Any top online casino will have a number of key features that signal that it is good to play, and many of the most critical details can be found in the Terms and Conditions of the site:
- The site has the proper licenses listed for the region the player is playing in. For instance, a player joining the site from the UK should see a proper UK Gambling Commission license on the site. More than just stating it, the site should provide a license number that can be verified on the official registry.
- The payment options for the site are all trusted ones that are recognised globally, such as VISA or Mastercard. There is no exhaustive list for this, although any payment platform that is registered and, more importantly, insured by governing bodies and authorities can usually be trusted.
- The site contains casino games from major publishers and recognisable names in the industry, along the lines of Play’n’GO or Evolution. Having these games on a site gives it more credibility, as these developers will also run checks on the sites they license their games to.
Playing a casino that doesn’t adhere to the qualities listed above, or any one of those points at all, opens the player up to a high level of risk.
The Risks of Unlicensed Casinos
The gambling regulations that govern online casinos are, by and large, designed to protect the customers and players of those casinos. That means that casinos that are not officially registered and licensed under one of these sets of regulations can effectively do whatever they want. This could be anything from promising rewards and bonuses and then changing the rules halfway through. Or advertising games before the player registers, then they don’t exist on the site after a deposit is made.
There could be special offers that vanish or have extremely unfair rules, or the games could be engineered to give the casino a much larger edge than is permitted under most licenses. More than anything, though, being unlicensed means that in the event of any unfair play or grievances, there is essentially nowhere to turn to, as there is no authority to register a complaint with.
The Risks of Suspect Payment Platforms
In many ways, these are the same risks that apply to any online payments and the concepts behind them are roughly the same. The two warning signs to look out for are payment platforms that the casino insists on players using but are obscure, or when the player is taken to another payment platform after their details are entered on a more familiar one. For instance, the player starts on what appears to be a VISA page, but then must confirm payment on the casino’s own page afterwards.
This can lead to a host of issues, although the most pressing is credit card fraud as the player’s details are stolen and misused, or perhaps sold illegally afterwards. In some cases, those casinos themselves may also add extra charges beyond the deposited amount. Similar to the situation with unlicensed casinos, suspect payments also have the major issue of being very difficult to report, as not only are they not regulated but tracking the payments may become impossible.
In certain jurisdictions, by playing on an unregulated casino site, the player may open themselves up to legal action as well, as some authorities consider both the provider and the player at fault if gambling occurs outside of a license. It may be considered the player’s fault for not conducting proper checks on the site before playing.
The first impressions of a site are important, and while the design isn’t critical, many unregulated sites have a poor appearance and this can be an early warning sign, along with anything unusual within the site URL, such as odd symbols or a strange ending that doesn’t match the country.
However, most of the bigger issues with these sites can be found in the Terms and Conditions as well as the small informational text at the bottom of the site page.
- The first thing to look for is a license code from an official authority, with the most common being the MGA of Malta, the Curacao government authority and the UKGC. To be certain, each of these has a registry that can then be checked to confirm the number is legitimate. Bear in mind that some casinos are operated by a larger group, and that name may appear in the registry instead.
- Often, payment platforms are also shown at the bottom of the site page. If multiple high-profile platforms like major credit cards, PayPal, Skrill or Neteller appear, it is a good indicator for the site.
- Remember that being official is not a guarantee that payments will be handled well, and some sites may take a significant time to process withdrawals. In this case, site reviews are often an excellent source of information as they can contain stories from real players.
In the end, with all the information available above, spotting a dangerous casino comes down to the diligence of the player.