Licensing, Regulation, and Security
You won’t find a single online casino on our site that doesn’t have an appropriate operating licence. Here’s what that means.
Valid licences protect players from various online threats, and ensure a fair and safe gambling experience at casino sites. By gambling at a casino without a licence from regulators like the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), players can be left vulnerable to hacks, frauds, and phishing attempts, and can unjustly miss out on winnings due to unregulated or rigged casino games. Licensing is the first port-of-call in our review process, and we stress that you should never place a bet at an unlicensed casino.
In order to attain a valid licence, casino sites are independently audited on a regular basis throughout the year. These audits fall into the jurisdiction of regulators such as eCOGRA, which itself assesses the financial records and functioning of games to ensure everything is as it should be.
Data and Transaction Encryption
UKGC regulations demand that all transactions and customer data are private and encrypted. Nevertheless, our online casino reviews take a look at the tech deployed at each of our site recommendations to make sure customer data is managed securely.
Gambling is a form of entertainment. That’s why our reviews survey game selection, believing that the more variety in a casino’s games library, the better the experience. Here’s how we evaluate the elements that make casino games fair and fun.
Whether it’s table games like roulette, card games like blackjack, or the latest video slots, many online casinos have a specialism when it comes to their games. There’s nothing wrong with this, but our ranking system reflects well on those that offer a wide-range of casino games – not simply in terms of volume, but also in terms of game variations, such as a variety of different poker formats.
Return to player (RTP) is one of the main areas of interest in online casino audits. RTP is a figure that shows how much wagered money will be paid back to players on a particular game over time. It’s given as a percentage and is usually around 90% – this means that, theoretically, players could win £90 when they wager £100 at a game with 90% RTP.
It’s important to remember, however, that RTP is calculated over hundreds of thousands of spins, if not millions, and so RTP is very unlikely to be reflected in an individual play session. Nevertheless, casino sites tend to pack out their slot titles with high RTP percentages to attract more players.
A progressive jackpot is a jackpot that increases each time a game is played but not won. Progressive jackpots are a prominent feature of casino slots, and offer players the chance to land a big win. These jackpots can either accumulate within individual slots titles, or as part of a network of slots, the latter of which resulting in far bigger jackpots to be won while spreading (and thinning) the odds of winning across multiple games.
It’s testament to the quality of a game if it can be enjoyed without the gambling element. Free-to-play versions also help equip those unfamiliar with the game – or the online gambling world in general – with knowledge of how it works before committing real money to wagers. Our reviews favour sites with a wide selection of free games and demos, as well as real money variants.
For big releases, some casinos and game developers enable players to download the software onto their desktop or mobile device to let them immerse themselves in the game. Downloading the software may also unlock a series of in-play bonuses or promotions, and open up players to more gameplay options.
We’re always on the lookout for the visionaries in the online gambling world. The development of new technology innovations like VR and AR lends itself well to online casinos games, and operators that look to introduce new ways of gaming to their customers are highly valued by our expert team of site reviewers.
The user experience (UX) isn’t necessarily a top priority for every player, but it makes up an integral part of our reviewing process – here’s what it means to us.
Visuals and Site Design
First impressions go a long way. The aesthetics and general design of a site will generate an immediate reaction from an online gambler, and will have some level of influence over their decision to play at the site. That’s how we see it anyway, and we’re quick to highlight well-designed sites in our reviews.
Usability and Functions
Has the layout of the site been well thought out, and does it offer players quick and easy access to all of its features? The sites that perform well here have simple filters available for players to navigate their extensive game libraries, as well as a range of on-site limiters and account management tools.
Online gambling is a crowded market. With so many casinos to choose from, our reviews look to praise those that offer unique and innovative features to their customers. We pay close attention to each site’s individual identity, and assess for ourselves how effective its characteristics are in a competitive field.
Bonuses, Promotions and Terms
At the top of most prospective gamblers’ wish lists are generous, regular, and realistic player bonuses and promotions. These considerations go beyond the attraction of initial welcome bonuses – though these are an important part of any casino site’s offering – as we also assess the added value a punter can gain from consistent bonus offers and the terms attached to them.
Bonus Availability and Quality
The types of casino bonus on offer at each site will depend on the kinds of games that site offers. For example, if an online casino has an emphasis on slots, it’s likely that most of its bonus offers will focus on free spins. What’s important is that casino bonuses are an integral part of the site’s service, and that it regularly offers high quality bonuses to both new and existing players.
Promotions and VIP Packages
The best online casinos offer a series of regular promotions on top of their bonus packages. These promotions may be tied to a specific date or event, and will be easily accessible for all casino members. The highest-ranking online casinos in this category will also have VIP schemes in place, offering players a chance to take their seat at the high table. These VIP schemes give punters opportunities to receive more personalised customer service, friendlier terms and conditions, and access to exclusive tournaments and games.
Terms and Conditions
None of us like them, but terms and conditions are as much a part of online casinos as the bonuses they’re attached to. Our online casino reviews evaluate the nature of the T&Cs of each site, and whether or not they represent a fair chance for players to cash in on bonuses and promotions. Terms and conditions occupy a vital part of our reviewing process, which includes in-depth analysis of the following: wagering requirements, time limits, winning caps, game weightings, game exclusions, payment exclusions, and more.
The mobile revolution has changed the way we gamble – not just in terms of our gaming habits, but also in how we pay for our gameplay. Let’s break this down a little further.
Mobile-optimised websites are now a minimum requirement for the top UK casino sites. An optimised website is one that adapts seamlessly to mobile devices, operates smoothly with touchscreen controls, and reshapes to smaller screens without sacrificing functionality. It’s also important for a site’s mobile capabilities to be unrestricted by the user’s browser choice, or whether they’re using Android or iOS operating systems.
Mobile App Availability
As well as mobile-optimisation, the best online casinos will also have their own dedicated apps available to download. This is a highly valued category in our reviewing process, and we almost always recommend downloading these apps if they’re available. Native apps not only offer great functionality and sleek user interfaces, but easy access to push notifications also offers players the best chance at capitalising on a site’s various bonuses and promotional offers.
A growing trend for online gamblers is to play at live casinos – a casino offering that uses video streaming technology to place punters in a real casino environment from the comfort of their own home. This trend’s growth has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with players craving an authentic casino experience in the absence of visits to brick-and-mortar casinos. Here’s a breakdown of what we look for to identify the best live casinos.
Live Casino Availability
Live dealer casino games play out in real-time – a real croupier takes and places bets, while dealing and conversing with players at the virtual table. Their availability offers players a slower change of pace to the oftentimes frantic world of typical online casino games, along with a more personalised casino experience. Casino sites that have both online and live gaming options available offer an interesting mix to their customers, and it’s great to have the option to switch between the two flavours.
Table games such as roulette, poker, and blackjack lend themselves particularly well to live casino games, and the top software providers in this space include Evolution Gaming, Playtech, and NetEnt. However, there’s no shortage of games at live casinos, and some developers have also taken classic board game and TV-based game shows and adapted them for live casinos.
Live casinos live and die by the quality of their streams. HD streams are par for the course at live casinos, and the best of these tend to include multi-camera studios designed to create a fully immersive experience.
Payments and Payment Processing
High on most online gamblers’ priorities is the range and speed of payment methods available at gambling sites, and this section makes up another seminal part of our online casino reviews. This can be broken down into the following two areas.
Available Banking Options
The top UK casinos will have a long payment method menu for their customers – including debit cards, e-wallets, pay by mobile services, prepaid cards, and even cryptocurrencies. Depth in this area benefits the user, as it allows them flexibility not only in how they make their deposits, but also in terms of deposit and withdrawal limits. When we review the banking options of an online casino, we also consider how prevalent payment exclusions are in the terms and conditions of their casino bonuses.
Processing Speeds and Fast Withdrawals
Having a range of banking options also allows for fast withdrawals – the time it takes from the moment a withdrawal request is made to the cash arriving in the specified account. The older payment technologies, such as debit cards, are slow in this area, as the combined processing times of both banks and casino operators can take up to and beyond five working days. Other methods, like e-wallets, often cut this time down to within 24 hours, and the best fast withdrawal casinos can offer their customers instant payouts. Some casino sites prioritise fast withdrawals as a key selling point, allocating larger resources to making it happen and pleasing their customers in the process – such sites are heavily favoured in this part of our reviews.
Online casinos will host a variety of games from a variety of software providers. Let’s take a look at who these developers are and what they bring to the table.
As well as the developers we mentioned in the live casino section, other major developer names include, but are not limited to: Microgaming, Pragmatic Play, and Play’n GO. These developers have been creating gaming software for decades, engendering the rise not only of online casino software but of mobile casino software, too. Casino sites’ game libraries can be built out by partnerships with these software providers, developing the next iteration of much-loved casino games as a response to the successes of existing games on the top sites.
Players may find they develop an affinity with a particular game developer, but having a games collection that represents a broad range of developers widens a casino’s appeal. These casinos offer players plenty of choice in terms of style, design, and gameplay features, and are often given a tick from us in our online casino reviews.
A bit of tension is part of the gambling experience. In these moments, players want the security and comfort of knowing they can rely on outstanding customer support to address any problems or queries they might have. These are the areas of customer support we assess.
Customer support availability involves both ease of access – including active responses 24 hours a day – and reply speed. If either of these two areas are inadequate, the other is impacted greatly. When time is of the essence, casino sites need to be on-hand to assist their customers in any way they can.
The best casino sites offer a host of different methods of delivery for customer support, and each medium’s availability is of great benefit to users. These channels include phone support, email, on-site chat features, and active social media accounts.
Last but not least, we consider the reputation of an online casino before we decide to list it on our site. Everyone’s a critic these days, and we pay attention to what’s being said – here’s how.
To garner a general feeling for user sentiment towards a particular site, we’ll head to the user reviews to see how a casino stands up to the toughest critics around. Our site is an impartial resource for the gambling community, so we take these reviews seriously to help reflect a casino’s qualities. If there are consistencies in user issues, then this is good evidence to suggest that there’s a probable inadequacy in the site. However, we also understand that online reviews aren’t always a reliable source, requiring us to occasionally take these reviews with a pinch of salt.
Online Gambling Communities
There’s a wide network of forums and platforms that make up the online gambling community, and we use these when trying to build a picture of a casino’s reputation in our reviews. Through a combination of user reviews and slightly more formal chat forums, we can develop a decent understanding of the community’s general feeling towards a casino site.
Through a consideration of all of the above sections, we can confidently arrive at a trustworthy account of an online casino. These are the areas that we know make the best casino sites just that – the best. We know this because we’re gamblers ourselves, committed to providing transparent, accurate, user-focused guides that promote the practice of responsible gambling in our users. If you think that our online casino reviews tick all the boxes, then we invite you to use and enjoy our site with confidence, and consult our recommendations for the top UK casinos around in July 2021.