Online casinos have been immensely popular with players of games of chance since they first started to appear in the online environment way back in the 1990s.
If you are new to the world of online gambling, it may at first seem that there is very little difference between a physical casino and its online counterpart.
However, there are many complexities that new players should know about before they sign up to any online casino.
In this article, we will be going through the basics of how online casinos actually work.
Read on and we will give you all the information you need to safely enjoy playing casino games online and provide you with a deep dive into just how an online casino operates.
Online casino platforms and brands
Although computerised gambling games first became popular with the advent of home computing in the 1980s, it is generally accepted that the real start of internet gaming can be traced back to 1994.
This was the year when the governments of Antigua and Barbuda enacted the Free Trade and Processing Act.
This gave companies that were not based in these countries the ability to apply for licenses to operate online casinos.
Other countries soon followed suit and the era of internet-based casinos was born. One of the first major brands was a software company called Microgaming, who still dominate the industry today.
Other big brands include 888 Holdings, Paddy Power, Betfair and Bet365. These days, players can choose from three iGaming platforms: you can download casino software to play offline, you can play via a web browser-based platform, or you can access an online casino via your mobile devices.
These days, downloadable casino games are less popular since you generally cannot make wagers or play against other real live players.
Web browser-based iGaming platforms are still used by the majority of players, while the mobile online casino industry is booming.
Licenses for online casinos
Any person or company who wishes to set up a reputable online casino must first apply for a licence in the territory or country in which they want to operate the casino from.
There are two major forms of licences for online casinos: the first licensing option is known as a Standalone license.
This is where a company will organise every aspect of running an online casino itself, from finding a way to deal with payments, handling cybersecurity, arranging promotions, developing software and creating customer support and so on.
The other option is to take out what is called a White Label licence.
A White Label licensed casino is essentially a franchise – the site will operate under the auspices of a parent casino, so everything is already set up and ready to go for the operator.
Of course, the most important aspect of any online casino is the variety of games on offer. Online casino games are created by developers and rented by iGaming sites.
Players will generally find a list of available games featured on the home page of the casino.
Usually, an online casino will provide well-known traditional casino table games like Blackjack, Roulette and Baccarat as well as Poker, including variations such as Texas Hold Em, Draw Poker, Seven Card Stud and so on.
Many online casinos will feature both an automated play option, where players can try their luck against a virtual croupier or virtual opponents, as well as a live casino environment, where players can test their skills against real live croupiers and other – often quite experienced – players from around the world.
New players will also find a huge number of slots on offer at most online casinos. Slots operate using random number generators (known as RNGs) to ensure that play is always fair.
Many online casinos now offer live sports betting, where players can bet in real-time on actual sporting events.
There is also a range of lesser-known gambling games such as Craps, Mah Jong, Teen Patti, Scratch Cards, and many more. It is worth keeping in mind that the vast majority of online casinos now allow you to play many of their games without having to sign up.
Although you won’t be able to make wagers or win real money, you can test out some of the more popular games that the casino has to offer before you begin a lengthy sign-up process.
Online casinos act in partnership with a wide range of banking options. New players are advised to take careful note of what banking methods are on offer and what the terms and conditions surrounding these options are.
Most online casinos have strict minimum deposit amounts and may also place waiting periods and limits on withdrawal amounts. Generally, a reputable online casino will provide an array of common banking methods.
Players can usually choose to make deposits and withdrawals via eWallets such as Neteller, Skrill, ecoPayz, Trustly and many others. Vouchers are popular, with online casinos accepting funds from AstroPay Card, Neosurf, PaySafeCard and others.
Mobile payment systems such as Zelle or Swish are becoming more common.
More traditional banking methods such as direct banking transfers, bank wire transfers and credit/debit cards are usually offered.
With the recent rise of cryptocurrencies, many online casinos also accept Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, and other types of more modern payment methods. Be sure to check that the online casino of your choice accepts your preferred banking option before you begin the sign-up process.
Just like any other type of industry, online casinos must adhere to strict regulations and licensing laws.
Although these laws do differ between countries – and even sometimes between states and municipalities – these laws exist to ensure that online casinos treat players fairly and operate in an above-board and professional manner.
However, it must be stated that there is no centralised worldwide body that oversees the iGaming industry as a whole. For this reason, it is recommended that new players must thoroughly check that the online casinos they choose to use are reputable and above-board and affiliated with the proper authorities.
The most reputable regulating authorities in the iGaming industry include the two most stringent authorities, the UK Gambling Commission and the Malta Gaming Authority, as well as others such as the Gibraltar Gambling Commission, the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.
Players can check the online casino’s terms and conditions to see what authority the site is regulated by.
If you cannot find any evidence of an online casino being under the regulation of an acknowledged authority, it may be better to take your business elsewhere.
Unfortunately, rogue operators do exist, so please take the time to do your due diligence when choosing an online casino so that you do not fall prey to an unscrupulous, criminal operation.
As with any other type of business venture, online casinos use a variety of marketing strategies in order to attract new players.
Making both new and experienced players feel valued and keeping them engaged is always the goal of a good marketing strategy.
Common marketing promotions for online casinos include welcome bonuses, high value or repeat deposit bonuses, or bonuses for loyal customers and high rollers as well as loyalty schemes.
Monthly promotions are also popular, with many sites providing special tournaments and prizes for their most popular games. Free bets and additional spins are common rewards for both new and long-term players.
Online casinos also make use of email marketing to let players know of upcoming tournaments or promotions.
It is a good idea to sign up for email newsletters from your preferred online casino to ensure you do not miss out on any new bonuses! Social media cross-promotions, quizzes, informative articles and user chat forums are also marketing strategies used by most online casinos.
When using an online casino, new players are well-advised to make sure that they are legally able to engage in online gaming (that they are of legal age to play online casino games in their country of residence) and that the site in question is available to players from their country of residence.
A new player will have to go through a comprehensive identification process, so make sure you have all the necessary documents to hand.
Although this process can be painstaking, remember that this is done for your safety and protection.
Check to ensure that your preferred casino has reliable and easily accessible customer service in case you need assistance.
The aim of using an online casino is to have fun, to give yourself the opportunity to test your skills against other players, and possibly even make some winnings!
If you feel you are having problems with your gambling habits, there are many support organisations on the internet that can provide help and advice.
We wish you good luck and happy gaming and hope that you will enjoy your foray into the world of online casinos!