Beginners Guide to Online Casinos
UK players don't have to venture to their local casino to enjoy roulette or slots anymore; in 2017 you can switch on your PC or Mac, sign up to a site online in minutes and gamble for real cash.
But just how do you go about getting up and running at an online casino? Let's take you through the process step-by-step. By the end you'll be away and playing roulette while choosing the best withdrawal method to get hold of your winnings fast.
Picking a Good Online Casino
Let's be clear: there is a LOT of competition out there right now. There are hundreds of online casinos plying their trade in the virtual gambling-sphere. Some offer games for PC users, some for Mac players, and others for use on your mobile phone.
Several boast games from leading games developers, while others are dedicated to just one software manufacturer. When it comes to playing for real money, some casinos let you play for mere pennies while others have minimum stakes that can test anyone's bankroll.
So which do you pick? A good rule of thumb – or rather an ESSENTIAL - is to do your homework. Make a list of criteria before you sign up and tick them off. Better, check our casino reviews pages first and get the opinions of our expert team.
Choosing an Online Casino - Checklist
Choice of Games - You don't want to get bored, and casinos with a lot of games are always going to be more fun than those with just a handful.
But check the range of games too: roulette, blackjack and slots should be offered as standard, but you should have access to half a dozen varieties of roulette and a few dozen slots that carry different themes, bonus features and jackpots.
If you're a slots player, look for some casinos with progressive jackpots; not only does it mean you can play for million-pound jackpots but it also shows the casino can attract the players needed to make the jackpots big.
Licensing and Security - Not any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up an online casino but how do you know they can be trusted? Check the homepage for certificates and proof of licencing. Jurisdictions like Gibraltar, the UK and Malta all issue official gaming licences. Not only that, they insist on the games being tested for fairness by independent auditors.
Ease of Use - There's no excuse in 2017 to play at a casino where the games lobby is confusing and where a customer support member is hard to find. Navigating casino tabs in seconds is essential to make for a good experience.
Good Customer Support - All good casinos will have several methods of getting in touch. Email, phone or a 24-hour live chat operator should be laid on to help out with any problems.
Fast Cashouts - Reliably payouts are essential to make a casino experience good. Payouts are audited along with software, so check those certificates again. Remember, a solid, properly-licenced casino should be paying out winnings with no fuss.
Registering For An Account
Remember what we said about casinos being easy? Signing up for an account should be the easiest part.
First, download the client (if available) to your desktop or hit the 'Register' button if the site is a no-download casino.
You'll need to choose a unique username and password to log-in with every time you play. Make both of them hard to work out for added security; there's no point risking being hacked.
You'll receive a confirmation email when you've set up an account. Once activated, you're now free to play games on the site. Most casinos let you play games for free without the need to log-in.
Playing for real money is what online casinos are all about. But first you need to get some funds into your account.
Head to the Cashier and you'll be presented with a list of options to fund your account. You can check our special deposits pages to find out the benefits of each one.
Most UK casinos accept transactions with a UK bank card or credit card, while online e-wallets can be used to move funds around anonymously.
After selecting your banking option, enter the amount you want to deposit and hit the 'Send' button. Funds usually appear in minutes (depending on the method) and for most UK sites no fees are applied.
Find out more in our beginners guide to banking.
Cashing out is just as simple: head back to the Cashier and choose from one of the accepted withdrawal options. Your winnings will go back to your bank account or e-wallet in a few days.
It's worth noting that many casinos operate ID security when you first make a deposit. This usually involves scanning in and sending copies of your passport or driving licence to the casino to prove age and identification. Once approved, your transactions can go ahead.
Playing Online Slots
Remember, no-download casinos let you play via your web browser; to play a game just click on the game you want in the lobby and load it up. The game will load in your browser if it's Flash, Java or HTML5, and - as long as your Internet connection is strong - will run smoothly on your machine.
Online slots work in the same way as games in a land-based casino: most of the time your entire bankroll will transfer to a slot when you load it up (be sure not to gamble away the whole lot!). If the game freezes while you're playing you normally won't lose a bet.
Playing Table Games
Table games at online casinos have advanced in recent years. You can now play a dozen variations of roulette, blackjack or baccarat, while Live Dealer games let you play against a human croupier beamed in via webcam and handling the action on a real-life table.
Placing bets is easy: just drag the chips you want to the areas of the table where bets are made. Winnings are automatically paid into your stack; once you leave the game the funds will appear in your account, ready for you to take to another game.
For more in-depth guides to all the table games you'll find at an online casino, click on the links on our site.
Earning a Welcome Bonus
Online casinos tempt new players in with the promise of bonus cash and free spins on the latest slots.
A welcome bonus generally works like this:
Sound too good to be true? Not necessarily, but all new players should step carefully.
Firstly, you need to be sure that a welcome bonus is right for you. Do you really want to go through the hassle of playing for hours and hours to trigger some free money? Does your budget even stretch to it? If not, you might not want to take advantage.
Which Games Can I Play?
All welcome bonuses carry eligibility. Some games contribute towards the bonus while others don't. Similarly, some games contribute A LOT, while others don't contribute at all. Check the terms and conditions, as you may find that one casino allows 100% of slots play and 10% of blackjack and roulette to contribute while another allows just 50% of slots and 50% of table games.
Welcome bonuses also have a wagering requirement. Just playing games isn't enough; you will usually have to wager at least 35 times your deposit amount (and sometimes more).
For example, If you deposit £50 and a casino has a 40x wagering requirement, you will have to wager 50x40 = £2,000 on the games to qualify for free cash.
Most casinos offer ongoing promotions like reload bonuses (similar to a deposit bonus where the initial deposit is 'matched' by the casino) but again, a play-through requirement is needed.
With regular promotions, players will need to 'opt in' - that is, you enter a code or click a special link to activate the bonus. That means that ALL your play from then on will contribute to the bonus and winnings earned will go towards the promotion, not in your account.