The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Online Casinos
The growth of the online casino industry has exploded in recent years. With players now able to gamble from the comfort of their home, gambling online has never been easier. Moreover, the popularity of mobile gambling has resulted in more and more operators offering their services to those that like to wager on-the-go.
However, increased popularity in the UK market means that players now have thousands of online casinos to choose from. In what often feels like the Wild West, how do you separate the good from the bad?
Fortunately for you, we’ve created the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Online Casinos.
Within it, we at NewCasinosFinder.co.uk are going to show you everything you need to know to get your online gambling endeavors off on the right foot. We’ll cover everything from opening an account, welcome bonuses and promotions, how to deposit and withdraw funds, regulation, and more.
By the end of reading our guide from start to finish, you’ll have all of the necessary tools to begin your online casino journey.
Opening a player account
At the very start of the end-to-end gambling experience, you will need to open an account with your chosen casino. We will discuss the things that you need to look out for before registering with a casino further down in our guide.
Nevertheless, when you open a player account at an online casino, you will need to provide the platform with a range of personal information. This is to ensure that online casinos comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations.
The information required is likely to include the following:
- Full name
- Registered address
- Date of birth
- Telephone number
- Email address
It is important to note that due to the aforementioned AML/KYC laws, you will need to verify your personal information prior to making your first withdrawal. We’ll discuss this further down.
You will also be required to choose a username and a password, and potentially a secret question/answer too.
Welcome bonuses and packages
One of the best aspects of joining a new casino for the very first time is that you will be able to claim a welcome package. This is where the casino will give you bonus funds as a reward for choosing their platform. The reason that online casinos do this is that the UK gambling industry is now really competitive.
In order to entice new players to their platform, casinos are forced to offer a range of bonuses and promotions. As the influx of new casinos entering the market gets bigger, these bonuses appear to be getting more and more lucrative.
Before we explain the different & best casino bonus types that casinos generally offer, we’ll briefly explain some of the keys points that you need to be made aware of.
What to consider before claiming a welcome bonus
First and foremost, it is important to note that welcome bonuses are only available if you are yet to register an account with the casino in question. If you attempt to claim a welcome package more than once by opening additional accounts, you will have your accounts closed by the operator.
This is referred to as ‘Bonus Abuse’ in the online casino space, so make sure that you don’t try to open duplicate accounts.
In most cases, you shouldn’t have any issues opening up separate accounts with casinos that are owned by the same company. For example, although Ladbrokes and Coral – two of the largest UK betting companies, are now part of the same organization, they are technically two separate entities.
As such, you can open an account with each of the two operators, and claim both of their respective welcome packages.
You also need to make some considerations if people within the same household have previously claimed a particular welcome package. This is a bit of a grey area in the online casino space.
While some operators allow people from within the same household to each claim a welcome package, others prohibit it. Just make sure that you check the underlying terms and conditions before opening an account.
One of the most common bonuses that you will come across in a welcome package is that of a deposit bonus. In a nutshell, the casino will match your first deposit by a certain percentage, up to a certain amount.
An example of such an offer would be a ‘100% Matched Deposit Bonus Up To £300’.
In this scenario, if you made an initial deposit of £300, the online casino would give you an additional £300 in bonus funds. This would effectively give you a starting bankroll of £600.
Some welcome packages will give you multiple deposit bonuses. Although the subsequent deposits are usually matched to a figure that is less than 100% (usually 50%), it is still worth claiming the bonus, as it will boost your balance.
No deposit bonuses
No deposit bonuses are generally considered to be the most popular bonus type in the online casino space. As the name suggests, the online casino will give you a bonus without requiring you to actually deposit any money.
Although the amounts offered as part of a no deposit bonus are usually quite small, this essentially gives you free cash to play around with.
Take note, you won’t be able to simply withdraw your no deposit bonus back to your bank account. You will need to wager the bonus a certain amount of times before you can do this. We’ll explain how wagering requirements work further down.
If you come across a welcome package that offers free spins, then this will give you a certain amount of spins that you can use in the slots department. This particular offer is usually packaged in with a matched deposit bonus, as an additional incentive to get you to choose the casino in question.
The terms within a free spins bonus will usually specify that you need to use the spins on certain slot sites titles.
Promotions for existing players
Although the most lucrative casino promotions are given to those that are yet to open an account, you should also be made aware of ongoing promotions that are offered to existing players. In fact, you should opt for online casinos that reward players for their long-term loyalty. Here are some of the most common promotions offered to existing players.
A reload bonus operates in a similar way to that of a matched deposit bonus. In order to keep you on their platform long-term, casinos will offer reload bonuses as a way to boost deposits. For example, a casino might offer a ‘50% Reload Deposit Bonus Up To £50’ every Tuesday. This means that if you deposit £100 on a Tuesday, the casino will give you an additional £50 to play with.
Game of the week bonus
Some online casinos will advertise a particular game as ‘Game Of The Week’. When they do, they usually attach a bonus or promotion to the game. For example, a casino might offer a £50 bonus if you play live blackjack during the week of the promotion.
A cashback bonus is where the casino will refund some of your gambling losses. The amount refunded is usually capped, and based on a pre-specified percentage. Operators will usually specify a casino game too.
For example, you might come across a £10 cashback bonus on virtual roulette. If you walk away a winner, then you keep your winnings as usual. However, if you end up losing money, the casino would refund your losses up to £10.
Vip loyalty programs
Some casinos offer a VIP loyalty program. As the name suggests, this particular promotion rewards players for remaining on the platform long-term. The way this works is you are given points every time you deposit funds and gamble. As these points begin to build up, you can then exchange them for certain perks.
These perks can include free casino bonuses and even gifts. If you manage to achieve VIP status, you are likely to get a personal account manager, express withdrawals, and ongoing bonuses.
Online casinos will sometimes offer a particular bonus or promotion that requires you to enter a unique bonus code. These bonus codes are sometimes advertised on the platform’s website, via their social media page, or they might be emailed to you directly.
Bonus codes can relate to any of the aforementioned bonus types we have discussed, so always keep an eye out for them.
So now that we’ve explored the main bonuses that you are likely to come across, we are now going to discuss the importance of wagering requirements.
We at NewCasinosFinder.co.uk are sometimes told that “Casino promotions seem too good to be true”. After all, why would an operator give their players free bonuses just to lose money?
The simple, and perhaps most important answer to this question centers on something called a ‘Wagering Requirement’.
Wagering requirements are a tool utilized by online casinos to ensure that players don’t claim a welcome package, only to withdraw the funds straight back out.
This would make no sense from the perspective of the casino, as it would mean players would simply exchange the bonus funds to cash, without actually playing any of their games.
The main purpose of offering lucrative promotions to players is to get them to test out their respective platform. In doing so, although the player might make some money from the free bonus, it is hoped that they will remain on the platform long-term.
In its most basic form, a wagering requirement refers to the amount of times that a bonus needs to be gambled before it can be withdrawn. This is specified as a multiple, such as x10 or x50.
Let’s take a look at an example.
How does a wagering requirement work?
In our example, we are going to use a traditional matched deposit bonus. The offer in question is a ‘100% Matched Deposit Bonus Up To £200’.
As per the terms of the offer, the wagering requirement is set at x25 of the bonus amount. This means that a total of £5,000 (£200 bonus x25) needs to be wagered before any of the bonus funds can be withdrawn.
- We deposit the maximum amount of £200
- The casino gives us an additional £200 in bonus funds
- Starting balance is £400
- Every time we place a bet, the amount goes towards our wagering requirement
- After wagering £5,000 in total, the account balance is now available to withdraw out of the casino
There is a range of other considerations that you also need to make when choosing a casino bonus. Although we suggest you read through the terms and conditions first, take a look at the following factors.
- Time Limit: Most casino bonuses will have a time limit attached to them. This means that you will need to complete the wagering requirement before the bonus expires.
- Game Contribution: Casinos will usually specify that certain games contribute a lower amount towards the bonus. In most cases, slots contribute 100% towards the bonus. However, other games, such as blackjack and roulette, often only contribute 10%. If this is the case, only 10p out of every £1 that you wager will count towards the wagering requirement.
- Maximum Stake: You might find that the casino states a maximum bet size that can contribute to the wagering requirement. For example, if the maximum amount is set at £50 per bet, and you place a bet of £100, only £50 of this will go towards your wafering requirement.
- Payment Methods: In order to protect the casino from bonus abuse, the operator usually states that certain payment methods are not eligible for a bonus. Debit/credit cards are also eligible, however, other methods such as e-wallets, are sometimes not permitted.
Sorting out your banking
Once you have decided which casino you want to open an account with, and what welcome package you would like to take advantage of, you then need to figure out how you want to fund your account. As noted above, some payment methods are not eligible for bonuses, so always check the terms of the offer before making a deposit.
Credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards
By far the most common payment method used by UK players is that of a traditional debit or credit card. As most of us have access to either a Visa or MasterCard that is linked to a UK bank account, card deposits are easy, instant and in most cases, free.
You will need to enter the full 16 digit number found on the front of your card, expiry date, and the 3 digit CVV found on the back. Don’t worry, online casinos use encrypted technology, meaning that they never get to see the card details you enter.
Once you’ve entered your card details and made the initial deposit, future deposits only require you to enter your 3 digit CVV number.
When you withdraw your funds back out of the casino, the winnings are sent back to the same card that you used to deposit.
Although less popular than debit/credit card deposits, e-wallets are potentially the most efficient payment method offered by top online casinos. This includes the likes of PayPal casino sites, Skrill and Neteller.
Much like in the case of debit/credit cards, e-wallet deposits are usually free and instant. However, the key difference is that e-wallet withdrawals are significantly faster.
While debit/credit card deposits usually take in the region of 3-5 days before they arrive in your account, e-wallet withdrawals are often received back on the very same day.
Just remember, some casinos do not allow you to use an e-wallet when claiming bonuses, so be sure to check this first.
Bank transfers are traditionally the slowest when it comes to depositing funds at an online casino, however, if you’re based in the UK, then Faster Payments allows you to fund your account instantly. Other countries within the E.U. have their own version of instant bank deposits
If you’re based in the UK, you can now deposit funds via your mobile phone. Known as a ‘Pay-by-Phone’ deposit, you can fund your online casino account by using your mobile phone credit and start playing at a range of pay by mobile casinos.
If you’re on a pay-as-you-go plan, then this is funded by your available credit balance. Alternatively, if you’re on a monthly subscription, you’ll receive a bill at the end of the month.
When it comes to withdrawing funds out of an online casino, it is important that you understand how the process works. Before we explain the fundamentals, here is how the end-to-end process usually works.
- You decide that you want to withdraw £200 from your online casino account
- You go into the banking page of your online casino account, click on ‘WITHDRAW FUNDS’, and then enter £200 as the amount you want to take out.
- As you deposited funds with your debit/credit card, the funds will be sent back to the same card.
- As this is your first deposit, you will need to submit some ID.
- Once your ID is verified, the payments team will process the withdrawal request
- Expect to see your funds back to your debit/credit card within 3-5 days, sometimes sooner.
The key point that we should make is that gambling regulations are now really strict in the UK. The vast majority of these laws are centered on AML/KYC regulations. This ensures that UK operators keep crime away from their casino. We’ll discuss the importance of KYC below.
“Know your customer” procedures and required documents
Without getting too technical, UK gambling companies are bound by certain regulations. On top of ensuring that casinos comply with the Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) set out by the Gambling Commission, they must also comply with the Gambling Act 2005, Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.
Under the above regulations, all UK online casinos must identify the players that use their services. The law specifies that this must occur within 72 hours of the account being opened, or before the first withdrawal is made – whichever occurs first.
In order to do this, casinos will ask you to verify your identity. Long gone are the days where anybody could open an account and simply withdraw funds anonymously, so make sure that the information you enter when you open the account is true and accurate.
Here is a breakdown of the main documents you are likely going to need. As a tip, it is always worth scanning these documents and uploading them to your device. This way, you can submit them as soon as you open an account and thus, ensure that you don’t experience any account disruptions.
Know-your-customer: main documents required
- Identity Verification: In order to verify your identity, you will need to upload a copy of your government issued ID. If you’re based in the UK, this will need to be either a passport or driving license. Those based outside of the UK might get away with a national ID card.
- Proof of Address: It is almost certain that you will need to upload a document proving your home address. This can be in the form of a bank statement, council tax bill, tax statement, utility bill, and in some cases, pay slips. The document needs to be recent, usually no older than three months.
Know-your-customer: main documents required
- Copy of Debit/Credit Card: A lot of UK casinos are now asking players to verify ownership of the debit/credit card used to deposit. In some ways, this is good, as it ensures that nobody can fraudently use your bank card to gamble online. You will need to upload a copy of both the front and back of the card. For security purposes, cover out the middle 6 digits of the card, and the 3 digit CVV number.
- Telephone Verification: You might be required to verify your telephone number. In most cases, the casino will send a unique PIN number to your mobile phone via SMS, which you will then need to enter into your account portal.
TYPES OF CASINO GAMES
So now that we’ve got the boring stuff out of the way, in this section we are going to discuss the different casino games that you can play online – via both a desktop/laptop and mobile device.
Remember the days when you would need to visit your local pub or bar to enjoy the fruits of a slot machine? Those days are long gone, as you can play thousands of slot titles without leaving your home.
Slot games come in three main forms. Notably, this includes traditional 3/5 reel slots, slots that are jam-packed with features and bonuses, and finally, jackpot slots.
Continuing on from the above section, player appetite for jackpot slots has gone through the roof in recent years. In fact, popular slot games like Mega Fortune and Mega Moolah often attract jackpots that run into the millions of pounds.
The reason that online casinos are able to offer such life-changing wins is that slot games are pooled with other casinos. For example, if Mega Moolah is pooled with 30 different casinos, every time a player stakes money, it is added to the pool.
If you’re looking for the ultimate casino experience from the comfort of your home, then you’ll be pleased to know that each and every classic table game is available to play online. Whether it’s blackjack, roulette, craps, or baccarat, you’ll be hard pressed to find an online casino that doesn’t host it.
Even better, each table game will have dozens of different variations attached to it. For example, not only will you find European, French and American roulette, but casinos often add new twists to table games that you wouldn’t find in a traditional land-based casino.
Video poker games
Video poker was one of the original machine-based games found in casinos. Whether its Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild or Double Double Bonus, you’ll find it in the online casino space. Video poker also offers one of the lowest house-edges in the online gambling arena, and you can set your own stakes.
The online casino space has now welcomed traditional scratchcards into its portfolio of games. The process works in exactly the same way as the scratchcards you would buy in your local supermarket. The key difference is that the online version offers more variety, higher payouts, and 3D graphics.
Most online casinos now offer a virtual games department. This covers a vast range of different games, such as virtual racing, keno, and hi-or-low. All virtual games are based on fixed-odds betting, much in the same way as slot machines.
Live casino or live dealer games
If you want to experience as close to the real thing as possible, then Live Dealer Games offers just that. In a nutshell, you can now have your blackjack cards dealt, or roulette wheel spun, by a real-world dealer.
The dealer will have a high-definition camera placed in front of them, meaning that you can watch the outcome of the game on your screen. You still place your bets virtually, however, as the dealer can see what you are doing, they react based on the decision you make on screen.
The online gambling arena is now home to a multi-billion dollar poker industry. No longer do you need to travel to your local poker room to play, as you can do this from the comfort of your home. Playing poker online gives you the opportunity to play against people from all over the world, 24 hours a day.
Moreover, as online poker rooms are linked across multiple casinos, traffic is always really good. As such, you’ll never struggle to get a game.
The three main sub-sections of online poker are cash tables, sit-and-go, and tournaments. Much like in the real-world poker space, tournaments often run into millions of pounds. Even better, if you don’t have much of a ‘Poker Face’, online poker is ideal.
The very best online casinos will also offer a fully-fledged online sports betting facility. You’ll be able to bet on virtually any sport, across thousands of individual markets. The process is much better than using a traditional high street bookmaker, as you have all of the necessary markets, odds and statistics right in front of you.
Using an online sports betting facility also gives you the chance to place a last minute bet just before the game is about to start. This is especially useful if you are on the move and need to get a bet on quickly.
On top of pre-match betting, online gambling platforms also offer ‘in-play betting’. This is where you can place a bet while the game is still on. The odds change on almost a second-by-second basis, depending on what’s happening in the game.
Mobile casino games
In the vast majority of cases, all of the games that you find at an online casino can be accessed via your mobile phone at mobile casino sites. Some casinos will create a native mobile app (usually only Android or iOS), which offers the best mobile gaming experience. Alternatively, casino software developers will optimize their games so that you can play them via a mobile web browser.
Most people think that casinos create the games that they list on their platform. However, this is a role reserved for third-party software developers. These gaming providers will design and create the casino game, and then license them out to casinos.
There are now hundreds of software developers operating in the market. While some specialize in a particular niche like slots or video poker, others are involved in multiple game types.
Here is a list of the top 5 software developers currently supplying the UK casino market.
- Microgaming: Launched in 1994, Microgaming is on the most popular gaming providers in the online space. The company creates games across most segments of the industry, including slots, table games, and video poker.
- Evolution: Although Evolution is also involved in software-based casino games, they are one of the leading developers for live dealer games. This includes live blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and three card poker.
- NetEnt: NetEnt first joined the casino software space in 1996. They have since become the leading developer for slot games, with their portfolio including popular titles such as Blood Suckers and Jack Hammer 2.
- Playtech: The company behind software developer Playtech has grown so quickly that they are now listed on the London Stock Exchange. The provider is well-known for offering some of the highest RTP (Return-to-Player) percentages in the online casino space.
- RabCat: If you’re looking for the ultimate, 3D gaming experience, then you should try out some of the slot titles offered by RabCat. The Austria-based software company creates some of the most visual slot games in the online space.
It is important to note that software developers themselves must be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission if they want to offer their games to the UK market. Not only this, but games must be tested by third-party auditors for their legitimacy before they can launch at a casino. Known as ‘Test Houses’, these regulated organizations ensure that each and every game that hits the online casino industry is true and fair.
LICENSING IN THE UK
Since the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005, the UK Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating the UK gambling industry. This covers high street bookmakers, land-based casinos, and of course, online casinos.
As per UK law, all online casinos that offer their services to UK players must hold a gaming license from the Gambling Commission. Any casino that fails to obtain such a license is operating illegally.
You can also check whether the casino in question is licensed by checking the operator’s website and obtaining their license number. This can be verified against the public register held on the Gambling Commission website.
If a casino does not comply with the conditions set out by the Gambling Commission, they face the risk of losing their license. As such, this creates a safe environment for UK players to gamble online.
obtaininga license from the Gambling Commission is no easy feat. Online casinos must go through a stringent approval process that does not guarantee success.
Ultimately, the Gambling Commission must feel satisfied that the online casino complies fully with all relevant gambling laws, as well as the laws surrounding AML/KYC regulations.
HOW TO WEED OUT THE GOOD CASINOS FROM THE BAD
As we noted at the start of our guide, the online casino space is now jam-packed with thousands of operators. While this means that you are accustomed to a vast range of bonuses and promotions, it also means that choosing the right casino for your individual needs can be a daunting task.
We have compiled a brief checklist below that you should refer to when attempting to decide whether you should join a new casino.
- Is the casino licensed by the UK Gambling Commission?
- Is the casino licensed by any other jurisdictions, such as the Malta Gaming Authority? More licences means more regulatory oversight.
- When was the casino established?
- Is the casino part of a larger group?
- What do online reviews say about the casino?
- Does the casino use credible software developers?
- Does the casino have their gaming outcomes audited?
- Does the casino keep player funds in a segregated account?
- How long does the casino take to process withdrawals?
- Does the casino offer misleading or unreasonable bonus terms?
CASINO PLATFORMS, GAME PLATFORMS AND WHITE LABELS
When you read our informative casino guides, you’ll often come across terms such as ‘casino platforms’, ‘game platforms’ and ‘white labels’. Such terminology can appear somewhat confusing to newbie gamblers, so we’ve provided a brief explanation below.
- Casino Platform: Casino platform refers to the actual casino operator itself. For example, William Hill, Bet365 and Ladbrokes are all examples of casino platforms.
- Game Platform: The game platform refers to the specific game, such as the Mega Moolah slot title. As we discussed earlier, these games are provided by software developers, as opposed to the casinos themselves.
- White Labels: A white label solution is where a gaming company sells or leases a particular product or service to a casino, who then rebrands it under their own name. As such, it is likely that the same white label products exist across hundreds of different online casinos, each with their own brand.
SUPPORT FOR PLAYERS
Although often overlooked, customer support is a crucial aspect when assessing whether or not to join an online casino. If you’re yet to gamble online, then we should note that the most popular form of support available now is live chat.
This is a live chat box that allows you to text chat with a real-world customer support agent. The service allows you to receive instant support, which in some cases, is around the clock.
Alternatively, most of the major online casinos in the UK will also offer telephone support. This is sometimes a free-toll number, which is ideal.
You can also contact customer support via email, although this is by far the slowest form of communication. However, some casinos only offer email support.
Some of the larger casinos also have a presence on social media. We like this because it offers an element of public transparency.
HOW ONLINE CASINOS DETECT DISHONEST ACTIVITY
One of the conditions set out by the Gambling Act 2005, and subsequently enforced by the Gambling Commission, is that online casinos must keep their platforms free from crime. This means that they must ensure that all games are true and fair, and that fraudelent activity is kept at bay.
Online casinos will usually have a dedicated risk department that is exclusively focused on keeping its platform safe. One such example of this is detecting algorithmic bots in online poker rooms. Another example is to ensure that players do not attempt to cheat bonuses through ‘chip-dumping’.
Ultimately, there is a clear food-chain in the online casino space. This includes the Gambling Commission, Test Houses, software developers, casinos and then the players themselves.
If you’ve read our Ultimate Beginners Guide to Online Casinos from start to finish, you should now have all of the necessary tools to begin your online gambling journey. We’ve covered everything from opening an account, bonuses, wagering requirements, deposits and withdrawals, games, and more.
Before we wrap up, we’ve summarized some of the key takeaway points below.