How Secure are Online Casinos? Online gaming has grown consistently since its infancy in the late 90’s. What started as a smattering of operators is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with over 12 million patrons trying their skill (or luck) at the many gaming web sites, a great deal of them on a regular basis. Online casinos offer a wide variety of games including slots, poker, and a myriad of table games such as roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and others. Casinos offer new members bonuses for signing up, and a wide variety of promotional offers, such as match play for certain games (often based on the amount played by the member). With the many enticements to join the fun and variety of games available, it’s no wonder large numbers of consumers are joining the ranks of internet gamblers. The lure of winning ‘the big one’ is always there in the back of many gamblers minds, although most players are realistic and aware of the house advantage, and play for entertainment, social interaction, and even stress relief. A large payout would just be an added bonus – and a most enjoyable one! With all that in mind, once you sign up with an online casino and lay down your hard-earned money, how secure is it, and how can you tell? Evaluating Your Choice With the many online casinos now competing for players, how do you choose which casino to patronize? One simple first step can be to just search the web for ‘best casinos’, which will give you a huge amount of results. But once you review a few of those ‘hits’, you can start to find a pattern of multiple reviewers who point to the same casinos as the ‘best’ on the web. Then you’re ready to take the next step, and visit a few of the popular casinos that have been cited most often. Once on the casino’s site, it’s a simple matter to determine whether or not they offer games that appeal to your interests. When you find a casino that seems like a good fit, it’s time to do a little more homework. Most legitimate casinos strive to bring integrity and entertainment value to their customers. The whole idea of an online casino is after all, a business that provides a service, while making a profit for their owners or operators. If they don’t retain visitors through customer satisfaction with the service, games, promotions, and a reasonable level of payouts, there are other casinos available the players can turn to. This is the same business premise that keeps brick-and-mortar casinos on their toes, competing for players through fantastic surroundings, live shows, entertaining games, and perks for their visitors. These reputable online casinos will typically offer reliable ways to fund your play often through credit card, Neteller or PayPal accounts (other methods of payment are also offered, depending on the country of the casino and player). Most of these operators also credit winnings to your account promptly, making them readily available to you, via their standard withdrawal or crediting process. These reputable casino operators are businesses, much as a terrestrial casino, with owners and management structures behind them. As such, many conduct regular independent audits of their operation, conducted by knowledgeable accounting firms such as Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). Some are also certified by the industry-recognized auditing company Technical System Testing (TST). TST also performs evaluations of quality assurance, Random Number Generator (RNG) and payouts, as part of its services. Beware of Rogues Casinos that are less than reputable, even some which prove to be criminal, are also operating on the web. These operators are referred to within the industry as ‘rogues’. Some are run out of foreign countries that have absolutely no regulation of these operations, providing no protection or recourse for consumers who lose money in their accounts. It may also be difficult or impossible to withdraw funds they have won, or that they would like refunded. Some rogues simply disappear with the players’ money and account numbers, leaving players with compromised personal information, as well as financial loss. Rogues have also been known to sell email and account information to disreputable sources, resulting in an onslaught of spam and malware flooding the inboxes of their former patrons. Other common attributes of these rogue operations are: Refusal to pay winnings (either without reason, or with bogus explanation) Billing credit cards multiple times for the same activity Slow response (or no response) to requests for withdrawals Close without warning, resulting in a total loss of any funds in member accounts Utilize software that cheats players Sell player information to unauthorized sources Actually install malware on your computer In a Nutshell The vast majority of online casinos, especially those that have been in business for a reasonable period of time (at least a couple of years or more), are reputable, ethical businesses. They provide a service of entertainment, pleasure, social interaction, and stress relief from the workaday world. Many have online chat available with a support employee, or a 24x7 contact to help you with questions or problems. Just play safely, and do your homework, before signing up. Remember that this is a real casino, and you’re playing with your real money. Look for certification, confirmation of independent audits, and search the web for any instance of ‘blacklisting’ for the casino you’re interested in joining. Remember that gut feel is important, as well. If you visit a site that just doesn’t ‘look quite right’, or appears unprofessional, you should probably move on to another casino. There are many to choose from. Happy gaming and good luck!