Introduction to UK Online Casinos & Betting Sites
Gambling is a massive entertainment industry in the UK. It has been legal for adults to gamble in the UK since the 1960’s although, of course gambling has been around for many Centuries.
Since the late 1990’s online gambling has grown from a few websites run by high-street bookmakers to a billion pound industry with well over 100 sites accepting UK players.
Online Casinos and Betting sites cater to all types of gambling from Sports, Slots, Traditional Casino games such as Blackjack and Roulette and Bingo. To simplify things in this article I will just refer to all online betting sites as “Online Casinos” – even if they specialise in Sports or Bingo.
In a saturated market, as it is now, it can be difficult to choose a betting site to join. With so many sites specialising in different games and trying to entice you with their Welcome Bonuses it is easy to get lost – especially if you are new to Online Casinos.
In this article I will attempt to highlight some of the key things you should look for before signing up to a new Online Casino. I will also make some recommendations for sites, some that you may be familiar with but some that may be new to you.
So I will be covering:
Legal Stuff - Online Casinos Ts & Cs
It’s common for web-users today to ignore the Terms and Conditions on websites when signing up for a new service or even buying a new product.
I would urge anyone signing up to an Online Casino to always check out the Ts & Cs. Especially in regards to Bonuses and Promotions as they are sometimes not as generous as they may seem (I’ll cover bonuses in their own section below).
The basic Terms are pretty simple.
To gamble legally in the UK you must be over 18. You must be the holder of the credit/debit card or account that you are using to make transactions into or out of your Online Casino account.
The Online Casino themselves must be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in order to accept UK players. Regardless of where the Casino company is physically located.
This is incredibly important as the licensing requirements mean the Casino company must have the funds, the software, the secure banking and Terms and Conditions that satisfy the UKGC’s strict guidelines. It also costs a fair bit to get a licence.
This means it is unlikely that you will be joining an Online Casino that is basically just someone running a site from their bedroom.
Normally you can see the UKGC logo at the bottom of the Casinos page. You can also check out the UKGC website if you are in any doubt.
Rest assured that I would never recommend an Online Casino that wasn’t fully licensed by the UKGC.
Some of the least known Terms that most Casinos have are also the ones that sometimes get players frustrated.
A common one is, that it is a licence requirement that Online Casinos verify players identities to try to combat Money-Laundering. Without going into the specifics of Money-Laundering it is suffice to say that if you win big at a Casino they will almost certainly ask you to confirm your ID before paying out.
Normally this will involve getting a scan/photo of your Passport or Driving Licence and a copy of a statement for the account you are using to fund your account. The process can take a week or so. If you have signed up with another person’s name or are using someone else’s bank account then you will not be paid out and your Casino account will be closed.
But if you are doing things honestly you have nothing to worry about, although it can be frustrating to have to wait for your big payout.
Another common Term that catches people out is that an individual can only have one account at a the Casino.
This may not seem like a big deal. It is designed to stop people creating multiple accounts at Online Casinos to try and claim Welcome Bonuses multiple times.
If you are discovered to have set up multiple accounts then you may find yourself banned from the Casino. It could also stop them paying out.
My advice is – if you are setting up an account at a Casino and you think that maybe you might have created an account with them before (maybe years ago), then email their Customer Support team to find out.
If you want to see why this is important do a Google search for people who have not been paid out by Casinos. The reason nearly always is that they have created multiple accounts.
I don’t want to give the impression that Online Casinos are looking for ways not to pay out. If you are over 18, sign up with your own name, use your own banking, provide ID if asked and don’t create multiple accounts – you will not have any issues withdrawing your winnings.
As mentioned before, I will talk about the Ts & Cs for Bonuses later in the article.
Games - What You Can Play at Online Casinos
There are a wide variety of games on offer at Online Casinos. Some specialise in only one type of game, for example Bingo sites, but most offer a few different games.
The games themselves are developed by a few software companies that specialise in Casino games. You will soon recognise some of the developers such as NetEnt, Playtech and Microgaming.
Because of this most Casinos tend to offer the same games. A few have their own in-house developers but this is pretty rare.
The upside is that if you sign up to another Online Casino you will most likely find your favourite game there. Although you can always check out the games offered by a Casino before you join.
One thing you will always see advertised is the Slots games that offer huge jackpots that increase in size. These are called Progressive jackpot slots. Most sites sign up for these as they are very popular with Slots players.
One thing to remember about these Progressive Slots is that the Jackpot you see (which can be Millions) is being played for not just at the Casino you have joined, but at all the Casinos that offer that game. So just because you find a new Casino with only 3 players it doesn’t give you a greater chance of winning the Progressive Jackpot. You are competing with millions of players across the world.
The games software is regularly “audited” for sites in the UK to ensure that the outcome is fair. It is generally accepted that Slots games have a payout percentage (also called “Return To Player”) of about 96-97%. Similarly Casino games such as roulette, blackjack or poker have the same odds of winning as you would get if you played it in real-life.
If an Online Casino is found to be offering an unfair game they would lose their license pretty quickly and go out of business. Therefore, the cost of cheating would be much higher than the profit they could get from doing it.
The main games you will find on Online Casinos are:
Online Slot Machines – usually just called slots, there are thousands of these individual games and most sites tend to offer a large selection of them. You can normally play them for as little as 1p per spin up to £100 per spin. Some sites specialise in Slots only and most sites offer free Spins as part of their welcome bonus. Progressive Jackpot Slots are very popular as well as Slots based on Movies or TV Shows.
Online Blackjack – You will normally find at least one or two versions of blackjack on a Casino site. Blackjack is pretty popular and on most games you can play multiple hands at one time. Bets can be as low as 10p per hand and as high as £200. There are also “Live Dealer” versions where you are actually playing live, via a video link, with a live dealer. Many players like these versions as they feel it is more real-life and maybe more likely to be fair.
Online Poker – You will find many exotic versions of Poker at Online Casinos. Most will let you play in “demo mode” to learn the rules. Some sites obviously specialise in Poker and not only give access to “play alone” software but also live tables where you play real people. These tables tend to have chat features and are seen as a more social way of playing.
Online Roulette – Much like Blackjack you can play virtual Roulette by yourself or Live Dealer Roulette at a real-life roulette table. Roulette is very popular online and it is worth noting that many tables have a minimum limit for bets as well as a maximum level. The odds can be a bit confusing for new players but again, most sites offer a “demo mode” for you to learn for free.
Online Video Poker – Video Poker is pretty popular at Online Casinos. There are dozens of different versions that let you play with multiple hands or have “wild” cards or “jokers”. The main thing to look out for when playing Video Poker is the odds offered. It is common for the games that offer a “wild” card or “joker” to offer less odds. For example the odds for getting three-of-a-kind on standard Video Poker may be 3-1 but the odds of getting the same hand on a version where Twos (or Deuces as they are called) are “wild” is only 2-1.
Online Bingo – Bingo has been popular in the UK for decades. It was one of the first online games offered and many sites that offer Bingo, specialise in it or have a specific site dedicated to it. Games can be played for as little as 1p per bingo card up to a few pounds. Most Bingo sites offer chat functions and emphasise the social side of it. The size of payouts is usually directly linked to the number of cards purchased for the games.
Online Sports – High-Street bookmakers were among the first companies to offer online betting sites. Most people are aware that you can bet on live sports games online. To try and make their own sites stand out is common for sports betting companies to offer “free bets”, “cash out” options, “odds boosts” or more complex bets. You will also find “Virtual Sports” games where the games are animated and the result is decided by the software.
Welcome Bonuses - Offers for New Casino Players
As mentioned earlier, the Online Casino market is saturated and many sites look to attract new customers by promoting their “Welcome” or “First-Deposit” bonuses.
It may seem pretty obvious that you should go for the Casino offering the most free cash or free spins. But it’s not always as clear-cut as that.
The main thing you need to bear in mind is this – Casinos don’t make money by giving away cash to new players, many of whom may never return.
The Welcome Bonuses offered by Online Casinos are there to attract new players and to give them more money (or spins) to play with when they first join. In the hope that they will return again and again.
Most Welcome Bonuses come with Terms & Conditions that make it difficult to actually make money from them. We’ll discuss the main ones here.
Wagering Requirements – Welcome Bonuses (and other offers) at Online Casinos normally come with what is called a “Wagering Requirement” (or sometimes “turnover”).
These basically tell you how much you need to bet before you can withdraw the bonus money. Otherwise people would just sign up and get their free £100, withdraw it and never return. Casinos aren’t stupid enough to fall for this.
So an Online Casino will often offer a cash bonus which matches the amount you deposit. Up to a certain limit.
So a “100% Match Bonus up to £200” would mean that if you deposited £100 you would get another £100 added to it. If you deposited £200 you’d get another £200. But if you deposited £300 you would only get another £200 because the limit is £200.
Now is where the Wagering Requirement comes in.
If the Wagering Requirement is “30x” (which is normal). Then you have to bet 30 times the bonus before it becomes “real money” that you could withdraw. So if you got a £100 bonus you’d need to bet £3000.
Note – you don’t have to lose £3000, just bet £3000. So if you have 300 spins on a slot machine at £10 per spin you have bet £3000. Whether you have lost money or won money you have met the Wagering Requirement.
Where it gets tricky is when the Wagering Requirement is for the Bonus + the Deposit. So now you might have to bet 30 times the £100 bonus you got PLUS the £100 you deposited. So that makes the amount you need to wager is £6000.
To complicate things more you will find that many Casinos have a “weighting” on certain times of games.
So on most sites Slots machines have what is called a 100% weighting. That means that every £1 you bet counts as £1 towards meeting the Wagering Requirement.
But something like Video Poker might have a 20% weighting. This means that every £1 bet only counts as 20p toward the wagering requirement.
So in the example above where you need to wager £6000 to meet the Wagering Requirement, if you were playing Video Poker you might need to wager £30000 to meet the requirement.
So you can see that there is not much chance of winning a fortune with a Welcome Bonus (although some people have). The best way to look at it is that you get more money to play with when you join. If you think they are giving away free money you will be disappointed.
Free Spins have become very popular as part of a Welcome Bonus. Sometimes these pay out in “real cash” but sometimes the money you win will also be subject to a Wagering Requirement.
One company that offers free spins with no Wagering Requirement is PlayOjo. All of their bonuses are “Real Cash” and there are never any Wagering Requirements. They don’t give away cash but it does make things much simpler.
Ongoing Promotions - Loyalty Schemes & Offers
After you have joined an Online Casino you will still get the chance to get more bonuses and earn free spins and even cash.
A lot of Online Casinos employ the “Loyalty” or “VIP” programme approach. This is usually where every bet you make earns you points which you can redeem for cash when the points reach a certain level.
Usually you will automatically get these points but on some sites you need to “Opt-In” so watch out for notifications when you join up.
Generally these are “real cash” but on occasion you will find sites that apply a Wagering requirement to them. So always check the Terms.
Much like with the “weightings” for Welcome Bonuses, some games may not contribute towards your Loyalty Points. It is common for Progressive Jackpot Slots spending to not contribute. Again check the Terms.
Lots of sites have seasonal offers or promotions around specific new games or sporting events. You will normally get notified of these when you log in to the site or by email. So it is important to sign up for emails when you join a site. That way you will always know what the latest offers are.
My favourite site for Loyalty Bonuses is All British Casino which gives you 10% of your spending back as cash. Trust me, this is one of the best cash-back deals going.
Depositing & Withdrawing - How Online Casino banking works
All Online Casinos will accept UK Debit cards. There may be limitations to Credit cards as new legislation is aimed at stopping people being able to use these to gamble online.
More and more sites are also accepting payments from online accounts or e-wallets such as Skrill or Moneybookers. PayPal is becoming more accepted and some sites even allow players to deposit using their mobile phone accounts.
Usually deposits go in immediately but withdrawals take a bit longer. A few sites do instant withdrawals to certain accounts but most Online Casinos have a wait of 2-3 days for money to reach your account.
You can have multiple payment methods setup on your account. Normally you need to withdraw funds to the same account you deposited from.
Customer Service - How can you contact Online Casinos
It is unusual for things to go wrong with an Online Casino. In general, the games software and banking are pretty simple.
But if you do need to contact an Online Casinos Customer Support team, you can normally do it either by email or live chat. Very few sites have a phone number although high-street bookmakers do tend to offer this and it is sometimes a 24/7 line.
Most sites have FAQ sections that cover just about everything. So before you email or call it might be worth checking out the FAQ to see if the answer is there.
Controlling Your Betting - Setting Limits at Online Casinos
Problem gambling is a serious issue for a small number of people. It is part of the licensing requirements that UK Online Casinos take responsible gambling seriously.
Most sites will offer the chance to set deposit or spending limits on your account as well as options to take a “time out” – where you effectively exclude yourself for a few days.
All UK sites are also required to be part of the GAMSTOP network. GAMSTOP allows people to self-exclude themselves, not just from a specific site, but from all online betting sites.
We have an article that goes into GAMSTOP in more detail. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem then check it out.
Recommendations - Our Favourite Online Casinos
So we have highlighted some of the main things you should look for when looking for an Online Casino to join.
As we mentioned a few times, the market is saturated and many sites look identical and offer almost identical offers.
New sites pop up almost daily and keeping on top of them is difficult.
My list of current favourite Casinos is here.
I hope you have found this (long) article useful. If you have made it to the end then you have my congratulations.
If you want to see reviews on Online Casinos, articles on betting, latest bonus offers and some recommendations too then please visit us regularly.
And if you come across a new Casino that we have missed then let us know in the comments.
As always – Good Luck and please Bet Responsibly.