Real Money Online Casinos: Facts, Figures and History
The online gambling industry is vast, taking in global revenues of around £42 billion ($53 billion) every year. In the UK alone, the Gambling Commission reports over 200 active licenses, with the number of UK online casinos growing monthly.
While many people are signing up for the first time, gambling online actually has a surprisingly long history. And the roots surprise some players as well.
Back in 1994, the Caribbean island of Antigua passed what seemed to be a minor piece of legislation called the “Free Trade & Processing Act”. Responding to the growth of the World Wide Web, the government of Antigua included the first measures to issue online gambling licenses – and it still plays a major role in the sector.
In 1994, an Isle of Man-based company called Microgaming also came up with the first viable software to host online casinos, while CryptoLogic came up with the technology needed to secure that software, enabling global transactions and wagers in real money. When InterCasino debuted in 1996, the revolution had well and truly begun.
By 1998, the online sector was reputedly worth about $830 million per year – mainly from online poker sites. 1999 saw new functionality emerge, as players gained the ability to join multi-player casino games. Perhaps more importantly, efforts to prohibit online casinos in the USA failed, and the trickle of gamblers steadily built into a flood.
2002 saw the first $1 million online jackpot on a progressive slot, but it also saw moves to cool down the sector. The UK government talked about issuing “kitemarks” to responsible operators. It also put its weight behind eCOGRA – an independent London-based regulatory agency, founded in 2003. To this day, eCOGRA sets the global agenda for online gambling, helping to ensure that standards are maintained, and consumers receive fair treatment.
Technology has continued to widen the scope of online gambling. From VR croupiers to smartphone slots, the new online casinos of today are far beyond anything imaginable in 1996. They have also grown up, being regulated by national authorities like regular casinos. But what do they offer, and which one is right for you? That's where we come in.
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Every online casino is different – just like their bricks and mortar equivalents. But the ways they differ can be hard to understand for new players, and choosing the wrong casino can ruin the experience. This makes it really important to know what sets casinos apart, and which features suit your personal needs.
First off, every casino has at least one “license”. This is granted by countries to operators who meet regulatory requirements, so it's essentially a seal of approval for their basic integrity. All UK operators should have a “Remote casino operating licence” from the Gambling Commission (UKGC). You may also see that casinos have licenses from Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar or further afield, which usually shows their place of origin.
Secondly, check which games are hosted by each casino. Some prioritise online slots, while others try to create an authentic casino atmosphere with craps, roulette, poker, and blackjack. Some offer VR dealers, while others are all about keeping things simple – ideal for mobile gamblers. The mix varies between casinos, so check listings carefully.
Game providers also come into the picture. Microgaming is the largest game provider, while NetEnt has a reputation for crafting innovative slots which offer more “volatility” and free spins. There are other providers as well, such as Play N Go or Yggdrasil. If you’re new to online casinos it’s a good idea to play a few games to get a feel for what they have to offer, and which you enjoy the most.
Payouts are another factor. Some casinos offer BitCoin payments, while many now cater for Skrill, PayPal, or Neteller customers. But some rely on traditional card payments. Payout limits and times can vary, so be sure to keep that in mind as well.
Then there's customer support. In the worse cases, support can simply be an email contact form. However, the best online casinos offer 24/7 in-person assistance and phone lines, and having somewhere to go for help can really matter if problems arise.
Finally, don't forget to check out player feedback. We allow gamblers to rate every casino in our listings, or to leave detailed reviews of their experiences. They can provide a great snapshot of how the casino “feels”, and how user-friendly it is – information that data sheets can miss.
Mobile Casinos Online - Play on the move
The advent of the smartphone has launched a golden age for mobile casinos, allowing gamblers to play poker hands, spin roulette wheels, or slots wherever they happen to be. The earliest mobile slot is generally thought to be “Pub Fruity”, which was created by Vodafone in 2004, but the appearance of the iPhone in 2007 kick-started a period of exponential growth in mobile gambling. And that growth still continues, with new apps competing for customer attention all the time.
Thanks to Flash and HTML5 coding, mobile casinos can operate seamlessly on Android and iOS devices, so there's no need to worry about compatibility. If you have a reasonably recent smartphone model, running the casino apps themselves shouldn't pose any problems.
When you fire them up, expect some surprises. In many cases, mobile casinos provide more than players enjoy with conventional slots or table games. Developers have realised that fusing mobile gaming with casino experiences can result in a much more immersive experience. So you should find slots which include gaming elements, beautiful graphics, and entertaining sounds.
Mobile casino games also tend to be designed with simplicity in mind. Their users tend to be commuting, on the move, or playing quick rounds so as a result, they aren't supposed to be complex. Players can generally load them up, master the rules, and start gambling straight away.
Having said that, mobile casino operators aren't all superstars. You can see which companies offer fast loading speeds, diverse games, high payouts, reliable software, and strong customer service.
We also make it easy to compare the bonuses offered by mobile casinos, ensuring that you won’t miss out on introductory offers. Many mobile casinos provide “no deposit” bonuses for new customers, while their desktop equivalents do not. But the amounts offered vary wildly, along with their terms and conditions.
So before installing any apps on your phone, it's a smart move to take a look at our listings and compare the main contenders. Then simply click through to the casino's download page.
Top Online Casinos - Create a list of your favourite casino sites
The sheer choice of online desktop and mobile casinos is great news for gamblers, but it can also be a little overwhelming, particularly for new players. When you browse listings and try a selection of providers, some of them will meet expectations, while others will disappoint. But how can you remember the outstanding online casinos, and make sure you include them in your gaming routine?
Our favourites tool has been designed to work around this problem. With this simple feature, you can compile personalised lists of the casinos you have visited. Each one of them can be rated and ranked, resulting in a unique league table of the finest operators around.
Each user can create as many lists as they like, so feel free to experiment and organise providers in a way that makes the most sense to you. If you're into slots, it's easy to separate specialist casinos from the pack. That way, you’ll have an instant go-to resource when you feel like a few spins on the way to work.
You can make lists of casino sites which offer particular types of game, such as NetEnt or Microgaming machines. And when you find an unusual slot that you love, creating a list of providers who carry it will make sure your favourite game doesn't get lost in the background.
If you want to have the best table game providers close to hand, that's fine as well. We make it easy to to maintain lists of sites which offer versions of poker, roulette, craps, and blackjack that are up to standard.
The favourites tool can also come into its own for those who want to be systematic about payouts. Log the sites that payout the most, and keep a record of the casinos that have been the most lucrative places to play. Or categorise casinos by customer service to ensure that you'll always be able to reach support teams when help is required.
You can also create a favourites list based on highly rated casinos by our users. If you're new to online casinos and need a starting point, there's no better way to begin.
What to do Before Depositing at Real Money Online Casino
Making your first deposit with online casinos should be fairly stress-free. However, it's best to be prepared if you want to deposit money safely and gain maximum benefit from the gambling experience.
Firstly, ensure that you are depositing with a licensed operator. If you follow a link from our casino site, that shouldn't be an issue, as almost every casino listed at our site is licensed by the UK authorities or MGA - Malta Gambling Authority.
Now, you'll need to sign up with the online casino of your choice, which will always involve age verification. According to 2019 regulations from the UK's Gambling Commission, gamblers must be aged 18+, and proof of age needs to be provided when you apply. You will also need to provide an address and your full name.
Before depositing any money or wagering a penny, euro or dollar you may want to try a few games for free. Most online slots have free modes, and they are a good way to get a feel for how the games play. It's also worth checking that the casino operates SSL encryption. If not, your payment details could be at risk.
Online Casino Deposit and Withdrawal Options
Casinos offer a variety of ways to deposit money, including credit or debit cards, Skrill, Neteller, BitCoin, and PayPal. Cards tend to be the most popular payment option. However, PayPal and prepaid payment cards can offer greater privacy and security. If you have any doubts on those issues, avoiding card transactions is a wise move.
Once you've created an account and verified your age, depositing should be hassle free. Just enter the amount you'd like to credit to your account, provide your card or e-wallet details, and press send. Your account will then be bulging with coins to spend on slots or table games.
At the other end, things can be more complex. Casino sites want to make withdrawals as smooth as possible, but payments can be delayed for other reasons. For example, credit card companies can take a few days to process payments into bank accounts. The first time you make a withdrawal, you will probably need to supply ID as well, so keep a scan of your passport or drivers licence handy.
Online Casino Licenses
Licenses are an essential part of the gaming world, and they are something that all customers should know about. Essentially, these documents are provided by national regulators when they are satisfied that casinos meet local regulatory standards. In the UK, the Gambling Commission is the responsible body, every company listed at our site has to apply for UKGC accreditation or another license from major online gambling regulatory bodies.
Without licensing, online casinos would be open to abuse. They could become havens for fraudsters stealing deposits, or running unfair games to exploit their customers. They could easily become a place for minors and problem gamblers to lose money, or become part of money laundering chains.
The UK operates a stringent licensing regime, offering excellent security for gamblers, but it's not the only licensing authority. As you'll see when you browse the Casino Horse online casino listings, common licensing bodies include gambling commissions in Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Curacao, and Alderney (in the Channel Islands), you can check gambling regulations for every country on casinos by country page.
However, it's safe to use the UK license as a reference point when choosing online casinos. UKGC takes a proactive role in protecting gamblers and penalising rogue operators, making its license a global gold standard together with MGA Malta Gambling Authority and Spelinspektionen which is responsible for regulation of online casinos operating in Sweden.
The anonymity and speed of cryptocurrency makes it a natural fit for online casinos, and gambling companies have been among the most prominent users of currencies like Etherium or BitCoin. But is using cryptocurrency a good move for online gamblers?
There are certainly plenty of potential benefits to adopting cryptocurrency gambling. f you want to remain secure when wagering, currencies like BitCoin or gambling-based alternatives like UniKoinGold will probably be attractive. Players can just enter their coin ID and forget about providing credit card numbers or an email address. Cryptocurrencies can also be deposited or withdrawn more quickly than conventional payment methods, smoothing the whole gambling experience.
Supporters of cryptocurrency-based gambling also see huge gains for everyday players from the introduction of blockchain-based sites. In theory, automated blockchain-based systems can bring “house edges” down to virtually zero, minimising the amount that casinos earn from their user base. Blockchains can be used to prove that wagering on slots or poker games isn't rigged – enhancing the trust between casinos and players.
All of these reasons mean that online casinos are sure to integrate cryptocurrency more and more. Not all operators do so, and some only offer Bitcoin (not less popular currencies like Litecoin). Check the Casino Horse listings to find out which casinos have joined the crypto-revolution, and which ones are lagging behind.
It's also important to be cautious when using cryptocurrencies for online gambling. Not all crypto-friendly online casinos are properly regulated or secure. The ones that are reputable tend to offer generous bonuses for sign-ups, but less dependable operators also use bonuses to entice unwary customers. Be sure to consult Casino Horse for the low down on which casinos to trust, and check the customer reviews for first hand experiences.
Virtual Reality Online Casinos
VR has been the “technology of tomorrow” for decades now, but it has well and truly arrived in the online casino sector. In fact, online gambling is surely one of the great VR success stories, showing how this technology can serve customers in a totally new, potentially revolutionary way.
One of the major drawbacks of online casino apps is the contrast between playing digital slots or table games, and the enjoyment of visiting an actual casino. The interaction with other gamblers and croupiers, the sights and sounds of chips, wheels, cards, slots – all come together to make casinos special places to be. VR may well solve that problem.
VR casinos use wearable headsets to create realistic gambling environments. There aren't many to choose from at the moment, but VR is likely to be a growth area in the UK gambling sector, and the potential is limitless.
When you visit virtual casinos, you will be transported to digital representations of actual casinos, complete with luxurious furnishings, ambient music, and even the view of cityscapes from upper story windows. You can wander from roulette tables to slots, join live multiplayer poker matches with other VR users, consult dealers and support teams via voice chat, and much more. It's way ahead of simple smartphone casinos.
As with all new technologies, there will be teething problems, and some operators won't get VR right. This makes it important to compare VR casinos via CasinoHorse before signing up (or buying expensive headsets). And check customer feedback to verify that the experience matches the marketing hype.
There's one other important aspect of VR gaming that can catch users out. All players will need to ensure that their computers meet the required specifications. Not all systems can handle VR graphics, and some may experience sluggish frame rates. When you're placing bets on a hectic live roulette table, lag is the last thing you need.
Enjoy Licensed Online Casinos
Save your gambling for the poker table. Whether you are a complete newcomer or a veteran online gamer. We offer informative profiles of the world's best online casinos, allowing players to eliminate risk. Instead, you can zero in on safe, enjoyable places to wager and win.
User feedback is at the heart of our website. We want gamblers to share their experiences of popular online casinos, so that others can make informed decisions about where to play. With feedback arriving all the time, users can instantly see how different casinos compare, and which ones are ahead of the game.
At the same time, we mix user input with contributions from industry experts, who have helped to compile in-depth profiles for every single online casino. If you want to know average payouts, current bonus promotions, which slots are available, and ways to deposit money, it's all available to browse.
We also place a premium on safety and trust. That's why we make sure that every casino listed is properly licensed, and that users can find out all they need to know before signing up. There's no need to risk your privacy or deal with unfair operators. Instead, our listings can guide you to casinos that always treat players well.
With the favourites tool, our users can compare, and store casinos for future use. Read listings and try a few contenders, then create a personal record of your favourites. It's easy to filter the best casinos in the world, resulting in a few standouts that suit your personal needs.
There are hundreds of online casinos in the UK, and many more worldwide. Many of them are amazing companies, providing immersive, exciting experiences for their customers, from next-generation slots to VR poker. We want you to track them down. So take a look at our listings, compare ratings, and take the plunge knowing you’re playing safely and securely.