Online gambling has changed a lot over the years. This industry was virtually non-existent in the 90s, and in the early 2000s its was split between online sports betting sites that advertised their odds online but took bets over the phone, and online casinos that had to be downloaded and were riddled with malware.
It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t secure, and it took years for online casinos to lose their reputation as malicious and suspicious sites.
These days, thankfully, it’s a highly regulated and very secure industry, but there are some bad apples in the bunch and players need to be vigilant if they want to avoid them.
Are There Scam Casinos?
Scam sites are somewhat rare in this industry, and there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, an online casino that operates fairly is able to generate huge profits. The house always wins, no matter how generous it may seem.
Secondly, online casinos can’t exist legally without official gaming licenses, and the regulatory authorities that provide these are very strict. Finally, this is a saturated industry. A scam casino would need to generate traffic, which means it would need to outbid other casinos on Adwords and other marketing platforms, none of which comes cheap.
But while out-and-out scams are rare, casinos with bad customer service and poor practices are not. What’s more, the laws governing welcome bonuses, loyalty bonuses and other freebies are very relaxed and they are basically allowed to get away with things that many players would consider a scam.
How to Spot a Safe Online Casino
To make sure the online casino you choose does not take liberties where bonuses and freebies are concerned, and that it ticks other boxes where safety and security is concerned, make sure you do the following before signing up:
1. Certificates and Regulators
First things first, make sure that the site has an SSL certificate and that it is regulated by one or more of the leading gaming authorities. The SSL certificate will show in the URL, and you can click on the padlock symbol to see which company it is attached to.
The regulatory information will show on the bottom of the homepage, but you should click it to make sure it checks out. Anyone can claim to be regulated, but not everyone can back it up.
The gaming software used by an online casino is a good indicator of whether it is legitimate or not. Software providers like Microgaming run regular audits on their games to ensure complete fairness and they don’t just license them to anybody.
It is a similar story with Playtech and NetEnt, but the opposite is true for Realtime Gaming. In fact, RTG, as they are known, are one of the only developers that lets their licensees tweak the payouts, giving them more control and making it less safe and fair for players as a result.
It is also possible for casinos to audit their software separately, and they often do this via a company known as eCOGRA. Look for the eCOGRA symbol on the bottom of the homepage to see if such an audit has taken place. If you click it, it should show you the full audit, along with all checks and payout details.
A good way to check the validity of a site is to just Google it. Scam sites are fleeting, so there will be very little info, if any, out there. Low quality sites, on the other hand, will return a plethora of bad reviews and warnings.
It is important to remember that most casinos have a lot of bad reviews, as most players only leave reviews when they have something bad to say. But there is a huge difference between the review profile of scam sites and genuine sites, and this will be immediately obvious if you Google it.
4. Social Media
If you can’t find much info on Google, take a look at their Facebook page. There should be a number of advertisements and if you look in the comments of these ads you will see what people really think.
This is a great way of seeing how generous and honest they are with their bonuses. Big bonuses are usually advertised through large Facebook campaigns, and if you check the comments of these campaigns you’ll hear from people who signed-up and tested those bonuses for themselves.
This is actually one of the things that turned us onto Winner, a gambling site that is now notorious for bad customer service and bonus terms, but managed to attract a huge number of players before its bad name was cemented.
If you had looked on their Facebook page months before these reports started to spread, you would have seen the beginnings of all the chaos, chaos that eventually led to Winner receiving a deluge of hate and to being blacklisted on most major review sites, ours included.
5. Payment Providers
Legitimate casinos operating in Europe and/or Australia will offer a wealth of payment methods, including cards and many of the best web wallets. Scam sites will focus on suspicious payment methods that either can not be traced or will not allow chargebacks, such as wire transfers, money orders and certain prepaid cards.
The Exceptions: USA Casino Scams
Scam sites may be rare in Europe, but it is a different story in the United States. That’s because online gambling exists in a grey area in the US, which creates a dangerous combination of desperate players and greedy scammers.
It is technically possible for a casino to legally offer gambling services in the United States, but doing so is very risky and problematic. The first issue is that few developers will want to do business with them, making games hard to come by. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, their payment options will be limited.
If they accept credit cards and debit cards then they can get in serious trouble. These are connected to US institutions and while it is technically not illegal for an oversea’s company to offer gambling services to players within the US, it is a different story when it comes to using certain payment services.
This basically rules out most web wallets like Skrill (as well as Neteller: see here) cards, and bank transfers, leaving only obscure methods like wire transfers, which are costly and slow. The final issue is that no self-respecting global casino brand wants to anger the US government. That’s why big brands stay well clear and the only brands that offer US gambling services are newer, smaller, and less reputable.
US Casino Scams
The rate of scams on US casinos is much higher than it is elsewhere, and because they don’t facilitate the use of certain payment methods and don’t use certain security measures, players also have less recourse for action if anything does go wrong.
You can follow some of the same criteria above to determine if a site is legitimate or not, but if you live in the United States you should acknowledge that you’re taking a big risk every time you gamble. Your security is always in the hands of others, and if anything goes wrong you might not be able to do anything about it.
What to do if a Casino Scams You
If you reside in a country where gambling is legal and you believe you have been scammed by a gambling site then there are a few things that you can do. It all depends on the circumstance.
If you have a bonus related issue, such as a casino who refuses to pay you your bonus, then there probably isn’t anything you can do.
Casinos are protected when it comes to freebies and any complaints will be met with references to their terms and conditions. The only thing you can do is complain about their underhanded methods on review sites and forums so that other players know to stay away.
If a betting site has robbed you of a winning payout because they settled a bet incorrectly, then the first thing you should do is voice your concerns to their customer support. Show them whatever proof you have and give them time to respond.
If they do not pursue the issue, then contact the gambling authority that regulates them, such as the UK Gambling Commission. They are there to mediate on such matters, but they are incredibly slow and nowhere near as helpful as many people assume.
In our previous dealings with them we found that they simply didn’t want to hear any player complaints and were always looking to side with the casino. But if you show them proof and remain calm about the issue, then they will have no choice but to settle in your favour.
Improbable String of Losses
Have you suffered from a string of losses that defies probability? Unfortunately, there might not be anything you can do.
We’ve all been there, we’ve all gotten angry and we’ve all believed that something suspicious is at play. But these games are often tested and audited before being released and even in the unlikely event that something was amiss, no amount of complaining would fix it.
If you are dealing with a small developer and have some statistical analysis to back up your claims then you may be able to make an exception. This has occurred in the past, with gamblers raising concerns and then proving those concerns on forums. But you have to have a lot of proof and be very persistent, because most casinos just don’t want to hear it.
If they are refusing to pay you your money even though you have met with their requests, then you should persist until at least a few weeks and then contact the gambling authority.
If they restrict your account as soon as you try to withdraw and don’t give you a valid reason, you should contact the gambling authority immediately and copy the casino into the email.
This process will be slow, as it takes most gambling authorities 2 to 6 weeks to reply to a single email, but in the meantime you can leave bad reviews, warnings, and complaints. Just let them know that you’re not going away.
If you have been scammed outright, with the casino disappearing along with your money then your only option is to initiate a chargeback. This will get you your money back, but only if you have used a credit card or PayPal.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important to stay clear of wire transfers. They are common with US casinos because of the legal issues discussed above, but they are also common with scam sites because they are hard, if not impossible, to reverse.
Casino Complaints: Be Vocal and Annoying
There are a lot of user review sites out there, as well as sites that have direct lines to casinos and will blacklist them if too many complaints are received. If anything negative happens and you don’t feel like you're getting anywhere with the casino, then you should place bad reviews and complaints on all these sites.
Some casinos won’t care, but the vast majority will. A single string of complaints from 1 user can cost a casino hundreds of potential customers, so they will often do what it takes to silence you.