Posts Tagged ‘online gambling tips’

Documenting Your Correspondence and Play While Inside the Online Casino is Always Better Safe Than Sorry

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

If only online gambling existed when this movie was made...

If only online gambling existed when this movie was made...

I recently came upon a forum post here at Online Casino Suite, in which our very own, Suitee, made a comment regarding how important it is to document one’s entire betting experience at any online casino. Whether such documentation includes keeping copies of all emails and live chat transcripts and or video taping one’s actual gaming session, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Not that every online casino out there is ready and willing to cheat you at any given moment, it’s simply that – just like in real life – shit happens.

Needless to say, it’s always advised to get things in writing when dealing with customer service at an online casino. Me personally, I wouldn’t even bother making the toll-free telephone call unless it’s about something menial, like what deposit methods are accepted or whether or not there are going to be any free roll slots tournaments in the coming week. Heck, you could even call just to see if someone answers – preferably a person who has a grasp of the English language. When it comes down to money matters, live chat is the best way to go if you want a fast answer, while email is always a surefire way to keep a detailed record of all your correspondences. Just be sure if you are using live chat to correspond with an online casino that you have a chat software module that enables you to record chat sessions downloaded onto your computer.

As for actually using a video camera to record betting sessions while inside the online casino, admittedly, this is something that takes a little more time, and is something which most players find to be a burden. If you don’t have a video camera, you might just want to look into some video recording software programs out there, which you can install directly onto your computer. Either way, you should record all your playing sessions. It’s really easier than you might think. Plus, if you’re ever one of the unlucky one’s to experience a software malfunction on a multi-thousand dollar win, you wouldn’t even think twice about hitting the record button.

Let me first say that software malfunctions are rare. Getting timed out while in the middle of a bet does happen more often (primarily due to one’s internet connection speed and ISP). However, the best online casinos use software that records the finished hand result even if it can’t be seen on the user’s end. Simply log back into the software platform, and the finished hand result (as well as any wager outcomes) will be updated and available for your perusal.

Even if a slot machine freezes immediately after the final spinning reel outcome and does not award the correct winning amount, online casino staff on the backend will be able to see the malfunction and manually adjust any wager discrepancies at a later time. Again, this does happen, albeit a rarity.

Of course, it helps if you have documented proof of such a malfunction – especially when we are talking about thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. For smaller wins, most online casino managers will step up to the plate and make any necessary changes to one’s balance (for the better) to reflect the payout that would have gone through had not the reels frozen up.

However, when dealing with a smaller online casino – perhaps under-regulated in an offshore jurisdiction like Costa Rica – there is a greater chance the online casino will ignore the malfunction altogether, ignore the players request for a balance correction, and in some cases, ban the player from logging back into his or her account.

This, my friends, is where the power of video documentation comes into play. Let’s say you had videotaped your gaming session and it had captured the actual moment in which the slot reels froze, you would then have substantial evidence that would be hard to dispute. Of course, this wouldn’t make a difference with the roguest of the rogue online casinos. But then again, you are an avid reader of OCS, so you wouldn’t even be playing at a rogue online casino to begin with, now would you? 🙂

How would the online casino know your evidence is something that was not doctored in PhotoShop or another graphics editing program of the like? Well, let’s just say that they would. Still frame captures have been used as evidence in the past for some highly noteworthy dispute mediations, and guess what? On more than one occasion, such still frames were found to be fraudulently doctored at the hands of skilled, albeit immoral gamblers looking for big payout.

On the contrary, timecoded videotape is rock-hard evidence. All it takes is setting up a small camera with decent resolution on a tripod just a few feet away from your computer screen. Use the zoom to frame in close on the screen and hit the record button whenever you start a new gambling session. While you will be changing out multiple tapes in rotation, all you really need is just one. At the end of 60 minutes (most mini DV tapes are 60 minutes in length, although I’ve seen 90 minute tapes), simply rewind the tape and begin recording over again.

Of course, if there was an online casino software malfunction that happened along the way, set that tape to the side to use for documented evidence. On that note, you might want to change out tapes with ten minutes padding at the end, just to prevent the tape ending midway in a wager. Also, be sure to label saved tapes and slide the “record over” tab in the direction that prevents the tape to be recorded over in the future. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently erase over your evidence.

Now, in terms of transferring said footage to your computer for use as an MPG4 or .mov attachment, all you need is to open Windows Movie Maker (for PC’s) or iMovie (for Mac’s) both of which are free programs on your respective computer platform. Very self explanatory, these programs will allow you to peruse through your footage and capture the exact section of videotape (by means of firewire…not a USB), which you would like to keep. The footage will then be saved in a format that can be shared via email, and that’s it!

While the primary hope is that you personally will never need to use such footage to dispute a win, I can’t stress enough how much having that record button on will ease your mind. It’s not going to hurt anything – and once you have a software program installed on your computer or the camera set up and ready to go, there’s nothing to it.

The Lack of Transparency of Technical Systems Testing (TST) Online Casino Fairness Certifications

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Handing out RNG Certifications Quick and Easy, but so what?

Handing out RNG Certifications Quick and Easy, but so what?

First off, let me just say that I’m in somewhat of a bad mood. Therefore, if I come across as a little caustic and biting in regards to what I’m about to pontificate on, you’ll know it’s not entirely without merit. Heck, I’m probably not giving myself enough credit, considering I’m generally a very nice guy. Living here in Brooklyn, NY, some people would even say “too nice”. In other words, I think many of you may very well agree that I have a goddamn right to be pissed off.

Let’s begin then, shall we? So, about a month ago, the team here at Online Casino Suite (small but powerful, let me tell ya) decided to start an in-depth blog series uncovering the finer points of online gambling regulation. In particular, we thought it would be most helpful to explore the range of independent fairness certifications being awarded to online casinos regulated in “iffy” jurisdictions or those not receiving any regulation whatsoever, i.e., Costa Rica. I’ve said this a million times over, but I guess one can’t say it enough – Costa Rica does not regulate online casinos. They simply hand out business licenses. Woo Hoo! Go Costa Rica! Right?

Anyhow, we decided to contact these online casino software “fairness certifiers” one by one, asking them if they would be so kind to explain just how far these certifications can guarantee a safe hand, and depending on the type of certification and the regulatory jurisdiction, whether or not some online casinos are potentially offering less fair odds than others.

The big software fairness certifiers – as you may already know – are Technical Systems Testing, Certified Fair Gaming, Gambling Associates, Price Waterhouse Coopers, BMM International and eCOGRA. And of course, many of the top government-run regulatory jurisdictions, such as the UK, Gibraltar and Malta, do certifying of their own.

Of all of these aforementioned companies, we decided to start with Technical Systems Testing, otherwise known as TST – the main reason being that we have come across more irregularities with online casinos boasting a certification with TST. For example, the most popular group of online casinos operating on the Top Game Software platform, Rome Partners, sports a TST fairness logo on the homepage of their sites. However, not only does this logo link to a press release from nearly a year ago (not an actual certification), the press release describes an accreditation of the Top Game software platform, not of each individual online casino.

Why does this matter? Well, for one, it is unclear which regulatory jurisdictions allow online casino operators to change the source code of their RNG. This is essentially what delivers a fair hand or more or less fair hand. So, for an online casino “licensed” in Costa Rica, where ongoing audits are not enforced, a TST certification of the software platform means absolutely nothing. The online casino operator could very well go in and change the source code at any time.

I dare anyone to challenge me on this and explain how this is NOT possible. Believe me, I’m not saying I know without a doubt. But where’s the information pointing to the contrary. Nobody is taking the time to explain anything. And to be honest, it should be freakin’ TST!!!! They’re supposedly handing out the certification, are they not? But guess what? All TST wants is for Online Casino Suite to do a positive write-up about them.

So ya, after contacting them with these questions, they replied and said these were “very good” questions, albeit the answers to said “very good questions” would be lengthy and require some time to prepare. They then proceeded to suggest a phone conversation as an alternative, but have since stopped replying to our emails to set up such a phone conversation.

So, where are you TST? Can you please explain the validity of your certifications? Can you please explain why online casinos like Rushmore Casino, Silver Oak, Aladdin’s Gold are not given a certificate to link to, but just simply say they are TST Certified. I’m not saying they are not – All of the aforementioned online casinos are great in my book. But where’s the transparency? It’s freakin’ ridiculous that a company as global as TST (tstglobal.com) does not have a policy in effect governing how casinos may or may not display a TST certified logo.

So, please get in touch with me, TST – devonchappell [at] onlinecasinosuite.com. In the meantime, I’m onto the next phase of this blog series and will be contacting Certified Fair Gambling (CFG), which also just so happens to accredit a large number of U.S. facing online casinos. Maybe they can provide some better answers. Or should I say, answers period?

Charting the Waters of USA Facing Online Casinos: The Lowdown on What to Expect

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Online gambling in the USA. Take note, it’s a tricky thing. And apparently, it’s not getting less tricky. Now, before I scare you away from gambling at a U.S. facing online casino, let me just say that “tricky” doesn’t necessarily mean impossible. Nor does it mean unsafe or unfair. Let’s face it – until the U.S. government gets its act together, Americans must simply accept the fact that there are far fewer options when making a wager online.

Furthermore, the processing of funds used for online casino gambling is no easy matter either. What exactly does that mean? Well, for the most part, it means that there are fewer deposit options and that withdrawals tend to take longer to process. It also means that if you happen to not get your money, i.e. duped by an unscrupulous online casino operator, there simply is no legal recourse to get your entitled funds.

That said, U.S. residents who just have to get their gambling fix online (which I really can’t criticize considering the odds are far better online than they are at a good ‘ol American land-based casino), need to use caution when surfing the waters of U.S. facing online casinos.

Chiefly, there are three software developers that permit their online casino licensees to accept U.S. wagers. They are Real Time Gaming, Vegas Technology and Rival Gaming. The big dogs – Microgaming, Playtech and Cryptologic – backed out of the U.S. market a long time ago (to their chagrin), while the smaller aforementioned outfits simply left it up to individual operators to choose for themselves whether or not to pursue the lucrative U.S. market.

The only problem is that NOT all of the online casino operators using these software providers are to be trusted. Not that they are all crooks (although some very likely are), the problem is that anybody with a fair amount of money to put down can open an online casino. Whether or not they can maintain the operation of an online casino without going bankrupt is another matter.

This is what differentiates a white label online casino from…well, a non-white label online casino. Stay tuned for future blog posts here at OCS for more clarification about this and how you can arm yourself with the knowledge to make safe decisions regarding which online casinos to play and which to avoid. In the meantime, please check out our best online casinos page for a shortlist of what OCS and many players consider to be the best online casinos accepting U.S. players. We have done the due diligence researching all of these sites, and their track records speak for themselves.

Online Casino Fairness 101: Turning to eCOGRA for Some Answers

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

fist

How about a fair fist! Demand transparency from online casinos!

I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I have to say that I am increasingly becoming frustrated with the uncertainty of getting a fair hand online gambling these days. With more and more online casinos boasting software fairness accreditation claims, yet no mention of monthly payout reports, I’m beginning to wonder what is really going on behind closed doors.

Maybe there’s other affiliate portal sites out there wondering the same. The only thing is that I don’t hear anybody asking the tough questions that need to be asked. Well then, no more I say! And who better to help the industry with these answers than the purveyor of the highest fairness and transparency standards out there today: eCOGRA.

That said, I, Devon Chappell (on behalf of Online Casino Suite), have decided to start a blog series that takes a close look at how online casinos are regulated in the various jurisdictions out there. By means of writing emails to the necessary parties that can aid in our enlightenment (such as eCOGRA), and then publishing consequent correspondences, our aim is to better educate players. I can’t say if we’ll get the answers we want, but you can’t knock the intent!

Without further ado, email #1:  Legitimacy of Software Fairness Certificates (such as TST & CFG) and the Absence of Payout Reports

Dear eCOGRA,

This is Devon Chappell with Online Casino Suite. We are an eCOGRA approved portal site and would first of all like to thank you for all of your hard work in raising the standards for the online gambling industry. Speaking of which, that is precisely why I am writing today. My question does not necessarily pertain to eCOGRA specifically, yet I could hardly think of a better organization suited to know the correct information. We truly take great pride in being advocates for players, which we believe should include educating them about how it is they actually receive a safe and fair wager online – not just telling them they will get a safe and fair bet.

I understand if you don’t have the time to address these questions. However, I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

I’m fully aware of how the RNG works to deliver fair and random betting results, as well as the basic principle behind source code. However, what I’m not sure about is how exactly this interplays with regulation – more specifically, ongoing regulation. I am also unclear about these online casinos claiming to be approved by Technical Systems Testing, CFG or the like. Many of these online casinos don’t even link to certificates, and of those that do, the certificates are generally from a few years back and only state the name of the software and not the online casino. And, you certainly can’t find certificates at the websites of the folks handing out the certificates themselves!

That being said, I was hoping you could help answer these questions:

Does a fairness accreditation of the software necessarily mean the casino is fair, especially if said casino is regulated in a jurisdiction where source code changes are permitted? Would the casino then need to have an accreditation specifically for its own licensed platform – and a monthly one at that?

How does one know if they are getting a fair wager if an online casino does not have any payout percentage reports to show for?

Lastly, does anyone at eCOGRA know anything about the regulatory protocols of Curacao (Netherlands, Antilles)? We have a few online casinos listed at Online Casino Suite that are licensed in Curacao; however, for the life of us, we can’t find any official website that goes into details about the regulatory protocols here. It’s been said that the Netherlands Department of Justice does an initial due-diligence investigation, and we’ve also come across a “master licensor” known as Cyberluck, yet nothing is said as to how ongoing regulation is maintained.

We’ve heard that, depending on the regulatory jurisdiction, online casino operators are permitted to change their source code. Of course, so long as all the numbers match up come audit time, there is nothing wrong with that.  Do you know which – if any – of the non-UK whitelisted regulatory jurisdictions out there allow online casino operators to change source code? Kahnawake? Antigua? Curacao?

Honestly, Online Casino Suite is not so much concerned about the UK gambling commission and its white-listed jurisdictions, such as Alderney and Gibraltar. However, we are particularly concerned about some of the other jurisdictions out there. Also, we do not know if eCOGRA works closely with TST, but we are beginning to have our doubts about the legitimacy of their logo accreditation. I have tried contacting them to discuss these issues to no avail. And yet, they allow online casinos to display the TST approved logo – but with no actual accreditation to show for. The Rome Partners network of online casinos, including Rome Casino herself (highly reputable, all things considered), still links to a press release from almost a year ago, stating they are approved by TST – but there’s no accreditation to show for!

Sorry to get off track and making this long-winded, however, I am getting very frustrated with the industry! Thank you so much again for everything you guys do, and I pray for the day when regulation will open in the U.S. and Online Casino Suite can promote the hell out of eCOGRA and eCOGRA approved online casinos to the U.S. gaming community!

Dear eCOGRA, Thanks for listening.

Best Regards,

Devon Chappell

Newbie Gambling Tips: Online Casinos or Brick ‘n Mortar Casinos?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Just like in the world of brick ‘n mortar casino gambling, the online gambling industry has its fair share of disgruntled players. Truth be told, the online gambling sector most likely has a higher count of dissatisfied players who either feel they have been cheated and/or are simply upset they did not come out with some profit from their online gambling adventures. Now, does this mean that online gambling isn’t safe or that the odds are not as good as brick ‘n mortar casinos? Of course it doesn’t!

Granted, there are unregulated online casinos in the business of taking money from players who reside in countries that do not regulate online gambling (cough, cough, USA). And when I say “take”, I don’t necessarily mean stealing money left and right. It’s more like, pay out players until money starts to run low, and if a big jackpot is hit, well then, make up a reason why that player is not entitled to their winnings.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, basically I want to let newbie online gamblers out there know that online casinos can actually deliver much better odds than land-based casinos. Just look at the payout percentage reports and you will see for yourself. Of course, not every online casino publishes its payout reports, and hence why you shouldn’t play at those online casinos. Of those that do – most notably, eCOGRA certified online casinos – consistent average returns exceeding 96% are much better than what you find at any brick ‘n mortar casino.

And yet, newbie players continue to gamble at online casinos without a lick of credentials. Most often, these players end up receiving flyers in the mail, promising a free $5 bonus chip or some other offer loaded with red tape, making it nigh impossible to win anything, let alone cash out any money. The players who get duped don’t take the time to first check out the credentials of the online casino, including players ratings and blacklists. And in most cases, these players were not even looking to gamble online in the first place!

The lesson then is this, folks: If you are not looking to gamble online, then don’t. And if you are, well then, do your research carefully. This should require hours of thorough research, perusing payout reports, checking out regulatory websites, and reading boring fine-print, which in the end, will pay off. How much will it pay off? Well, if you play at the best online casinos, get lucky, play smartly and incorporate good bankroll management, online casino gambling certainly can pay off better than the brick ‘n mortar casinos.

Free Casino Bonus Money Red Tape Part IV – More on Play Restrictions

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Always read the red tape before claiming a bonus at an online casino

Always read the red tape before claiming a bonus at an online casino

Continuing with our highly informative, yet (admittedly) oh-so-boring blog series on casino bonus money red tape, let’s go over a few specifics not mentioned in the previous article covering the wager requirement and play-through restrictions. In our last post, we briefly went over how the play-through governs casino bonuses, including the transfer of bonus money into actual winnings that can be withdrawn without any red-tape complications.

Anyone who is somewhat familiar with free casino cash knows that certain games do not count toward meeting the play-through, and of those that do, not all of the games do so in the same amount. Very quickly (so as not to bore the more experienced players reading this), a common bonus will allow 100% of wagers made on slots, keno and basically any other casino game with a higher-than-average House Edge to meet the play-through.

However, this same bonus may not allow wagers on the Gamble Feature of a slot machine to go toward the play-through. It may not even permit wagers made in tournament play. How do you know if it does or doesn’t? Read the full terms and conditions of the bonus. Heck, you need to read both the bonus T&C’s and General T&C’s, for online casinos will often slip a bonus term in the general section!

As for the casino games that only count toward part of the play-through, they simply require more wager-for-wager. In other words, a game that counts 1/20 or 5% toward the play through, only $0.05 of every $1 wagered would be applied to the play-through. Compared to a slots wager counting 100%, you would need to make 20 more bets on said game to achieve the same amount of play-through.

Most players understand and accept this condition in bonus play. However, many new players don’t realize that the act of placing wagers on restricted games can actually jeopardize your bonus winnings come withdrawal time. If there are games that absolutely do not contribute to the play-through, it is each players responsibility to NOT wager on these games while still playing with bonus money or winnings earned off of bonus money. Doing so is grounds for a rejected withdrawal. If you accidentally make a wager at a restricted game, immediately contact customer service and inform them of your error. They are likely to forgive the infraction, rather than waiting until withdrawal time when it is determined that restricted games were played. Again, all of this will be listed in the bonus T&C’s.

Another thing worth mentioning is that while certain bonuses impose game restrictions as part of their bonus red tap, some online casinos impose “mode of play” restrictions as well. I am specifically referring to tournament action. In many ways, it’s kind of a Catch-22. For example, online casinos love to award large Slots welcome bonuses. Some will even throw in free entry’s to slots tournaments. The catch is that the slots bonus play-through does not apply to wagers made in tournament mode. The good news is that, unlike restricted casino games, playing in tournaments is not deemed an infraction, and although not counting toward the play-through, is not grounds for a rejected withdrawal when the play-through is eventually met playing slots in standard betting mode.

Again, it’s all in the terms! Knowing what the bonus red tape requirements are ahead of time will let you know if that bonus is really worth claiming or not. Knowing what games you want to play ahead of time as well will help you even more in the decision making process.

Free Casino Bonus Money Red Tape: Part III – The Play Through

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Continuing with the OCS blog series on casino bonus red tape, we’d like to discuss the concept of the play-through, and how this applies to bonus money and real money.

As you may already know, unless you are playing with a no-deposit bonus, a.k.a. free chip, all free casino bonus money is contingent on the amount of an accompanying deposit. The more money you deposit, the more bonus cash you will receive. This is usually up to a certain amount, although it is not unheard of to receive an unlimited bonus.

Depending on the percentage of the bonus, the ratio of bonus money to deposited cash will vary. A common amount is 100%, meaning that for every dollar deposited, 100% will be matched in bonus money. This is actually the correct meaning of a true “match” bonus. For a bonus less than 100%, technically, it is not a match bonus.

Let’s say you deposit $100. With a 100% Match bonus, you will receive $100 Free, giving you a total bankroll of $200. Now, here is where things become more tricky. Instead of having the $200 in a single account, the casino will keep your bonus money separate from your real money, until the wager requirement has been met. The wager requirement is the amount of times you must wager over your bankroll before you are eligible to cash out winnings derived from bonus credits. A 10x play-through will require you to wager $100 + $100 = $200 x 10 = $2,000, before you can cash out.

The way it works is that your balance will show the total amount of your bonus and deposit. Although it appears there is one balance, per say, a bonus balance and real money balance is tracked through the accounting/cashier section of the software. This determines how much of the play-through has been met, and how much in wagers is needed to be eligible for a withdrawal.

Some online casinos, such as Microgaming powered Jackpot Factory, use a bonus management system (in this case, the “ClearPlay Bonus” system) that automatically transfers eligible bonus money winnings to the real money account as the play-through is met in increments of $10. This money is eligible for cashout; However, keep in mind that all remaining bonus money is void. Most online casinos do not even allow players to cash out bonus winnings until the entire play-through is met.

This brings up an important question. When do you know when the play-through is met? Keeping track of it yourself – wager for wager – also called “micro managing” your bonus, is timely and difficult. Not every game contributes to the play-through and of those that do, most do not even contribute the same percentage amount. Furthermore, certain bets, such as the Gamble Feature on many slot machines do not count toward the play-through.

But don’t worry. All online casinos have a system in place that keeps track of it for you. When the play-through is met, any winnings exceeding the maximum amount of bonus money earnings that can be cashed out (most bonuses have a maximum cashout) will be removed from the real money account. Remember, being “play” bonuses, no actual bonus money can be cashed out – just winnings earned off that bonus money. Some casinos will also remove the bonus winnings that is eligible for cashout and make it a “pending” withdrawal.

But remember, this is IMPORTANT – in all cases, the player must request the final withdrawal and should always withdraw ALL winnings derived from the bonus. Otherwise, if any bonus winnings are left in the account, all future winnings will be subject to the original bonus terms and conditions. In other words, it is vitally important to keep tabs on your wager requirement. For me personally, if this means micromanaging, then so be it.

Case in point is the player who recently was robbed of a $5,000 jackpot win, because his bonus winnings were still in his account. Even though the player had met the play-through, he had not withdrew his funds yet and was still playing on excess bonus winnings. His jackpot win was hit making a wager with such winnings, and therefore, was subject to the max bonus cashout – far below the $5,000 jackpot.

Do online casinos do this on purpose – throwing in just one more variable that will make it harder for you to win? Probably. Does that mean you have to let them win. No, it doesn’t. When you know the bonus red tape, you are one step ahead of the curve.

Free Casino Bonus Money Red Tape: Part II – Multiple Accounts and Multiple Bonuses

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

As part of the OCS blog series about casino bonus red tape, we’d like to discuss the concept of “multiple accounts”. For most of the seasoned online gamblers out there, it is common knowledge that online casinos do not permit you to open more than one account. And not just one account per person. It’s one account per household. In other words, if both you and your spouse open an account, well then, when it comes time for either one of you to cash out your winnings, you will be denied – and that sucks. And it doesn’t end here either. There’s the notion of multiple accounts within a single online casino network. Sure, it’s allowed, but it’s a trickier matter when pertaining to welcome bonuses – more on that further in this post.

One of the main reasons why all online casinos impose this rule is because of bonus abuse and fraud, and hence the reason why the universal rule of one account per household should be classified as bonus red tape. Understandably, online casinos cannot afford to give unlimited bonus money to their players. They wouldn’t be able to stay in business. And a welcome bonus is just that. A bonus to welcome a new player to the casino. While it would be nice to receive such a grand welcome every time you login the casino, that’s simply not going to happen. Reload bonus offers will make due.

Now, of course you are not going to forget if you opened an account at a particular online casino six months ago. If so, well then, you need to start taking your Gingko Biloba. Players who say they forgot they had an account already opened or that a relative unknowingly created an account at the same online casino are full of it. 99% of these people what the industry likes to call bonus hunters. And truth be told, some of them probably do forget they previously opened an account because they have too many gambling accounts to keep up with.

So we can agree that you are not a bonus hunter and that you are taking your Gingko Biloba. No worries about opening multiple accounts, right? Wrong. Remember that part in the first paragraph about online casino networks? Yep, that’s where a lot of people go wrong. See, most online casino owners, operate and manage more than one online casino – some are more transparent about this than others. For example, a network like the US friendly English Harbour Gaming Ventures (see the OCS Vegas Techology Casinos page), maintains their own website with a listing of all their online casino properties, while a network like the Microgaming-powered Casino Rewards (non US) offers a comprehensive rewards program integrating all of their eighteen online casinos under one roof. On the opposite extreme, there have been several investigations revealing large numbers of rogue, blacklisted online casinos all being tied together by the same owner or network.

Now, assuming you are playing at an online casino that is part of a reputable and transparent network, like the aforementioned English Harbour Gaming Ventures (EHGV), you need to verify whether or not the network allows multiple welcome bonuses to be claimed. All networks will permit players to open a single account at all of their online casinos, in effect, creating multiple accounts. For example, at EHGV, you can have an account at English Harbour Casino (for the table games), VIP Slots (for the slots) and Millionaire Casino (for the high rolling action). However, you cannot claim the welcome bonus at all three of these online casinos – just ONE of them. Even if the welcome bonus if for a different percentage and amount of free money, the fact that it is a first-time deposit bonus is the deciding factor.

Now, here’s where things get messy, and is a rightful complaint many players have about an industry wide practice. Most online casinos will allow you to go ahead and claim the welcome bonus, even if you already claimed it at another online casino in the network. It’s not that the casino is purposefully setting you up for failure, although some conspiracy theorists will tell you otherwise, and I personally wouldn’t throw it past certain online casino networks (none which OCS would recommend, of course), it’s more that the industry does indeed have some catching up to do in terms of preventive measures.

The way they do it currently is come withdrawal time – your first time withdrawal, that is – the online casino will request a faxback verification form which consists of documents that verify you are indeed the person you say you are and that you are in good standing with the casino. It’s at this time they will verify if you are cashing out bonus winnings and whether or not you have claimed the bonus before, including welcome bonuses at other partner online casinos within the network. The casino’s argument is that the only players with multiple accounts or who have claimed the welcome bonus before are bonus hunters. In other words, you should have nothing to worry about if you are not doing anything you not supposed to be doing. But what about the newbie players who signup at an online casino after reading a favorable review that says nothing about the casino being in a network or revealing only one part of the bonus terms and conditions? It’s not until later the player realizes (oftentimes when making a withdrawal request), that they violated bonus terms and conditions. Indeed, this happens! Not every player who violates bonus T&C’s is a bonus hunter.

So, until online casinos adopt an industry wide practice of verifying player identities via the faxback process BEFORE said player makes a real money deposit and claims a welcome bonus, it is up to each and every player to verify for themselves what the bonus terms and conditions are. It is up to us to sift through the bonus red tape, including the part of the “one welcome bonus per player, per household, per online casino, per network”. Continuing with the OCS blog series on bonus red tape, next time we will be discussing the differences between a bonus account and a real money account and will touch on the basics of the play-through process…..to be followed by much, much more. But no worries, so long as you know how to recognize it, you’ll know how to get around it.

Free Casino Bonus Money – Getting Through the Red Tape: Part I

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
dog wagging tongue

Oh Boy, oh boy, oh boy! I'm drooling for Milk BONUSES!

Claiming bonuses at online casinos and actually getting your bonus cash withdrawn are two entirely different things. Needless to say, free money at the online casino is never 100% free. Sure, it’s possible to walk away with more than you started with – courtesy of a beefed up bankroll on bonus bucks. However, any seasoned online gambler – you may be one yourself – knows that online casinos like to make it very difficult to withdraw your bonus money.

Some casinos are more transparent about this than others. Yet, the bottom line is that no online casino wants to make it overtly easy for players to walk away with free bonus cash. You might think the infamous “wager requirement” aka, play-through, is all it would take to do this – but it’s not. FYI, the play-through is the amount of times a player must wager the sum of their deposit and bonus before any winnings earned from the bonus are eligible to cash out. Notice how I said “winnings earned from the bonus”. That’s because the bonus money itself can never be cashed out!

To make a long story short, there is all sorts of bonus red tape that can get between you and your winnings. And depending on the online casino and/or software provider, you could be dealing with red masking tape as opposed to red scotch tape (and no, red scotch tape doesn’t exist). Bonus abuse, whether intentional or unwittingly is the number one cause of disputes between players and online casinos, and consequently, the complaints that always follow. Sure, some casinos could do more to keep bonus abuse from happening in the first place (chalk it up to the old bait and switch routine or downright laziness), but that’s neither here nor there. If you want the bonus, take full responsibility and no matter how trustworthy the casino or solid their reputation, do your homework and get your hands sticky unwrapping the tape that is certain to come with your bonus. If you still have unanswered questions after digging through the T&C’s, ask a casino rep and get your answers (hypothetical or not) in writing.

To aid you in recognizing and understanding all this bonus jargon, OCS has decided to create a blog series dedicated just to online casino bonus red tape. If you haven’t done so already, bookmark this post and check back often. Just look for the photo of the happy dog drooling for his milk bonus. That’s supposed to be you by the way 🙂 The tags at the bottom of this post (free casino bonus money red tape) will be linked up with all future posts pertaining to the full series. Or, you could just sign up for our online casino newsletter, which we use to send out timely information, the latest and greatest bonuses (err, I mean milk bones), and tips on how to keep from drowning in the vast sea of online gambling. Dog paddling, of course.

What exactly will OCS be covering in this blog series? Here’s just a taste:

Claiming bonuses with online casino networks, bonus accounts vs. real money accounts, the play-through process including how to know when you’ve met the play-through (it can be very tricky), bonus micro-management, game restrictions, maximum winnings, time expirations, bonus claim codes, automated bonuses and how to remove them from your account, the free play bonus, and the notorious no-deposit bonus, aka, free chip.

All of this encompasses what is ultimately your responsibility as a player, for let’s just say that online casinos won’t do it for you. The only thing they will do for you is not pay up when they’ve deemed that you have violated the bonus terms – even if they could have stopped you from the get-go!

What can I say, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. That doesn’t mean you have to eat other dog’s to survive. But if you’re not looking out, they will sniff you out and eat you and your stash of milk bones up in a heartbeat. So, stay tuned!

The First Online Casino: Who, What, When, Where, and Most Importantly, Why?

Monday, January 18th, 2010
portrait of old man

Is being the first and oldest all that it's cracked up to be?

Here’s a history lesson for you:

I remember back at the turn of the Century (Oh Lord, I say that way too much…and yes, I’m getting way too old), when it was a big deal to be the “first online casino”. You know, being the first online casino to go live on the Web, and thus earning the connotation that “first” equates to being ahead of the pack? Obviously, this is true to a certain extent. I mean, with age also comes a certain amount of respect, should it not?

In this business, it is hard to stay in business if you’re cheating players. Indeed, it does happen. Some of the smallest trees in the online gambling industry cast the deepest shade, if you know what I mean. Information travels fast online, and when enough players get swindled and enough blacklists get published, rogue online casinos have no choice but to shut down. The only problem is that they often rebrand themselves only to begin the process all over again :(. For those online casinos that have endured the test of time without going rogue, however, respect is earned and respect is given.

So the question remains, does first necessarily mean better, or even, best? And, who was the first online casino anyways?

Surprisingly, verifying who was actually the “first”, and consequently, the oldest online casino, poses more difficulty than gauging the benefits of being first. You see, the title of “first” is highly contested, and everybody wants to be first for bragging rights and the prestige and reputation that comes from the title. Of course, for the online casino that is no longer in business, the title of first absolutely doesn’t mean a thing. Nor does it mean a thing when the title has been self-endowed – and there are plenty of online casinos self-endowing themselves with the title of first or best or largest etc.

What does mean a thing and is actually more important than being the first online casino, in my opinion, is the history of the operator. For example, these days, the best online casinos are usually apart of a network of sites, often growing in sync with the successes of the network itself. The longer a network has stayed in business, without having earned a tarnished reputation mind you, the more trustworthy and dependable it’s casino’s ought to be.

So, instead of trying to pin who was the actual first online casino, which really could be any number of sites launched in the mid-nineties (Inter Casino, First Web Casino, Lasseters etc.), pay mind to who are the more established online casino networks. A good place to get started would be the English Harbour Gaming Ventures (EHGV) Network (for U.S. players) and the Jackpot Factory (for UK and Euro players). EHGV has been in business since 1997/98 and indeed launched one of the first online casinos – flagship property, English Harbour Casino. EHGV now operates a medium sized network of eight thriving online casinos, including OCS favorites, Super Slots and Millionaire Casino.

As for the Jackpot Factory, they have been in business since the mid-nineties, launching what could actually be the first online casino. Are you ready for it? You’ll never guess the name. First Web Casino. The Jackpot Factory now maintains a network of seven online casinos, including OCS top picks, All Slots Casino and All Jackpots Casino.

What is most important about EHGV and the Jackpot Factory is that they have been in business for many years, all the while earning a solid reputation and continually expanding their reach on the internet. That is the value of history, people! It should stand for something, and in my opinion, carries much more weight than simply launching the first online casino. Don’t be fooled by titles. Learn your history!