Most online casinos are reputable sites that offer fair games and make timely payouts. This means that your odds of randomly choosing a quality casino are good.
Unfortunately, there are still corrupt operations that don’t have players’ best interests in mind. These casinos may be slow to pay, have poor customer service, run faulty games, or all of the above.
It pays to do some research beforehand so that you can avoid nefarious casinos, and there are some major warning signs you should look for to accomplish this goal.
I’m going to cover several factors that you can check for to ensure you’re not dealing with a shady casino.
Casinos with No Licensing
The first thing that you should look for with regard to a casino’s reputation is their licensing.
A licensing jurisdiction reviews important criteria before approving an online casino group. And while a license doesn’t guarantee a casino will be perfect, it shows that they’ve passed the test for certain jurisdictions.
Online casinos located in Europe are licensed in Alderney, Gibraltar, and/or Malta. Internet casinos in the United Kingdom are awarded licenses by the UK Gambling Commission.
Online casinos that operate in the US and Canada are licensed by Antigua, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and/or Panama. While these licensing jurisdictions aren’t as prestigious as Malta or the UKGC, they at least have some requirements and demand an application fee.
Speaking of which, online casinos usually have to pay around $40,000 or more to undergo and complete the application process.
Any company that’s willing to pay this amount is unlikely to risk their license by cheating players and/or not paying them. This is another reason why licensed casinos are more trustworthy.
Of course, not all unlicensed casinos are scam artists who are trying to steal people’s money. But with so many licensed operations out there, why take the chance on one that hasn’t been approved by any jurisdiction?
Internet casinos that prove themselves unworthy are blacklisted on various websites. GamblingSites.com has their own blacklist, while other sites have popular resources too.
The first thing to understand here is that no two blacklists are the same, but landing on any one of these lists is a definite warning sign.
Below you can see some of the criteria for blacklisting internet casinos.
Lack of Payment
Many online gamblers have fears about depositing at an online casino located hundreds or thousands of miles away. Nonpayment is the worst fear in internet gambling.
Luckily, this is a rare occurrence, because internet casinos know they won’t last long if they don’t pay players. But it has happened in the past, and there are some publicized instances.
The worst case happened in 2011, when the US Department of Justice cracked down on several major poker sites.
These online poker rooms set up dummy corporations and disguised deposits as fake transactions to get around American banking laws.
When the US DoJ took legal action against these sites (a.k.a. Black Friday), some of them were unable to repay players, b because these internet poker rooms were using player deposits to pay bills and lofty executive salaries.
While this may be an extreme example, Black Friday highlights why players need to be careful with where they deposit money.
After not paying players, the biggest sin that online casinos can commit is running unfair games.
Everybody plays internet casino games under the assumption that they’re dealing with completely random games, but there are rare occasions when this isn’t the case.
One famous example occurred in 2009, when Rome Casino was running TopGame software. TopGame had a slots game that was missing a crucial wild symbol needed to win the jackpot.
Only after numerous complaints did the now-defunct Rome take the slots game offline and give affected players their money back.
If you ever see an online casino that has had complaints about cheating players, then you know to avoid it for sure.
Changing Bonus or Promotion Terms
When an internet casino offers a bonus or promotion, they should stick with the stated terms until the offer has expired. Nevertheless, some rogues have changed promotional terms in the past to suit their needs.
This is common when a shady casino is arguing with the player over a big bonus. The casino will then change the terms so that they’re in the right.
Another tactic used by vile casinos involves offering players another bonus in the midst of a dispute. This locks the player into chasing another bonus and potentially losing more money, rather than resolving the original conflict.
Spamming Players on Forums, Websites, and Social Media
Marketing is a common part of online casinos getting the word out about their new games and promotions, but some casinos take this too far by spamming players through forums and social media sites.
What constitutes spamming in this case?
One red flag is when an online casino gets caught making up fake names and identities to push their products or agendas. This is essentially what NBA player Kevin Durant once did to defend himself against critics on Twitter.
Here’s an example of how this happens with casinos:
- A new online casino opens.
- The casino quickly has favorable comments across many websites and social media platforms.
- You conclude that the casino is too young to have this many favorable reviews so soon.
It’s not always easy to spot when a casino is spamming players. After all, they commonly use fake identities to carry out this agenda.
But you may find a general consensus among other players that a casino is spamming people with phony positive comments and reviews. Any site that’s willing to stoop to this level isn’t worth playing at.
No Independent Testing Certificate
Online casinos like to have their random number generators tested by third parties to instill confidence in their games. This has given rise to an industry of online gaming labs that test casino games to ensure randomness.
The most popular testing labs include eCogra, iGaming Labs, and Technical Systems Testing (TST).
These three companies are highly respected when it comes to auditing internet casino games, and most casinos that receive this testing put the lab’s seal at the bottom of their homepage.
If you see a TST seal at the bottom of a casino website, for example, you know that it’s been tested by Technical Systems Testing.
No seal, on the other hand, means that an online casino is running untested games. Furthermore, the casino doesn’t have any proof that their games are totally random.
Slow Payment Processing
Earlier, I covered how a few bad apples have failed to repay players. Another issue regarding payment processing is online casinos that are slow at handling withdrawals.
While this is on a lower level than complete non-repayment, it’s still a serious issue.
One reason why an online casino is slow to process payouts is because they don’t immediately have the funds to pay everybody on time. This leads to a more serious matter in that the casino could be using player deposits to fund employee salaries and advertising.
Most online casinos can go on for years like this, but eventually things will come crashing down, such as the Black Friday incident that I discussed before.
Poor Customer Support
Customer service is one good indication of a company’s trustworthiness. If an online casino has terrible customer support, then it probably has other internal issues too.
Rome Casino is also a good example here, because they were having serious customer service problems before closing down.
A high roller named “Scooter69” once posted a long chat with Rome, where the latter dealt with him in a creepy and unfair manner. Support rep, Michael, amid calling Scooter69 things like “dear” and “honey,” promised a big bonus offer that was later reneged.
Even worse is online casinos that just don’t respond to their customers at all. These casinos usually end up on several blacklists, because they refuse to deal with player disputes.
Shady Parent Company
Many online casinos are run by operations that own multiple casino skins. Therefore, you can find out plenty about an internet casino just by looking at their parent company.
Oftentimes, you can see who the parent company is by looking at the casino’s “about us” section. Other times you may need to dig through reviews before finding the owner.
In any case, a bad owner normally indicates that their casinos are also run poorly.
Crystal Palace Group is one example of a terrible parent company that got bad marks across the industry. This South African company was notorious for slow payouts and shady bonus terms.
Warren Cloud, who ran Crystal Palace, died of a heart attack at age 34 while sailing on his ill-gotten yacht. Their casinos were later purchased by the Virtual Casino Group, which doesn’t have much of a reputation either.
Casinos with Limited Banking Options
Another way to spot risky casinos is by looking at how many banking options they have.
The average internet casino has anywhere from six to ten deposit methods, but if you only see one to three banking methods, it could be a sign that the casino isn’t very good.
This is especially the case if the site doesn’t even offer Visa or MasterCard.
These major credit card companies do business with thousands of gaming sites, and if they’re not accepting customers from a certain casino, then there’s probably a very good reason.
One possible exception to this case is the growing number of offshore casinos that only accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Offshore casinos do this to get around American banking laws, specifically the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and accepting cryptocurrencies is one way to do this.
Nevertheless, you should still be selective when choosing Bitcoin casinos or any other site that has limited deposit options.
Sites with Numerous Complaints
The great thing about the growth of the internet is that customers can leave comments and reviews all over. This includes online casino review sites, where players can comment on their own experiences.
Forums and social media sites offer more places where people can discuss their individual experiences with casinos.
You should take advantage of these experiences by seeing how other players are treated at specific casinos. And if you find a casino with numerous complaints across the board, then you know to avoid them.
Smaller Factors That Should Cause You to Say No to Certain Casinos
Not everything regarding rogue online casinos has to be as dramatic as not paying players or offering faulty software. You should also consider subtle factors that can ruin a casino experience.
While the following aren’t guaranteed deal breakers, these aspects may turn you off from an online casino if you’re already skeptical.
Lack of History
Every online casino must start somewhere, and they need customers if they’re ever going to grow larger.
Regardless, you don’t have to be one of these early customers. You can instead sit back and wait to see how well a casino performs before making a deposit.
One exception to joining young online casinos is when they’re opened by an established parent company. Any company that has a good history of running internet casinos will likely continue their success with new ventures.
No Live Chat
Live chat is the quickest way to reach customer service whenever you have a question or issue. That said, you should only play at online casinos that offer this service.
If you don’t mind talking on the phone, then you may also consider casinos with phone support.
But I never recommend playing at a casino that only has email support, because it may take hours for the casino to get back with you.
I mentioned earlier how you should only play at online casinos with licenses. But you might take this a step further by looking for casinos that are licensed by the most respected jurisdictions.
All licensing jurisdictions require an application fee and subsequent yearly dues. This is how these organizations get the funding to operate.
But there’s a serious division that occurs between jurisdictions with regard to their level of involvement.
Elite licensing jurisdictions like the UKGC, KGC, and Malta Gaming Authority will intervene on players’ behalf when there’s a serious dispute. On the other hand, lesser jurisdictions like Antigua and Panama don’t do much at all once they issue a casino license.
I’m not saying that you absolutely shouldn’t play in casinos with lower tier licenses, but you take your chances in doing so.
High Bonus Wagering Requirements
Online casinos attach wagering requirements to bonuses so that you must earn them through your play. While this is standard, featuring unreasonable requirements isn’t.
The industry standard for bonus wagering requirements is between 40x and 60x the bonus. Anything higher than this seeks to take advantage of players who don’t read terms before playing.
Other things to look out for include stipulations on how much you can bet per round, and limitations on what games qualify for bonuses and promotions.
Steps to Spot Bad Casinos
I’ve covered both the small and big aspects that you want to look for with regard to finding bad casinos. Now let’s check out some of the steps you can take to find rogue casinos.
Look at Major Casino Blacklists
One of the bigger shortcuts for finding poorly run casinos involves looking at blacklists.
You can either do this by googling “casino blacklist,” or visiting prominent lists at CasinoMeister, ThePogg, WizardofOdds, and the one here at GamblingSites.com.
This especially worth doing if you already have an online casino in mind and want to make sure that there are no problems with it before depositing.
Run Google Searches
Another way to quickly find rogues is by using Google or Bing searches. Here’s a list of various terms that you can search for:
- Blacklisted casinos
- Casino blacklist
- Online casino scam
- Online Casino complaints
- [Casino name] complaints
- Worst online casinos
- Cheating online casinos
These are just a few examples, but this gives you an idea of terms that will turn up unplayable casinos.
Look at the Homepage for Testing & Licensing
Most casinos prominently display their licensing or game auditing credentials. If you see eCogra and Malta Gaming Authority seals at the bottom of a site, then you know that they have both game testing and licensing in place.
Internet casinos can lie about this, so you should look at the game testing labs and licensing jurisdiction to make sure, but a simple glance at the bottom of the website should do.
Check Out the Bonus Terms & Conditions
I never deposit at an online casino without checking the bonus terms and conditions beforehand. This way I know that I won’t have to jump through hoops to earn a deposit bonus.
It’s also a good idea to run Google searches on the casino to make sure they’re honoring bonuses and running fair promotions.
Look at Reviews and Forum Comments
Browsing online casino reviews and forums is a good way to see what other players are saying about gaming sites.
AskGamblers, for example, allows users to comment underneath all of their reviews. Here you can see a number of positive and negative comments on a specific casino.
Obviously you don’t want to play somewhere that has an overwhelming amount of bad reports.
The CasinoMeister forum is a popular place for players to share their experiences when they believe they’ve been ripped off.
But again, you want to use some discretion when looking through reviews and forum comments. Some players bash internet casino and make up negative instances after they’ve suffered a legitimate losing streak.
Early online casino players didn’t have much information to go off of when it came to knowing about bad casinos. But there’s more info available than ever before on the subject, thanks to all the reviews, casino watchdogs, and social media.
I strongly urge you to spend some time taking advantage of these resources so you can avoid the worst casinos. After all, nobody wants to play at a site that has slow payouts, bad customer service, and/or a track record of cheating players.
Blacklists are a great place to begin uncovering unfair gaming sites. You can also run Google searches, read reviews, check out other players’ experiences, and visit watchdog sites to get more info.
Just remember that the more time you put into this matter, the better able you’ll be to avoid rogue casinos.