The Ultimate Online Casino Guide – From Sister Casinos
At SisterCasinos.org, we want to ensure you have the most enjoyable, profitable online casino experience possible. So, we’ve created The Ultimate Online Casino Guide to ensure you know everything you should about how these casinos work and how the money gets moved around.
The terms we use will repeatedly appear in our casino reviews and likely on the websites and the casinos’ apps. So, let’s define them, and we’ll give you a breakdown of what the experts are talking about when they start using ‘industry lingo.’
Site Gaming Licenses
A site gaming license is a certificate issued by a country’s gambling authority, permitting the online casino to operate in their jurisdiction. By granting this permission, the gambling authority also asserts its authority over the casino. It can issue fines and penalties and act as a judge for disputes.
This is the part that should be important to the player. With a gaming license, you know where you can go for justice if a casino should mistreat you. Gaming sites with the most robust gambling authorities have the most options to get your money back if things go wrong.
The GBO maintains a list of the significant gambling authorities worldwide. But the ones you’ll see most often are:
UK Gambling Commission
One of the strictest and most trusted gambling authorities, the UKGC goes after violators with multi-million-pound fines and doesn’t hesitate to shut down shady operations. It helps when several significant laws are passed to support your authority over anything that even looks like gambling in the region.
Financial Services and Gaming Gibraltar
Although some major operators are licensed here, Gibraltar is known for letting their casinos operate with many latitudes and generally have a non-interference policy. They’re considered a weak jurisdiction and challenging to work with as a player.
Malta Gaming Authority
Malta has teeth as a regulator, issuing penalties and even pulling gaming licenses if they see violations of their fair gaming policies. But they do not act as a mediator for disputes, referring players to the corporate channels of the casino owners and, ultimately, law enforcement.
Curacao Internet Gambling Association
This is the ultimate ‘it depends’ gambling authority—four organizations in Curacao issue licenses, each with their reputation. Antillephone N.V. (8048/JAZ) is a solid organization for enforcement and even sometimes arbitration. E-Gaming N.V. (1668/JAZ) is somewhat of a joke, much slower than Antillephone, and with almost no chance of arbitration success. Gaming NV (365/JAZ) is probably the second-ranked Curacao authority, better at policing than they are at arbitration. Curacao Interactive Licensing NV (5536/JAZ) is a complete waste of space; the casino may as well be unlicensed.
Typical Account Verification
Account verification only happens once someone intends to gamble real money. Accounts generally aren’t verified for ‘play money accounts.
This process will depend on the gambling authority that the online casino is guided by. But the typical approach is similar to a credit check. The site will want to attach a real-world address to your account, so you may need to provide some recent utility bills. And they’ll want to make sure the source of your funds is legitimate to stay on the right side of anti-money-laundering laws. This second step has become less common at ‘crypto’ casinos, which can only sometimes trace the source of funds anyway.
If you wish to deposit or withdraw from a bank account, this will often be verified by the casino sending a few pennies to your account and by you telling them how much was deposited.
Verification is required to withdraw funds from the casino, primarily for anti-money-laundering purposes, but also to avoid issues like multi-accounting, used to cheat at competitive games and take advantage of multiple ‘first-time’ deposit bonuses.
Deposit And Withdrawal Methods
It would help if you transferred it to the online casino to play for real money. The deposit methods available at any casino depend on regulation and the casino’s risk appetite.
A conservative casino in a highly regulated area might only offer bank transfers, debit card deposits, and wire transfers. A medium-risk site also provides depositing from online E-money sites like Neteller and credit cards. A less regulated, more risk-friendly casino might allow everything from PayPal to cryptocurrency to local cash equivalents.
Ensure that the deposit method suits your lifestyle, privacy, and budgeting capabilities. And note that online casinos might offer different withdrawal methods than deposit methods!
Withdrawal methods at online casinos may be stricter than deposit methods, meaning if you used a different way for a deposit, you might need to undergo additional account verification for that medium. Typical withdrawal methods include bank transfer, cryptocurrency, check, money order, prepaid card, wire transfer, Neteller, or PayPal.
When playing a game of pure luck against the house, the amount of money you can expect back on the average wager is measured in the game’s Return To Player (RTP) percentage.
For example, a slot machine might have a 95% RTP. That means for every $1 wagered, you’ll get 95 cents back on average. The house edge is 5%. You’re playing in the hopes that you hit the jackpot and defy those odds, but the average player will slowly lose their bankroll to the machine, so make sure you’re enjoying yourself because that’s the real payoff most of the time.
As we’ll discuss shortly, machines with high RTP are often chosen to clear bonuses. If a machine’s RTP is too high, its clearance value is often discounted or won’t count toward earning an online casino bonus.
Table Game Odds
Table games require strategy. In other words, there are actual decisions to be made that impact your odds. So, when we discuss the odds of table games against the house, we discuss what happens with optimal player decisions and betting strategies.
For example, a live blackjack table with four decks that only shuffles at standard times might offer a distinctive house edge of only 0.6% if the player uses optimal strategy. A player can gain an advantage over the house by exploiting dealer weaknesses and using card counting.
But most online table games don’t facilitate card counting and minimize skill-based play. Baccarat will offer between a 1% and 1.5% house edge depending on the rules, and craps optimal betting will contribute around 1.4% for the house edge.
Before sitting at an online casino’s tables, you must fully understand the game’s rules and basic strategy. Do some research!
Finally, the odds of player-VS-player table games depend entirely on the competition’s skill levels. If everyone has equal skill and similar luck at a table, the real winner is the casino we’ll talk more about ‘rake’ shortly.
But in any given hand with multiple betting rounds, you want to calculate your pot odds of winning the hand. For example, let’s say there’s one more card to be dealt, and you figure you have a 33% chance to draw into a flush that you think will dominate your opponent. If they bet on you, which would cost you less than 33% of the new pot to call, statistics say you should call. If it would cost you more, you need to consider folding. Pot odds are the heart and soul of competitive, multi-round betting games.
Sports and Event Betting Odds
Sports and event betting is unique because you tell the house they calculated something wrong.
Every bet an online casino offers on something like a sporting event has a built-in house edge. This is also called ‘vig’ or ‘juice.’
Typically, a casino offers a spread you need to beat to win your bet. For example, in a basketball game, they might say that the home team needs to win by 7 to collect your wager. But they’ve already calculated the actual number on the average game between these two teams and padded the spread to their advantage.
How much of an advantage does a sportsbook usually levy against the bettor? The vig is generally around 10%, though, for riskier bets, it can be as high as a 20% built-in edge for the house.
This applies to sports, racing, and even virtual events. The house makes a calculation, tacks on its edge, and then you need to decide if they’re wrong. You can find the right bet to beat their house edge if you have better information than they do. They’re playing the long game, hoping their 10% to 20% advantage will shield them against any significant loss from being wrong about their outcome assessment. And they’re usually right.
Table games that feature player VS player activities, such as poker, need to include a feature that allows the house to make money by running the game in tournament poker, which would be a fixed ‘tournament fee’ for the casino’s profit, prize pool, and labor costs.
But in cash games with regular betting rounds, the percentage of the pot that goes to the house for serving as host is called the rake. The typical rake for online casinos is 5%, though it will be more for lower-stakes games and less for higher-stakes games (which are often capped at a specific dollar figure so that big pots are encouraged).
Rake for live games is generally higher because they need to pay human dealers to run and maintain the fun.
The first thing to understand is that bonuses offered by online casinos often need to be successfully cleared. Far more than half the time, the real bonus is spent before the amount is ‘cleared’ for withdrawal. Otherwise, online casinos would lose tons of money from players opening an account, following a prescribed system to clear the bonus, and cashing out.
You’ll need a bit of good luck to clear any of the bonuses online casinos offer. How does the house arrange to have an edge with its rewards?
Rollover. Rollover is a measure of how many times you need to wager your bonus’s value to withdraw anything you win freely.
The math on this is simple. You already know about RTP. If the RTP of a slot machine you’re allowed to clear your bonus with is 95%, you’ll lose 5% per spin on average. So, every time you cycle your bonus money through the machine, on average, you come out with 5% less. After 20 cycles, your bonus is gone.
It would help to choose your games and machines wisely and get lucky when clearing bonuses. Use whatever qualifies as a legal bonus clearing method on that site (there will be lists of prohibited devices and categories) and pick the highest possible RTP or lowest possible house edge.
Typical rollover requirements for online casinos are 8x to 10x for sports betting (which, as we know, have a house edge of between 10% and 20%) and 40x for casino games (typical RTP of 95% to 96%).
So don’t be shocked when the bonus runs out before you clear it. That’s the most common scenario. Just enjoy the rush while it lasts!
Jackpots and Progressives
One of the things that factor into RTP for casino, table, and room games (such as bingo) is the ‘jackpot’ factor. A small percentage of whatever the house takes in is reserved for paying out jackpots and progressives.
A jackpot is precisely what it sounds like A fixed payout when an ultra-rare event happens to the player. These odds can be calculated exactly and worked into the house edge so they can’t get ‘unlucky.’ Over long periods, you can graph jackpot averages, and it works out perfectly. They prepare for these wins well ahead of time.
Some of these progressive jackpots have a guaranteed minimum, which the house needs to ‘eat’ if it’s won early. But again, the averages always work out in the house’s favor over the long term.
The good news for the player is that these jackpots and progressives work like little built-in lottery tickets every time they play a qualifying game. Most people will never see a jackpot and pay a tiny invisible tax. But for some lucky people, there will be a huge windfall.
Self-Exclusion and Addiction
Most sites contain links to help you if you’re experiencing gambling addiction or just need a mechanism to slow things down to a reasonable pace.
As an example, here’s the UK’s gambling self-exclusion program page. The UK requires all gaming operators to make a small donation to fund non-profits that will help people who need to slow down or stop their gambling activities due to their financial situation or addiction.
GAMSTOP is one of the most popular self-exclusion programs and one of the most searched gambling terms in the UK. Canada has similar programs. Individual states in the USA also have such programs.
Generally, links to self-exclusion and gambling addiction resources can be found on every online casino’s web page. It’s often a condition of their gaming license. Mental health resources such as Gordon Moody and Gambler’s Anonymous are always available should you feel like you need to seek help.
Be bold and use these resources! There’s a reason the entire industry was made to acknowledge the financial and mental hardships that can occur when such problems are left ignored and untreated.
Online Casino Reviews and Government Actions
You can only trust a casino review site if they discuss the public perception of a particular online casino.
If you see a casino site that does nothing but post four and 5-star reviews for every site they review, they are lying to you.
Some online casinos are plentiful. Others are rotten to the core. But most are somewhere in the average range, just trying to battle it out with their closest competitors.
The most critical reviews are from only some websites, particularly not if they are affiliates who get paid every time you click on a casino’s sign-up link! The most important reviews are from casino customers.
That’s why we include external review resources here at Sister Casinos, even if you’ll choose your next casino using our links and help fund our website. We’ll often talk about Trustpilot, which compiles user reviews from around the world, and what their users say about various casinos because that’s the only way to know what’s happening.
We’ll also talk about regulatory actions from the governments behind various licensing agencies. Because that represents an independent legal review of a casino’s inner workings, and if the government has seen wrongdoing, it might reflect deeper issues with the online casino.
For example, we’ll link the UK’s assessment of online casino regulatory violations whenever we see one for a casino we’re reviewing. Even if it doesn’t directly impact the average player, for example, a money laundering policy violation, we’ll bring it to your attention so you can look for patterns that reflect insufficient diligence from that particular online casino.
Casino Sister Sites
Of course, this wouldn’t be the Ultimate Online Casino Guide if we didn’t mention our namesake.
Casino sister sites, or sister casinos, are rebranded sites and apps owned or operated by the same company. They often use similar game engines, bonus structures, game mechanics, and usage policies as the other sites in the chain.
This allows online casino owners to try all kinds of new themes and games and try out new policies and support techniques that they would need to be able to on an established brand.
The owners can create a new theme by creating a new website and app with an entirely different set of graphics. That theme might attract a new demographic, breathing new life into the brand.
They can do this using simple reskins. A reskin takes the mechanics of a game and changes the sounds, graphics, and overall theme. It’s precisely the same game at its core, but the game experience changes based on the new story being crafted.
Sister Casinos used a lot. The entire site might be mechanically identical to the original. Still, they’ve managed to change enough surface-level things that they successfully create a new mood that the players can feel. They might also experiment with new games and machines to see their success on the latest casino sister site.
Remember that each sister site needs its regulatory license. This isn’t a ‘one certificate fits all’ situation. Every time a new casino is opened, they must register that site with the governing authority they’ve chosen, or else the site will be considered unlicensed.
We hope that all of these online casino terms, details, and strategies help you out when you go to choose the right online gambling solution for you.
New casino websites and apps emerge daily, seemingly from the ether. It’s getting so that you can never be sure if a new site is independent or owned by a billionaire enterprise. That’s why the staff of Sister Casinos remains vigilant and casts a contemplative eye toward any new online casino that appears suddenly and with no fanfare.
We’ll stay vigilantly on the lookout so that you can enjoy your favorite online casino with as much peace of mind as you can muster.