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Legitimate Online Casinos
Knowing Where to Play
There are a number of reasons for people to play at online casinos. For many people, it is simply a matter of wanting to gamble, but not having any land-based casinos within a reasonable vicinity of them. For other people still, (myself included) it comes down to either finding a promotion or bonus that one believes to be beatable.
On both the WizardofVegas.com articles section and the lcb.org editorials section, I have written about a number of past promotions, and some of them are likely still ongoing, that I have considered beatable and have explained why, in detail. On that note, I have written other articles and editorials still that have highlighted other promotions and bonuses that I have not considered beatable, or have considered beatable for very little value, and explained the way that I analyzed those promotions.
By reading those articles and editorials, in addition to any resources that the Wizard himself has provided, it should be relatively easy for an individual with even a modicum of mathematical understanding to comprehend the basic concepts between first identifying, and secondly analyzing, a beatable promotion or bonus.
For other players, however, gambling is strictly about having fun. For people such as myself and the Wizard, we tend to have the most fun when we are gambling in a manner that yields a winning expectation, but we would both be remiss (especially me, ‘Mr. Video Keno,') not to admit that we find some forms of negative expectation (read: losing) gambling pleasurable.
There is one thing that holds true for advantage players and negative expectation gamblers alike: It is absolutely essential to find a legitimate online casino, or preferably many legitimate online casinos, at which to play. This is obviously true for advantage players because one cannot truly play at an advantage if one is dealing with a cheating or no-paying online casino, but it is especially important, I would argue, for those who gamble at a negative expectation to find a legitimate online casino. Here are a few:
Recommended Online Casinos
One might ask: Why might that be more important for individuals who are not playing at an advantage? Certainly, my earlier statement seems, on its face, to be counterintuitive, so let me take the time to explain my position:
An advantage player who seeks to exploit beatable online promotions or bonuses is going to play at a wide variety of casinos at which he considers himself to have an advantage. Such a player will play at such a wide variety of casinos, in fact, that he or she can handle a few financial losses (by way of being ripped off in one way or another) and still come out of it with a profit. While that is true, such a player would still do well not to play at every single casino offering a beatable promotion, especially not those that already have a bad reputation. However, getting, ‘Screwed,' every now and then does become something of an expectation.
Players who enjoy gambling, perhaps exclusively, at a negative expectation must exercise serious discretion in finding a legitimate online casino that will treat them fairly and pay in a timely manner. Certainly, such players will have a finite income and a finite bankroll, and those players who choose to exclusively play negative expectation games are mathematically expected to lose their entire bankroll, even in a fair casino that always pays. Simply put, winning extends the player's playtime, it keeps the player afloat longer and enables them to continue to enjoy what they enjoy doing.
Consider the case of a shopper who doesn't read the advertisements in his or her newspaper, or online, before going into a department store or comparing prices with websites: That person might go into a store and pay $40 for a pair of Abercrombie jeans, (people still wear Abercrombie, right?) when the place next door has them for just $20. A little bit of shopping around results in a lower price on jeans which, assuming a finite clothes budget, means that more jeans can be purchased with a given sum of money.
In that sense, while sites such as this one, WizardofVegas, WizardofMacau and lcb.org have the primary goals of connecting people, informing them and educating them, advertising to them is not an insubstantial aspect of the goal of those websites. In that sense, we are that clothes, that website that allows you to comparison job prices, in order to ensure that you are getting the best deal you can get, every time.
Before we can tell you what a good deal is, though, the first thing that we need to discuss are what patently bad deals are. If you're a negative expectation gambler, illegitimate and cheating online casinos absolutely cost you more money that you need to pay. If you are an advantage player, they present to you the possibility of a situation with a winning situation, though winning is quite close to impossible. With that, let's discuss the characteristics of casinos to avoid:
What Characteristics Should a Player Avoid?
Rigged or Pirated Software:
The first type of casino that should absolutely be avoided is a casino that operates using either rigged or pirated software. While rigged software has been around for a long time, and is well-recognized as a potential pratfall of online gambling, there have recently been many cases involving pirated software. I wrote an extensive about just that subject for our WizardofVegas site that includes a link to the lcb.org news report.
Even if we assume that the software is merely pirated and has not been otherwise adulterated, the only reason to pirate such software is because a given casino does not want to pay the rightful providers and hosting companies of the game for the right to use their offerings. The simplest question that I can ask is, "How can anyone trust a casino that is going to try to duck the responsibility to pay companies for their intellectual property?"
My answer, quite simply, is that such casinos absolutely cannot, and should not, be trusted. Besides that, even if everything else about those casinos was fair, why would you want to spend your money at an operation that unscrupulously steals from other operations? In my view, the right answer is: I don't want to spend my money there. Personally, I would rather only deal with companies that not only deal above-the-board with me but also deal openly and fairly with other companies.
There are a number of ways to detect pirated software, and LCB are the experts at doing that. However, rigged software is often even more difficult to detect because it involves a rigorous mathematical analysis to conclude, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the software is not playing the game that it proposes to be playing fairly in an honest way.
Such a determination is easier to make when it comes to, ‘Even Money,' or near even money propositions. The reason for that is because there is an obvious difference that will bear out over several trials between merely, ‘Running bad,' ‘Running ludicrously bad,' and ‘Running impossibly bad.' It is the lattermost of those things that sites such as this one are most concerned about.
It is for that reason that the best of the online casinos will make a playlog available to the players of all of their past activity, that playlog can then be mathematically analyzed to determine whether the player ran in such a way as to essentially be considered, ‘Impossibly bad.' Furthermore, a number of players, in concert, could request playlogs and turn them into a single source if foul play is expected and it can be determined whether or not the cumulative result of those players is within mathematical reason, and to what degree of confidence.
It may seem like a difficult process to make such a determination, and in fairness, it is. If a player is running at 94% return-to-player on a game that is supposed to be 98.5% return-to-player after only five hundred flat bets of a given amount, even on an even-money proposition, that's not necessarily outside of the realm of reason.
Consider this example: If one were to look at a perfectly fair coin toss upon which a person begins with a bankroll of $500 and only has $470 after five-hundred tosses, (94% return-to-player on an expected 100% return-to-player) then one might immediately be inclined to conclude that a biased coin is being used or the other guy is otherwise finding a way to cheat. For this exact result to happen would require the player to be wrong about the result on 265 occasions while being right on a mere 235 occasions.
However, when we look at a simple Binomial Distribution, we find that the probability of the player being wrong 265 times, or more, is roughly 9.73%. Without a doubt, that is a pretty sucky run for the player in question, but there is nothing particularly alarming about having a series with a small sample size that results in a run slightly worse than nine out of ten players will experience. At least, not from a fairness standpoint.
However, if you had ten players that ran at a return of $4,700 on $5,000 in total bets, then that would require the players to be wrong on 2,650 tosses compared to only 2,350 that they got right. That result, or worse, would occur less than 0.0012% of the time and could certainly be considered a legitimate cause of alarm. At worst, a casino with that sort of result would be blacklisted while, at best, it would be deemed very suspicious.
The point is that, while it can often be difficult to prove that a casino is cheating, it is possible and the full assortment of our sites have revealed many casinos that have cheated.
Slow Pay, No Pay, Delayed Withdrawal Tactics:
Let's assume that you have been playing at a casino that both doesn't use rigged software and only uses software that it has the right to use pursuant to the owner of the software, and now you have won! First of all, congratulations! Unfortunately, at many online casinos, winning is only half the battle...the easy half.
Of these three things, delayed withdrawal tactics are the least of a player's concerns, but they are still deeply concerning. Instead of promptly paying a player, casinos that choose to engage in delayed withdrawal tactics will offer a myriad of excuses why payment has not been forthcoming. Other tactics that may be used include requesting information from the player that the player has already provided. For instance, a player (who has already faxed in a copy of his or her identification) might be informed that the faxed copy is blurry and asked to fax it three or four more times. Furthermore, such casinos might often choose to, ‘Duck,' the player resulting in the player having to go to great lengths to contact the casino, perhaps even complaining on lcb.org, before the casino finally deigns to deal with them.
There are a number of other delayed withdrawal tactics that are far too plentiful and distasteful to warrant mention on this page, but if you wish to read about some, lcb.org offers plenty of examples. The vast majority of casinos who engage in delayed withdrawal tactics have warnings indicated on their reviews or anywhere else on the site where they are mentioned. Some of them are blacklisted, but those blacklistings are usually for other reasons in addition to delayed withdrawal tactics.
Another tactic similar to delayed withdrawal tactics is that of slow-paying. Slow-paying is actually quite similar to delayed withdrawal, but one key difference is that casinos who are known slow-payers are often much quicker to attempt to more-or-less stonewall a player than casinos that simply utilize delayed withdrawal tactics. Furthermore, the casino, in spite of the maximum amount that it states it is willing to send over a given period of time, might occasionally send less money than that while providing a plethora of excuses for why it can't send more.
Of course, what a ‘No-Pay,' casino consists of is pretty self-explanatory. They don't pay. Enough said. These casinos will always find themselves blacklisted eventually.
Here at WizardofOdds.com, one of our endeavors it to give players quick and easy access to casinos that not only operate using fair and non-pirated software but also, who will pay as quickly as reasonably possible.
Bad Customer Service:
One aspect that online casinos should share with land-based casinos, that no type of casinos does perfectly every single time, is that the customer service should be exemplary.
Even if a casino pays in a reasonably timely fashion and operates using legitimate software, shouldn't it matter to a player how he or she is treated?
Not only should any, ‘Live Support,' or phone support be able and willing to answer any non extremely technical questions that a player may have in an expedient way, but they should also treat the player with extreme courtesy in doing so. All casino representatives should be upfront, honest, polite and go out of their way to ensure that a player knows everything that he or she needs to know about the casino and/or its terms and conditions.
On that note, it is also important to mention that a player should always understand and agree to a casino's terms and conditions before playing. While our collection of websites is willing to do a good many things to try to benefit those players who are kind enough to visit us, there is nothing that we can do for a player who has undoubtedly and provingly violated an online casino's terms and conditions. Just as a player has the right to choose what casino he does or doesn't wish to play at, an online casino has the right to write up its own terms and conditions, even if those conditions may seem ridiculous to some. (I think a few of them have ridiculous terms!)
In any case, the customer service staff should be ready to answer questions, and even if they are wrong, a legitimate casino will stand behind what its representative said, which is why it is always advisable to use the, ‘Live chat,' function and have a transcript of the conversation E-Mailed to you. When complaining about an online casino either treating you poorly or doing the opposite of what they, through their customer service representative, said they would do: The more proof you have, the more our sites can try to help you.
Of course, the Wizard would never recommend an online casino without a thorough vetting of all of its aspect, and not least of those is customer service. Therefore, when trying to decide on a legitimate online casino at which to play, it is always beneficial for a player to choose one that has the Wizard's Seal of Approval.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
The Seal of Approval:
Having taken the time to discuss what a prospective player should avoid when choosing an online casino, it is time now to take a look at what things a potential player might potentially seek out when looking for a legitimate online casino.
The first thing to look for, particularly on this site, WizardofMacau.com and our message board, WizardofVegas.com is the Seal of Approval. There are very few guarantees in the world of online gambling, but the legitimacy and fairness of a casino that carries the Seal of Approval is one of them.
What the seal basically means is that, if you sign up as a new player at an online casino using one of the links available on this website, then we will have your back to as much an extent as we can to resolve any situation that may arise between the casino and yourself. While this amounts to virtually anything that can arise as a dispute between the casino and yourself, there are two simple terms that go along with this guarantee:
The first of the two terms are stated in the advertising policy itself, and that is that we ask that you try to resolve the situation with the casino yourself before requesting our assistance. That's not because we do not want to help you, but rather because any casino that carries our Seal of Approval can be expected to resolve player issues without the need for us to get involved. Were that not the case, then we wouldn't advertise them with our Seal of Approval. The result of that is usually our assistance is only needed for problems that are somewhat complicated.
The second term which is not explicitly stated in our advertising policy, but perhaps could be, is that if you blatantly violate any of the terms and conditions of the online casino, then there probably isn't going to be very much we can do for you. It is for that reason that all terms and conditions should be read by players and understood, with any questions a player might have directed to customer service (preferably via, ‘Live Chat,' and with a requested transcript of the conversation) so that the player assures himself or herself that the player does not run afoul of the terms and conditions. For example, if a casino defines, ‘Bonus abuse,' in a specific way and a player chooses to act in a fashion that clearly constitutes, ‘Bonus abuse,' then there may not be much anyone can do for you if the casino can prove their allegations and refuses to pay on any winnings derived from that bonus.
Beyond that, the Advertising Policy backs up our Seal of Approval and our Seal of Approval backs YOU up.
If the bearing of the Seal of Approval is a must for you to play at an online casino, then make sure to also take a look at some of the online casino reviews that can be found on this website to ensure that the casino you are considering has that seal. We will occasionally advertise for casinos that we believe are genuinely legitimate, but who have not necessarily satisfied the criteria to earn our highly coveted Seal of Approval.
For advantage players, longevity is not necessarily a must because newer online casinos will often offer more aggressive promotions and bonuses in order to attract new players, a trait shared with land-based casinos. For negative expectation players, however, the lifespan of a casino or group of casinos might be a reasonable thing to look for when choosing a legitimate online casino.
Casinos and ownership groups (many online casinos are owned by the same person, company or group) that have a long history will generally have a wider range of opinions that have been put out there by players. Many such opinions can be found in the reviews both here and lcb.org, and the latter site has a forum that is much more specifically geared to online gambling and contains many player reviews, opinions and comments.
One of the most important things a potential player can do in trying to determine what casino the player wants to play at is to take the time to research the opinions of professionals and the experiences of other players. For example, perhaps the biggest concern that you have is that the software is fair and you REALLY want a casino that pays extremely quickly, perhaps you would be willing to endure a less than stellar customer service experience if both of those conditions are met. You could read about experiences other players have had, and for you, the biggest priority would be avoiding slow-paying casinos.
The unfortunate fact is that no online casino, however legitimate, is 100% perfect 100% of the time. If there was such a casino out there, then that would be the only casino that would need to be advertised on this website. Eventually, it would become the only online casino out there with a meaningful number of customers because people would ultimately figure out that it is the best at everything. The simple fact is, most online casinos are truly awesome at a few things while being merely okay in others, so a smart player will look at a casino (or group) with a long history and read about the experiences of others choosing a casino most suited to his or her desires.
Safety and Reputability:
Reputability goes hand-in-hand with longevity to a certain extent, which is simply to say that if a casino has been deemed reputable for an extended period of time, then it becomes even more likely that the online casino in question is a legit casino who the player can rely upon.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the safety of a legit online casino, and those factors will include such things as the protection of a player's personal information as well as the protection of player funds.
When you look at the protection of personal and financial information, it is essential for a player to peruse the security and/or privacy section of a casino site to ensure that it is using adequate encryption. The relative safety of the types of encryption offered by an online casino can be researched separately and a player can make a decision as to what casino to play on that basis.
Some online casinos might do even worse than slow-pay, no-pay or outright cheat, it is possible for disreputable online casinos to be nothing more than fronts for identity thieves who make it their sole objective to gain access to as much personal and financial information as possible to perhaps make unlawful transactions on credit cards, or perhaps, attempt to gain credit in the player's name. Alternatively, personal and financial information might be sold to other entities at a profit if one is dealing with an online casino that is nothing more than a front for identity thieves.
While we would never advertise for a casino that is engaged in such tactics, a player can take that sort of safety into his or her own hands by depositing using a prepaid credit card, at least, after first verifying that the casino will accept prepaid cards. By doing this, a player can put only the funds needed on the card to cover the deposit the player wants to make so that any other transactions aside from that would be declined as there would be nothing on the card. That is one tactic that I personally use to protect myself when playing at an online casino with whom I am unfamiliar.
Additionally, when the player has made a deposit, it is important that the player's money is protected. Much like the ‘Casino's money,' does not become your money until you have cashed out and been paid, your money does not become the casino's money until such time as you have lost it. That was the main problem that happened with Full Tilt Poker, and about which I wrote a series of four articles for our WizardofVegas site that I am very proud of:
For those of you who would prefer the shortest version of the story possible, essentially, player funds were being used to pay high-ranking executives within the Full Tilt company to such an extent that the website no longer had the funds available to cover the amounts of money that the players had available to them. During the majority of that time, even knowing that they could not cover the player's money, they continued to take deposits and Full Tilt Poker turned into little more than a Ponzi scheme.
What was perhaps the saddest aspect of that story was the fact that Full Tilt Poker made its money by taking a, ‘Rake,' which simply means a percentage of the pots that players built up in the poker games. In other words, Full Tilt Poker made a finite amount of player's money at any given time and there was really no excuse for the amount of cash on hand to dip below a level that would have enabled them to pay all the players. If that did happen, then the company should have immediately declared itself insolvent and immediately paid as many players as possible as much as possible. For those of you who opt to read my four articles on the subject, you will see that things didn't quite go down that way.
Anyway, protecting player funds is even more important for online casinos who are operating either entirely or in the majority games that are called, ‘House banked.' What that means is that, for players who are not playing games, such as poker, against other players, they are playing games directly against the house. Examples of these games are slots, craps, blackjack and innumerable other games. The house, at a minimum, should have enough in its coffers to cover the cumulative sum of money that players have available to cash out at any given time.
In fact, in the State of Nevada and many other jurisdictions with land-based casinos, not only is the casino required to have enough cash on hand to cover the chips that a player might theoretically buy in for (read: all of the chips on all of the tables) but the casino also must hold a reserve in cash such that they are able to cover all possible jackpots, as well. Even in the slot parlors of West Virginia, they are required to have enough cash on hand to cover the highest possible jackpot if it were to hit twice, simultaneously.
Furthermore, the expectations for land-based gambling operations are such that they must be able to pay out on these jackpots immediately. The terms and conditions for online casinos are such that they give themselves days, often weeks, in order to pay a player who wins and chooses to cash out. Given that the rules for cash on hand are more relaxed for online casinos, even legitimate operations, it is reasonable to expect that all of these casinos would keep enough to cover all player balances. In fact, some of these online casinos have separate funds for player's accounts from which monies are not removed until such time that the player has lost.
In fact, one reason that online casinos have a policy that, granted, many players disagree with stating that players' funds shall be considered abandoned after x number of days is because the online casino has to be able to account for those funds at some point. Does it really seem necessary that an online casino should have to keep a particular player's balance at $1.30, or whatever ridiculous amount, when a player hasn't played for over a year?
Either way, this site would never market for a casino of any kind that does not strive to be ahead of the curve in protecting both a player's personal information as well as a player's money.
Certified Software Testing:
Rather than having to be worried about significant manual trials and exhaustive mathematical testing to ensure the fairness of games, wouldn't it be better if, somehow, a player could know ahead of time that the software a casino uses is fair? Fortunately, there is a way to do that, and it is by assuring that a bona fide software testing company has tested an online casinos software and has certified the games fair.
In the simplest of terms, software testing is a computer program testing the fairness of another computer program. The way it works is that a computer program will be audited to play a game offered by an online casino millions of times in order to determine, based on the number of times played, whether or not the results of the game conform to both expectation and the expected return-to-player.
While it is difficult to account for an individual player's results, especially in a limited sample size, with a sizable enough sample size, there should appear a, ‘Regression to the mean,' which simply means that after a given number of trials, a particular set of results would indicate cheating. If you go back to our coin-flip example, while guessing aside and being wrong 265 out of 500 times is hardly a concern, guessing and being wrong 2,650 out of 5,000 times is almost definitely a cause for alarm, that's despite the fact that, technically, the player guessed correctly the same percentage (53%) of the time in both cases.
The fact of the matter is actually quite simple, while some people might ask, "Well, couldn't an online casino cheat only rarely such that the cheating is virtually mathematically undetectable?" Strictly speaking, the answer to that question is yes, but most online casinos that intend to bilk players at all are largely fly-by-night operations who do not have any particular concern with their reputation or making their tactics anything but obscenely blatant to a mathematician.
Furthermore, when it comes to software testing, many testing companies make it necessary for a given online casino to make their source code available for inspection. The result of that, of course, is that the testing company can then examine the computer program operating the game itself to ensure that the program is designed fairly. In other words, the software has been determined not to cheat simply because it is incapable of cheating.
There are a number of factors that go into choosing a legitimate online casino that is right for you, and those include some things to avoid as well as other aspects that a player should look for when deciding where to play, and with whom to trust his or her money. The resources available to you on this site, WizardofVegas.com and lcb.org should be more than enough to guide you in the right direction in terms of not just what casino to play at, but what are the best games to play. Furthermore, for those of you bingo junkies out there, LatestBingoBonuses.com has you covered in the same regard if you are looking for legitimate online bingo.
Between all of the information shared by our experts at these various sites and the comments and experiences shared by other players, you should be well on your way to finding a legitimate casino that suits your needs. Here are a few: