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One of the biggest benefits arising from the advent of online casinos is the ability to play a wide variety of casino games from the comfort of your own home.
Contrary to land-based casinos, casino gambling sites tend to offer a much larger variation of games (particularly in the slots department) in comparison to their land based cousins which is great for players.
In the early days, many players were skeptical of real money casino sites citing safety concerns. However, thanks in part to increased regulation from bodies like the UKGC, Nevada Gaming Control, and the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, the industry has progressed a lot over the last few years. There is now a number of quality casino sites currently in the market.
Real Money Overview
Internet based casinos have come a long way since the first games appeared online more than 20 years ago. The first online blackjack game was introduced by MicroGaming back in 1994, via dial-up internet. These days you’ll find 1000’s of slots, table games played with live dealers and jackpots in the millions of dollars.
Legislation and licensing mean that many players now have access to fully legal and regulated real money casino games. While there is a ‘Wild West’ of unregulated casinos – there are also legitimate brands, licensed by individual states, countries or by respected global licensing bodies.
Here at onlinegamblingsites.com we only cover online casinos for real money which are legal, regulated and certified as fair. You’ll find that even within these strict limits, there are many brands competing for your business. Savvy players can take advantage of this competition by enjoying casino bonuses, promotions and free spins offers.
Free to Play Casino Games
There are literally 1000’s of casino games available online that you can play for free. Some casinos will give you free spins or free chips to try out their games for real money. Many players try out the games with ‘play money’ to find those they enjoy before playing them for real cash.
For most free slots and table games, you simply need to register at an online casino to access their games. The exception is live dealer table games. You can view these at most casinos that have live dealer rooms – though won’t normally be able to bet for play-money chips.
Here are some of the most popular free casino games you can play online:
- Blackjack: This is the most popular casino table game. There are many variations and side-bets available, which share the ‘21’ theme.
- Roulette: With both US and European roulette wheels available (and often the beneficial ‘French’ rules), you can enjoy roulette sessions at all online casinos.
- Casino Poker Games: This is a category of table games often called ‘Carnival Games’ in live casinos. They include old favorites live Caribbean Stud and 3-Card Poker, plus newer games like Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
- Traditional Slots: 3-reel traditional slots are still popular. Many online casinos also offer a range of classic games. Wilds, jackpots and multiple win-lines are frequently used.
- Online Slots: This is the biggest single type of casino game with many thousands of titles now available. Complex 5-reel games with multiple bonus features, big jackpots and often exotic themes can be enjoyed for free or for real money.
Free Spins / No-Deposit Offers at Real Money Casinos
A great way to enjoy free casino games is to take advantage of free spins bonuses or free chips signup offers. These give you a shot at winning money – without any risk.
Usually these are smaller bonuses. Think 10 free ($1) spins, $20 in chips, or $2 in free Sweeps Coins. You’ll also find a cap on winnings is common – along with a play-though (wagering requirement).
For NJ players, Golden Nugget offers a free $10 no deposit bonus, as does Virgin Casino ($30).
For PA players, Hollywood Online Casino is offering $10 free on signup plus an additional bonus when you make your first deposit.
I do recommend you take advantage of these deals. Even though they are on the small side, many players get lucky – and win real money at the casino. It’s a great way to try and build your casino bankroll for free. Even if you don’t cash out, you’ll often get a win or two that lets you check out several real money games with the casino’s cash!
Online Casino Software: Who Makes the Games?
Many people are surprised that the same games appear on multiple online casino sites – even those which are supposedly competitors.
The reason is that the companies which make the games, and casino site operators, are separate. There are a few exceptions, and also some ‘exclusive’ licensed games – though on the whole, the slots and table games are licensed from casino software makers by the online casino brands.
Casino games are produced by huge companies. Big names include MicroGaming, NYX, IGT and Net Entertainment. In the past, each casino would have only one type of software. This casino software needed to be downloaded onto your PC.
These days, online casinos are mostly browser-based. This means that an individual brand can license games from many different casino software houses.
Some offer 1000’s of games, while others curate their own smaller list of the best titles. This new format also means smaller software houses have access to the big brands.
You can enjoy many more (often innovative) slots and table games which have been created by start-up companies.
Casino Software on Mobile Devices
While desktops and laptops are ideal for casino gaming at home, a new category of casinos has emerged. You can now access slots and many table games on your iPhone and Android smartphones, plus tablets through a real money casino app.
Most games are created with graphics that respond to the size of your screen. You’ll find some older slots have been adapted later – and so will not work as well.
You will find downloadable apps available. These are faster and smoother on mobile devices. This does come at the cost of a more limited game selection.
The only type of game I don’t recommend for mobile phones is live dealer table games. To get the full experience (and not miss out for any disconnections) you need a larger screen for these.
Are Online Casinos Legal?
Let’s start with the obvious – that the prevailing law depends on your location.
Less obvious, though more important, is the following distinction between playing at a casino and operating one:
- Is it legal for an individual player to enjoy real money games from a specific jurisdiction (state, country, province)?
- Is it legal to operate a casino or to provide payment services for real money gambling in that jurisdiction?
The answer to the first question is almost always that players are not breaking any laws. This includes the US federal laws which don’t criminalize players – very few state statutes make play itself illegal.
The second question is more of a grey area. Some states now regulate (legalize) casinos, as well as many countries. Some countries ban outside casinos, while many jurisdictions (for example Malta, Gibraltar) offer global licenses which exclude certain markets.
Information on casinos you’ll find here at onlinegamblingsites.com covers casinos which are unambiguously legal. These include big brands which are licensed at state level and legal within many different countries around the world.
Below is a more detailed look at the legality of online casinos for USA and then Worldwide players. This covers licensing bodies and relevant legislation at country and state level.
Online Casinos Accepting US Players
There have been major changes for residents of Delaware and New Jersey in recent years. Legal casinos operate within those states – allowing real money gambling within their borders. Nevada allows online poker games for real money. Pennsylvania have passed legislation to regulate their online casino sector. The first PA online gambling sites came online in 2019. Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire are expected to go online during the earlier part of 2020.
Outside of these regulated states there are other legal options. These involves sweepstakes style casinos, where you play for ‘Sweeps Coins’ instead of dollars. At the other extreme, there are states which actively outlaw online casinos. Washington State is a rare example of a jurisdiction which makes it illegal for individual players to enjoy online casino games.
What you will find with state licensed casinos is that each license is given to an existing brick and mortar establishment. These casinos then partner with online casino brands.
This not only brings trust to the process, it gives the B&M license holders and interest in the process of regulation. Without this involvement, it is easy to see how the industry could resist the implementation of internet casino sites.
Online Casinos in New Jersey
NJ licensed online casinos in 2013, with the first going live at the end of that year. While not the first state to license casinos (that was Delaware), this was the first big state. It was seen as a test case, with many others keeping an eye on the process and the tax revenue potential.
There are currently 26 online casinos and poker sites in NJ. Each is a partnership between a big Atlantic City casino brand and an international operator. Here are some of the biggest NJ online casinos:
- Golden Nugget: Licensed to the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, this casino uses NYX software and is the biggest of the NJ online casinos.
- BetFair Casino: This is also licensed to the Golden Nugget, though operates as a separate brand.
- Caesars Casino: This casino also uses the NYX platform, consolidating slots and table games from many different providers.
- Virgin Casino: This is a partnership with the Tropicana and uses a software platform provided by GameSys.
- 888 Casino: Another casino under the Caesars license, 888 have exclusive games and slots as well as games from bigger software houses.
New Jersey also offers online poker games, with the player pools linked to those in Delaware and Nevada. Sports betting is also available, following a protracted legal battle against the pro sports league lobby.
Delaware Online Casinos
DE was the first state to license online casinos and poker. These are all partnerships with the 3 ‘Racinos’. Residents can legally gamble on casino games and slots – with sports betting and poker also available. The Delaware online casinos are basic in comparison to the NJ ones, though offer some great bonuses and a decent selection of slots.
The casinos are all branded by the racetracks. You can choose from Dover Downs Casino, Harrington Raceway Casino and Delaware Park Casino.
Pennsylvania Online Casinos
As with the other states with licensed casinos, B&M brands are partnering with online casinos to create the venues.
Here are the casinos known to be in the pipeline:
- Harrah’s: Partnering with 888 / Scientific Games
- PlaySugarhouse: Operating under the SugerHouse Philadelphia and Betrivers brand. Online!
- Unibet Casino: Partnered with Mohegan Sun Pocono. Online!
- Mount Airy: Partnering with PokerStars (for both Casino and Poker games)
- Mohegan Sun: Partnering with Scientific Games
- Hollywood Casino: Partnered with IGT. Online!
- Parx Casino: Partnered with GAN / Kambi. Online!
2022 will be an interesting year in PA. You can keep up with the latest developments on our PA online casinos page.
West Virginia Online Casinos
West Virginia is the latest state to legalize online casinos and poker. By virtue of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, residents and visitors to the Mountain State will soon be able to wager through apps on their devices.
The five land-based casinos in West Virginia will hold the licenses for online casino development. So, it’s possible that there will be online components for the following properties:
- The Casino Club at Greenbrier Resort
- Hollywood Casino Charles Town
- Mardi Gras Casino
- The Mountaineer Hotel, Casino & Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
The law directs officials to create regulations in 2020. Therefore, the earliest launch date for online gambling in West Virginia is 2020.
Other States with the Possibility of Opening Online Casinos
Many states have explored the possibility of regulating their own online casinos. In some (for example CA), competing interests have caused the process to stagnate. Others are closer to passing legislation. Some states have legislation going through their government. While the chances of this passing into law will vary, here is a list of states which had some kind of movement towards regulation in 2022:
- New York
Worldwide Online Casinos
There is a mixed approach to legislation and regulation of internet casinos outside the US. Some countries require casinos to be licensed by government agencies (for example the UK). Others have a liberal approach to online gambling. An example is Canada. Here people are free to play at international real money casinos, though those casinos can’t be physically located within the country.
With so many casinos ‘licensed’ internationally, I recommend you stick to jurisdictions which are well respected and give you protection in the event of any dispute. Here are the best:
- Isle of Man
You will find many casinos are licensed in the Caribbean or Central American countries. While there are many legitimate brands which have licenses from these jurisdictions, the level of oversight is not the same as for the licensing bodies above. These jurisdictions include Antigua, Costa Rica, Panama, Curacao and the Kahnawake territory.
Country licensing bodies are worth looking out for. Examples include the UK Gambling Commission and ARJEL in France. These bodies have strict criteria for player protection, safekeeping of funds and even advertising guidelines. If you live in the UK, there is no reason to choose a casino not licensed by the Gambling Commission.
Global casinos do not need to partner with brick and mortar establishments. Some of the brands available are huge – even listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Sweepstakes Casinos for USA Players
In states which do not license online casinos, you can enjoy slots and poker games in sweepstakes format. This takes advantage of laws which allow sweepstakes style contests, while offering a casino experience. Read more about social casinos.
New Player FAQ
Are Online Casinos Safe?
As long as you stick to regulated, legal casinos you will be perfectly safe gambling online. There are two key aspects to safety that concern new players. These are payments and game fairness.
Legitimate casinos will keep their operating capital and player balances separated (under licensing terms in most cases). You should also look for a wide range of payment options. If you are uncomfortable using your own credit card, there are plenty of 3rd party systems which facilitate secure payments – for example PayPal.
The game fairness aspect of safety can be verified by auditors. Outcomes are controlled by ‘Random Number Generator’ software. Legitimate casinos have their games tested by organizations like eCogra, Technical Systems Testing and iGaming Labs. You can verify these results via the websites of the testing organizations.
If you choose a big brand with a solid reputation that is legal in your location, then playing real money games at online casinos is very safe.
Who Regulates the Casinos?
There are three levels of regulation. An individual casino can be licensed in one or more places. These are:
- State Level: At the time of writing NJ and DE have regulated casinos within their borders. PA has set up a licensing body, and NV has legal online poker games.
- Country Level: Many countries have their own bodies for regulating casinos. These include the UK Gambling Commission and ARJEL in France.
- International Licenses: Jurisdictions including Malta, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man are respected global licensing bodies. Other bodies like Curacao and Antigua also license casinos, though the level of oversight is variable.
I would never play at an unlicensed casino – and would never recommend this. State and county level licenses are the best bets. If your country does not license casinos (for example Canada), then choose a well-known brand which has a license from a respected jurisdiction, plus is active in the (stricter) licensed countries.
What Platforms and Devices Support the Games?
You can access casino games via computers (desktop or laptop), tablets and smartphones. Most casinos are browser-based and have graphics which respond to your screen size. There are games online which were created before smartphones were invented. Most of these will still adapt to your screen size, though the buttons can get fiddly!
Are Apps or Browser-Based Casinos Best?
A small number of online casinos have mobile apps which you can install on your smartphone or tablet. Most will simply let you access their game library through your phone’s browser.
Apps have the advantage of storing the graphics and basic code for the games on your device. This means that they load faster. It also means you won’t need to wait while bonus games for slots initiate.
The downside of apps is that the game selection is usually limited. While the browser-based casinos can have 100’s of titles, you might only find 30 on a typical app.
I recommend the browser-based games for a different reason – you are not tied to a single casino. With an app you are limited to what one casino has to offer, at least until you download a new casino app. If you play in your browser, you can switch casino with just a click.
Are Online Casino Reviews Trustworthy?
Most of the online casino reviews you’ll read online are bland, generic (you could change the name of the casino and nobody would notice!) and overwhelmingly positive.
There are some trustworthy reviews, though an average review at an unknown website should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Here are some ‘red flags’ I look out for when reading casino reviews:
- Recommending an unknown brand licensed by a Caribbean island
- Overly exuberant wording, often written by non-natives
- Long lists of casinos with exactly the same software and similar bonuses
- Skimming over licensing and legal aspects and focusing on bonuses
Are Live Dealer Games Fair?
Live dealer casinos stream card games and roulette from remote studios. You can bet on them via your computer or tablet. These casinos use automatic shuffling machines, you will also see the dealer cut the deck in real time before the hands are dealt.
Even though everything is visible to all players, there are still some players that worry the games are somehow rigged. If you want to reassure yourself that they are not recorded, you can chat to the dealers (via text). Try it next time you play, you will often get a friendly (verbal) reply!
What Happens if I Win a Jackpot?
Some of the jackpot prizes at online casinos are involve life-changing money. Prizes of 19 million Euros have been won on slots – and pay outs of $1 million+ are common.
What happens when you win depends on the ‘small print’ of your casino. Some will pay monthly (sometimes with limited amounts), while others will give you a lump sum. Jackpots are a great reason to stick with legal and regulated brands – when you do win the big one, you want to be sure that you’ll get what is due.
What is the Difference Between a Download and No-Download Casino?
In the past, all casinos required you to download a software package onto your PC. In one way this was good – having the graphics files locally gave you fast, smooth casino games. On the other hand, each software package was created by a different software house. This meant that the game selection of each downloadable casino was limited to just one brand.
There are still downloadable casinos, though most brands now offer their games in no-download format. You simply play them in your browser window. These games use a combination of HTML5, Flash and sometimes Java. With no software needed, casinos now include games from many different casino software makers – giving you more choice.
What are the Easiest Methods to Deposit and Cash Out of an Online Casino?
A big advantage of sticking to reputable and legal casino brands is that you have a lot of deposit options. These include credit or debit cards, electronic wallets (PayPal and similar), 3rd party gateways like Canada’s ‘InstaDebit’, voucher systems like PaySafeCard and virtual / prepaid Visa cards too. If you are playing in NJ or DE, you can also deposit via B&M casinos, or using VIP services linked to these.
Casinos protect themselves from money laundering by aiming to process cash outs to the same method you deposited with where this is possible. Alternatives include local bank transfers and even old-fashioned paper checks.
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