Pretty much as soon as the internet went live, people were looking at ways of gambing on it – with the first online casinos appearing as early as 1994, before many of us even had email addresses. Or, for you whiper snappers, were even born.
The online casino world has changed quite a bit over the past 20 years, and there are literally hundreds of different casinos offering thousands of games. In this section we’ll guide you through the key things you’ll need to know when playing online including what you can play and where, what bonuses are on offer and, most importantly, which online casino sites we recommend.
Below you’ll find a list of safe online casinos, all of which are appropriately licensed and run games from reputable software providers.
Best Casino Sites For 2021
Playing Online: RNG or Live Dealers?
In the world of online casinos, there are two main types of games on offer: live ones and computerised offerings. The ones that are controlled by computer includes both slots and versions of classic games such as blackjack and three-card poker. These use what are known as Random Number Generators, or RNGs, in order to decide the outcome. Obviously they differ in many aspects from games with live casino dealers.
Yet what are the major differences? Is one type of game better than another? The vast majority of online casinos will offer both nowadays, so it’s likely that you’ll have to choose which one is for you if you’re going to look to some betting over the internet rather than in a physical casino. It goes without saying that the live dealer option is more likely to reflect a real-life scenario, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will offer what you’re after.
The Benefits of Live Dealers
If you head to the live casino section of a gambling site then you’ll be presented with countless different games that have live dealers. They are designed to reflect the real world, so they will have a chat with the customers and some will even offer advice if they’re allowed to. The key feature of this form of gambling is that it takes place in real-time and with an actual human being dealing the cards or spinning the roulette wheel.
For many, the presence of a real person will alleviate any fears that they’re being ‘cheated’ by an algorithm or a computer that is ‘fixing’ things for the benefit of the casino. They offer the feeling of being in a bricks and mortar casino, which most people feel more comfortable about. As in a real casino, other people playing the game alongside you will make different choices, so you might find out whether you made the correct decision or not.
As an example, if you’re playing blackjack and you’ve been dealt an ace and an eight, giving you nine or nineteen, you might decide to stand. On a computerised game you’ll then simply be shown the dealers cards and the game will be over. With a live dealer, however, someone else might decide to treat the hand as a nine and be dealt another card. You’ll soon see whether you made the right decision if they bust out or hit twenty.
The other key thing about live dealer games over those controlled by Random Number Generators is that they go at a much slower pace. The dealer needs to deal the cards, wait for everyone to make their decision, enter the cards into the shuffling machine and so on. Things move somewhat more sedately than with RNG games, meaning that you won’t be spending money at a rate of knots and can be more sensible with your money.
The Benefits of RNGs
Whilst there are numerous benefits to playing games with live dealers, there are also several drawbacks. For starters, the variation in games is somewhat limited because there are only so many versions of something that will work with live dealers. The same is not true when it comes to computerised games, of which there can be countless. To clarify, a Random Number Generator is software that decides the outcome of a game being played.
The RNGs used in online casinos are tested on a regular basis to ensure that they’re fair, ensuring that games are trustworthy and work correctly. That should alleviate any fears that users have over them being computerised rather than involving human operators. The lack of humans will obviously appeal to some players, not having to deal with communicating with anyone in the same way that you would with a live dealer.
RNG-controlled games have what is known as a Return To Player percentage. Otherwise referred to as an RTP, this is how much the players will be paid back over a long period of playing. Say that the RTP is 97%, that would theoretically mean that you’d lose £3 in every £100 you spent. In practice, of course, it is based over hundreds of hours of play and countless different players, so you might lose £50 whilst someone else wins it.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to your preference of game type. Some people enjoy the solitude of computerised games that are controlled fairly by RNGs, whilst others love the live dealer experience and the fact that it makes them feel more like they’re in a real-life casino. Deciding which one you prefer can only be done by playing both types of game and seeing if you enjoy one more than the other.
Do Casinos Make Their Own Games?
The sheer number of online casinos can be overwhelming for someone not all that used to the world of internet gambling. For those that have spent a bit of time playing games on a few different sites, however, it soon becomes clear that there is a huge overlap in the games that are on offer from one site to the next. By that we don’t just mean that they’ve all got roulette, but rather that it is the same roulette on two completely different sites.
This is because multiple casinos can use the same provider for their games, with many software providers licensing what they’ve created out to several sites. At the same time, two casinos could be using the same platform but have totally different games from each other depending on what they’ve chosen to licence in. One way around this is for an online casino to create their own games, but in actuality not many of them do.
This is because it is both time-consuming and costly for companies to create their own games when it is so much easier to simply licence them from companies that already exist and have done the leg work of creating them. In other words, a massive online company isn’t likely to spend the time and money creating something that already exists when they can instead just pay to be able to use the version of it that’s out there already.
The software providers will usually sell their wares to any company that can afford to pay for it, but there are different levels of games for companies to choose from. A relatively new and small online casino might only buy slot games and RNG-controlled computerised table games, for example. At the same time, a bigger company with more money might take all of those and also pay for a live dealer experience, rebranding it all so it looks like it’s exclusive to them.
The result of this way of working is that you could have two online casinos on the same platform having different games from each other, or you could have two online casinos on different platforms having the same games. It’s a complex world, but the important thing to remember is that casinos will often have the games branded to look like they’ve created them. Casinos can make their own games, it’s just that many don’t bother.
Can Casinos Cheat or Rig the Games?
One of the main things that people who gamble online want to know is whether the casino that they’re using can cheat in order to take their money. In short, no they can’t; at least not if you use casinos that are licensed and regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. This is because online casinos have to meet certain criteria in order to gain a licence to operate in the UK, which includes regular auditing of their online games.
The fact that the vast majority of casinos don’t have their own games and instead licence them from software providers also limits the chance of any cheating. Games aren’t controlled by the online casinos and are instead the providence of the software providers, who keep them on their own servers and have zero vested interest in seeing a casino cheat players out of money. Developers are usually paid according to turnover, not prize money.
Let’s also not forget that casinos have no need to cheat. The simple fact is that casinos are designed in order to make money whatever happens. The vigorish is built into every single game to ensure that a casino will make money in the long-run irrespective of what happens to your personal bets. Indeed, they stand to lose far more by trying to rig a game for a small profit than they’ll gain by simply letting the games play out naturally.
On top of that, the sheer amount of choice in the world of online casinos means that you, the user, can just go to a different casino if you don’t feel comfortable using the one that you’re on. For that reason, companies that run the sites know that it is in their best interest to keep customers happy and not have a reputation of being mean with payouts. The more customers they can attract, the more money they will earn fairly without the need to cheat.
Who Are the Top Games Developers
Now that we know that the vast majority of online casinos outsource their games, the natural question to ask is which companies are the top developers of such games. It’s worth noting that ‘top’ doesn’t necessarily mean the biggest in terms of output. There are some developers that only have one game or type of game to offer, but are quite influential in the world of online gaming. We’ll have a look at all of the best ones here.
Having been established in 1999, Playtech went on to become one of the biggest names in casino software development. Whilst they’re known for their online casino games, the company also offers the likes of bingo, poker rooms and even sportsbooks. Used by some of the biggest casinos in the business, they have both live dealer games and licensed slots.
Operating in the industry since 1994, Microgaming might well be the best casino software provider on the market. They have an online poker network, have developed Virtual Reality gaming and are relatively selective about the companies that they work with. If you’ve heard of Mega Moolah, which is a progressive game that has paid out millions in jackpots, then you’re familiar with Microgaming’s work.
If you pick a name such as Evolution Gaming for your company then you better make sure that you’ve got the ability to move with the times and offer exceptional gaming for your clients. Thankfully they’ve been doing just that since 2006, winning numerous awards since then and working with most of the best operators. They only tend to work with top-quality casinos, offering VIP gaming for high rollers.
International Gaming Technology, better known to most by the acronym of IGT, has been operating in the world of gambling since 1971. They’ve matched that industry know-how with technological advancements to move from the world of bricks and mortar casinos to the online world, gaining a brilliant reputation along the way. This includes the ability to offer licensed games from the likes of Family Guy, Ghostbusters and Wheel Of Fortune.
Net Entertainment, to give the company its full name, has been working in iGaming since 1996 and have a huge variety of games for online casinos to use. This includes their own live dealer games, which are operated in-house. Their selection of games is massive, ensuring that those that use their services are unlikely to be disappointed. Some big, well-known casinos in the UK are powered by NetEnt’s offerings.
Big Time Gaming
BGT, which stands for Big Time Gaming, might not be the best-known of developers on this list but the games that they offer certainly are. They are the team that created the Megaways slot experience, which completely revolutionised the world of online slot machines. They’ve continued to innovate since then, working on other ways to change the way that we play games that many people thought couldn’t be messed with.
As more time has passed in the world of online casinos, more and more operators have come to realise that jackpots are one of the best ways of bringing people to their sites. That’s because people are keen to win a jackpot in order to see their lives totally changed, believing that a small investment for a large payout is worth the risk. For that reason, jackpot games are pretty much everywhere that you look in online casinos.
Most jackpots operate as progressives, where a portion of the wager is added to a pool which is then paid out to the winner, although sometimes a portion of the jackpot pool is retained to seed the next jackpot so that it doesn’t start from zero.
The current world record for an online slot jackpot stands at over €18.9 million which was won playing Mega Moolah – a popular Microgaming progressive that certainly lives up to it’s name. The previous world record was also set on this game, winning the lucky Welsh player around €17.8 million (just over £13 million at the time).
One of the most popular things in recent times has been the use of daily jackpots. This is a progressive jackpot that increases in size every time a game is played but that must be won each day. Obviously the appeal of this is the thought that it will be triggered at some point in the day, thereby encouraging people to come back regularly in order to try and win it. The fact that there has to be a winner intrigues most punters, hoping that it will be them.
The other key thing about the daily jackpot is that with most sites it can be triggered playing the bare minimum stake. The amount will often reach into six figures and it can be won at any time and usually involve several different games being linked together to ensure that the jackpot keeps increasing. The sheer volume of players who will be trying to win daily jackpots reduces your chance of doing so, but someone has to win it.
Must Win Jackpots
Another type of jackpot which is just as enticing for players is the must win jackpot. As the name suggests, the jackpot must be won before something happens, with the something usually being the jackpot reaching a certain figure in terms of its payout. If a jackpot’s ‘must win’ figure is £200,000, for example, that doesn’t mean that it will wait until it gets to that amount before being triggered and given to a winner.
Instead, it simply means that the jackpot amount won’t be able to go any higher than £200,000 before its triggered. The jackpot will keep increasing with every play, with a small amount of money being added to it in order to ensure that it grows. The money from several different games is pooled together, so it might not be someone playing the game that you’re playing that actually wins the jackpot when it eventually falls.