and live chat. Many of the larger websites have 24/7 live chat and telephone, and to us this is a minimum requirement.

However, going one step further, it's not simply about the available methods of contact, but also how knowledgeable and helpful the staff are when you speak to them. A tip we often use is to ask a customer support operator (via live chat) a couple of questions, generally related to the sign-up bonus and banking methods. After speaking to a few casinos, you soon get a feel for the level of competency and friendliness across the board.

Banking & Payout times

Although, if the casino holds a good licence, its security should be first-class, some players still prefer not to share their personal bank account or credit card details online. Fortunately, many sites offer a range of alternatives such as PayPal, Neteller, Paysafe and Entropay. Before joining check the banking options - both for deposits and withdrawals. This way you'll know that you can fund your account using the method you choose and also withdraw winnings easily, too.

There is still quite a bit of variance in the payout times, and this is something else to pay attention to. You can check the processing time. Certain sites will process your withdrawal request within the hour, so it's possible to have your winnings the same day (via selected payment channels). Other sites may take up to 48 to 72 hours before processing, which we think is too long in this day and age. Ultimately, it's a personal decision, so pick a casino that you are happy with in this regard.

Other Products

Do you also have a penchant for sports betting, online poker or bingo? If so, looking for an operator with a multi-product platform is often a good idea. The advantage is that you only need one account. You fund one main wallet and have one password. It's so much more convenient. There are plenty of top tier operators which offer other products, so you won't have any concerns finding a good multi-product site to play at.

Mobile

All modern online casinos have a responsive web platform and many also have native iOS and Android apps for players. However, at certain sites, the number of games available to mobile players is limited in comparison to their full desktop site. If you have a preference for playing through a mobile device, then this is another consideration to weigh up. There may also be a few different banking options, which is something else to double check.

Conclusion

By thinking about and using the above tips as guidance, you will be able to make a more educated decision about which casinos are legit. Also, you'll be able to determine which ones are right for you, and the type of player you are.

It's not a sprint, take your time and do your due diligence. After all, this is a place you are giving your hard-earned money to, and you want to be treated ethically and professionally. Furthermore, you want know that you'll be paid in an orderly manner should you win. There are many great alternatives to choose from, but still a couple of undesirables. Armed with what you now know, you will be able to avoid the latter.

Last update: 30-09-2019