Gambling safely online is important for everyone. Gamblers want to feel secure that they can play comfortably in a legitimate casino, and casinos want gamblers to feel safe so they spend more money.
Online gambling sometimes puts you at an even greater disadvantage. Aside from the house advantage, you can’t witness how their business is being run. Are the owners crooked? Are the games rigged? What if the casinos refuse to pay you?
If you’re in the United States, there’s a second obstacle to consider. While it is legal for you to gamble online, it’s never legal for an offshore company to let you gamble. They also are not allowed to deal with your bank or other financial institution. If you gamble with one of these organizations and they don’t operate properly, your government will not rush to your defense.
However, though these risks seem considerable, if you do your research it is possible to gamble online safely.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #1 – Read the Blacklists
There are dozens of websites run by entities that monitor online casinos, poker sites, and bookmakers. They maintain whitelists and blacklists, which tell you which places should be safe to gamble at and which are definitely not safe or are advised against. These lists aren’t always complete, but they are an important place to start. If an online provider is on a blacklist, you don’t want to give them your business.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #2 – Check the Site’s Gambling License
Before joining or depositing any money at an online gaming site, check the online casino’s gambling provider’s license. You should find it at the bottom of the home page or on the About Us page. If you can’t find it, do not sign up to gamble at that site.
Secondly, it is not enough to know if the site has a gambling license. You need to who has issued the license. Some gaming licenses come with severe restrictions, gambler protections, dispute resolution intervention, and regular government audits of the site. That’s good. You’re less likely to get cheated by a business if it has obtained one of these licenses. Other licenses, however, are just useless pieces of paper.
- Sites licensed by Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama are, for all practical purposes, unregulated. Do not set up an account or gamble at those sites.
- Sites licensed by Curacao, Malta, or Kahnawake are moderately regulated. You may run into problems if you choose to gamble at those sites.
- Sites licensed by United Kingdom, Aldernay, Gibraltar, or the Isle of Man are the most tightly and strictly regulated. They are the safest sites on which to play.
- In the U.S., online casinos, bookmakers, and poker providers are licensed by states for state residents only. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the states that has legal online gambling, these online gamblingproviders are tightly regulated and audited. It’s safe to gamble there.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #3 – Investigate the Dispute Resolution Process
Once you’ve found an online casino, poker room, or bookmaker with a legitimate, serious gambling license, good – but don’t sign up just yet.
Your next task is to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the dispute resolution process of the gambling site. You don’t want to discover that you’re helpless and insignificant once you’ve run into trouble.
- Legitimate sites will describe their dispute resolution process on the site.
- If you can’t find it, call and ask them to send it to you.
- Read it and familiarize yourself with it.
- Knowing the process ahead of time will help you if you need it.
- Call their help line and ask them about their dispute resolution process.
- Tell them you’re considering joining the site, but you want to make sure they’re safe.
- Ask them about specific scenarios you may be worried about. You’re not just looking for answers, but, more importantly, gauging how helpful and open the representative is.
- If it’s a fully legitimate site, the rep should be friendly and informed. If the rep is not, take your business elsewhere.
- Research the role the licensing authority plays in any dispute. The more active a role they play, the more likely you can gamble safely there.
- Finally, check the gambling forums for disputes with the site by using a search engine.
- Unhappy gamblers often share their bad experiences. Read those complaints. They give you an idea of the problems you might face.
- Also read the provider’s response. If they are legitimate, they will respond in the forum. Their response should be professional and discreet. If the response is not professional, or it there is no response at all, don’t play at that online gambling site.
You may not agree with them, but you may find that most complaints have been resolved.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #4 – Read the Fine Print
The devil, they say, is in the details. For online gambling, this devil in the fine print can seriously burn you if you don’t read it.
- Thoroughly investigate the rules for withdrawing your money. Some online providers will significantly limit when you can withdraw your funds and how much you can withdraw.
- For example, let’s say you win a million dollars, but the weekly withdrawal limit is $500. It will take you 2,000 weeks to withdraw your win – that’s over 38 years. You’re probably not going to live long enough to see that entire payout. As a general rule, the harder it is to withdraw your money, the more likely you’re going to lose out – and the more you want to avoid those types of gambling sites.
- Thoroughly investigate the site’s rules for canceling a win. Some are legitimate, such as software glitches. Some are not. The more ways the site can cancel a win or refuse to pay winnings, the more likely it is that you’ll see your winnings disappear.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #5 – Play with Your Own Money
Online casinos offer some very tempting bonuses to entice players to join the site. That means you’re gambling for free, right?
With bonus money, you’re playing for free. You’re not gambling. There are restrictions on bonus money and restrictive caps on any winnings. Bonuses can allow the casino to cancel any winnings, including those won from your own money, under their rules of “bonus abuse.” These rules are often blurry and arbitrary. While it sounds counterintuitive, gambling online is always safer if you refuse online casino bonuses.
Safe Online Gambling Rule #6 – Keep Your Guard Up
Just because a casino is legitimate today doesn’t mean it will stay that way. The most famous flameouts that stole millions of players’ winnings were legitimate and aboveboard until they ran into financial problems.
Always keep a look-out for warning signs that a site is starting to slide:
- Monitor the blacklists. If you’re not winning big, chances are you won’t notice right away that the site starting to cheat. Monitor the blacklists regularly to make sure the site is still legitimate.
- Monitor the forums. When you are not winning much, you may not have any problems, but other people might. The forums are one of the first places people go to express and discuss problems.
- Pay attention to your fund withdrawals. Is it suddenly more difficult to withdraw money? Does it take longer? If so, the site may be having problems.
- A big warning sign is when the site begins to more actively cancel winnings. They may also change their rules to make it easier to refuse winnings. If so, the risk has become much higher.
The most important marker is when customer service becomes unhelpful or unavailable. You shouldn’t join an online gambling site only for its customer service, but you should always leave it because of customer service.