Top-Rated Casino Sites for UK Players
Only a very short sighted person would not think gambling was an integral part of human nature. Every decision we make has a randomness about it. Of course we make informed choices but chance plays a big part in our lives.
Gambling games started life as religious rituals, reading the bones became throwing dice. It was a short step to relieving the boredom and before you know it we end up betting on everything we can. Dice have been found in ancient Egyptian burials and gambling scenes depicted in wall art.
So you see we have always loved to gamble and now we use modern technology to sit in the comfort of our homes and spin the ‘Devil’s Wheel’ to our hears content.
Comparison Criteria for the Top Online Casinos
If you are new to the online casino world the task of choosing a casino to play with can be a little daunting. There are simply thousands of offerings all claiming to be a top online casinos. How on earth do you work out which is the best for you?
We have put together a guide to help you understand what it takes to be one of the top rated casino sites, and a bit of background on the whole scene. There are so many variables to take into account for example legal standing, customer care, reliability, payout times, banking methods, security, software platform, accepted currencies and languages, bonuses etc. You get the picture some of these areas are essential others are a matter of personal choice.
Our aim is to arm you with the knowledge to be able to make an informed choice and have some fun at the virtual tables. We will give you the background on, and how to play, the most popular games with a few strategy tips thrown in too. We have a team of enthusiasts that love to play casino games. They give us honest feedback and help us to review the best casino sites and the not so great as well.
Let’s make one thing clear though even the best online casino will not please everyone all of the time. Ratings are subjective and the best for one is not necessarily the best for another. There are however many things that go into an online casino comparison that are very important regardless of style.
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Seeking Out UKGC-Licensed and Regulated Sites
We only review licensed sites period. But if you have found a site that is not part of our online casinos list the first thing to establish is its legal status. When it comes to regulating gambling sites all bodies are not equal. If you are looking for a casino online UK residents have the safest options available. The UK Gambling Commission was set up in 2005 in response to an ever changing online landscape. Already the most established gambling market in the world, the UK government set about to ensure a safe online industry for both the punter and the operator. Strict rules have to be met before any license is issued. All of the company executives are vetted carefully to keep out criminal elements.
Software is tested for fairness both before a license is given and at regular intervals afterwards. Any new games undergo the same rigorous scrutiny. Financial systems are checked for strength of security and strict privacy rules are also in place. Player’s funds must be kept separate from the casinos and there must be a set amount of ready cash available to meet any wagers made. The UK Gambling Commission has a website where validity of licenses can be checked and this is a must do thing. There are plenty of unscrupulous operators that claim to have licenses that simply do not.
The website is also the contact point for any complaints about a license holder and they are investigated thoroughly. So when looking for the best casino online UK residents have a head start. The UK Gambling Commission only regulates online casinos that take UK residents a customers. So if you live elsewhere in the world you will need to choose a casino with a license issued elsewhere.
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Other Licensing Jurisdictions
When it comes to the rest of the world there are a lot of authorities regulating and licensing remote gambling sites. Unfortunately they are not all of the same calibre, most that hail from the Caribbean are merely business operating licenses. There is very little in the way of regulation and enforcement. Curacao is one such jurisdiction that has had a very poor reputation. The authorities there now recognize this and are attempting to clean up their act but it remains to be seen as to the success of this endeavor.
After the UK Gambling Commission, Gibraltar and Malta have the best record to date. Both of these jurisdictions have strong rules and powers that are enforced. Any site that has a license from either will have gone through a very clear process similar to the UK’s. Lesser known authorities with a very decent reputation are Alderney, the Isle of Man and the First Cagayan. The Filipino First Cagayan was rapidly gaining a great reputation and has very ridged protections in place. Unfortunately the political landscape has changed in the Philippines and the current president has cast a shadow over the future of the whole industry there.
The Kahnawake Territories also had a good reputation but a few very bad casinos on their books has tarnished that. They have reduced the number on their books considerably over recent years and only really concentrate on US facing sites. The thing to remember is that having a valid license doesn’t guarantee a good casino but not having one definitely means they are dishonest. It is almost without exception that all the top rated casino sites have a license from one of the six jurisdictions mentioned. All of the best UK casino sites will off course have the UK Gambling Commission license but if they accept players from elsewhere they will have a second license.
Why Customer Care Is Crucial
Online casino sites are in the service sector, they provide entertainment and as such must be customer focused. When it comes to ranking the best casino UK for example customer service is very important. In this day and age a lot of customer care is farmed out to call centers. This in its self is not a bad thing but it can make the whole process feel a bit detached. When we do an online casino comparison we ask tough questions of the customer service team. We want to test their level of knowledge whether it’s via the online chat, telephone or email.
The customer service agents should be able to explain promotions and bonuses, terms and conditions and complaints procedures. They are only human so may not immediately have the answers themselves but if a brand is to be considered one of the top online casinos there should be no real delay. If an answer is not forth coming then alarms will ring.
A customer service team that can’t or won’t answer questions can’t be trusted with your money. Every single one of the best casino sites has a knowledgeable customer service team. Transparency is key to building a relationship, your only point of contact is the customer service team. You must have confidence that if you have a problem you will be able communicate with an honest, knowledgeable and trustworthy agent.
Only a Safe Online Casino Can Be Top
When gambling online casino security is probably the single biggest concern for most. Gambling for real money online couldn’t get started until a safe method of cash transfer was devised. The gaming software was well advanced before the encryption methods came into play. Secure Socket Layer Encryption was where it all started way back in the early days of the internet.
Its successor is called Transport Layer Security but it is still referred to as SSL. The actual algorithms involved are impossible to understand unless you are a programmer. We certainly don’t! In simple terms it’s a bit like a telephone scrambler in the movies. A new unique code is assigned on first contact by the server this has a corresponding key that unlocks the code so if the message is intercepted it is gibberish without the key.
This allows sensitive data to be sent online safely. Once the data is in the hands of the casino it is protected by multiple firewalls, malware and other protocols that are regularly updated and maintained. Online security is big business and casinos handle millions of pounds daily they make every effort to protect that cash.
Additional Layers of Cyber Security
A top online site’s security protocols are certified by independent third parties such as VeriSign. A safe online casino will have top level systems in place. In fact the protocols are as strong as any online bank. This is an area that can be verified very easily.
It is impossible to fake the https prefix to a web address also the padlock icon will be present. Do not play with any online casino that does not have secure pages. It is simply not worth the risk of compromising your personal details. As well as this the certificate’s validity can be verified.
Any online security specialist that issues certificates can be checked into. In fact they relish the opportunity after all reputation is everything online. A lot of casino reviews never mention security but when we review a site we check into these things as a matter of course. It never hurts to do a bit of due diligence yourself as well. A belt and braces approach is always better.
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Secure Online Casinos Keep Your Personal Data Safe
Privacy policies are a condition of licensing and are a contractual obligation for both the casino and the player. Certain personal information is required by law to prevent underage gambling and money laundering. Only a handful of top executives and high level technicians have access to your details, these people are carefully vetted as part of the license.
This information is only disclosed to a third party when required to by law. Only online casinos that have clearly worded and legally correct privacy policies are ranked by us. Legal jargon anywhere is complicated, after all it’s written by lawyers and they don’t want just anybody writing it! This is an area where the customer service team should shed light on any queries. If satisfactory answers are not available quickly an online casino cannot site be top rated.
The Best UK Casino Sites Offer Convenient Banking
When the whole online casino industry started the list of banking methods was very short indeed. We will go into the whole subject of banking in greater depth further on but for now a brief outline on what ranks a casino when it comes to money.
Funding an account with a casino online UK punters have the best of it again. Every method conceivable is available to the residents of the UK. The reason for this is the industry is totally legal here, so casinos want to make it as easy as possible to deposit. Credit and debit cards have been around from the start. Now you have e-wallets and such a multitude of electronic banking methods it’s hard to keep up. Choice is what ranks. UK punters have an almost endless list with up to 40 different methods available.
It is common practice for even the best UK casino sites to use third party companies to process transactions. The US facing brands do this to avoid issues with banking laws. The UK companies do it for more straight forward reasons, it’s less hassle for them. However the money is handled you want to know it’s safe. You also want to know you will get paid out when you win. This is where an online casinos list comes into play.
We will not rank any casino that has a history of messing with player’s money. To be even considered a safe online casino there can be no hint of foul play with your money. You can’t possibly know how quickly you will get paid before you try to withdraw. This is very important part of any online casino comparison. Somewhere in a company’s terms and conditions there will be something written along the lines of ‘withdrawals will be made within 8 working days’.
The length of time will vary from site to site the important part is that they stick to their own timeframe. Even the best UK casino will slip up from time to time but on the whole any of the best casino sites will strive to payout on time.
Independent Arbitrators Are The Industry’s Referees
The UK Gambling Commission requires that casinos name an Alternative Dispute Resolution service or ADR when they apply for a license. These bodies are there to cover disputes with players that cannot be handled in house. There are several bodies out there some with more experience than others but all with internationally recognized qualifications. It is useful to know the difference between mediators and arbitrators.
Mediators try to bring about common ground and a compromise that is acceptable to all parties. Arbitration is a judgement on a matter that finds for and against. These judgements are not legally binding but as part of the UK license casinos are expected to follow by the findings of the arbitrator as long as the amount is below £10 000. If the casino doesn’t comply with the findings of the ADR the player can report the casino for breaking UKGC rules.
The ADR process is the final stage of dispute resolution before legal action is taken. The UK Gambling Commission has a list of approved arbitrators on its website. The list is current but more are added as they meet the requirements.
User Experience Is Non-Negotiable
Without quality software online casino sites would not have got where they are today. The fact of the matter is there are hundreds of software developers in the market today. Software is an area where taste comes into play more than anywhere else. Personal preferences with gameplay cannot be ranked, you can’t give the title best online casino site just because it uses Playtech software which we like. And let’s face it roulette is pretty much the same game wherever you play it.
But there are things with software that can be taken into account. Usability is an area that can be gauged. How fast do the games load? How good are the graphics? Is the audio lifelike? Is the website itself user friendly? There is no point having the best available software for the games if the site itself doesn’t work very well. Navigating a site has to be easy there is nothing more frustrating than getting lost in a site or not being able to find the information you want. The best online casino site will look great but will actually seem very simple. It’s a hard act to pull off but the best manage to do it.
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The Best Gambling Sites Don’t Hide Their House Edge
Casino reviews always mention the software used but rarely go into any detail. The big fact that is not often mentioned is that house commissions and payout percentages are written into the games and vary between developers. This is an area where the top casinos can stand out from the crowd by supplying comprehensive payout tables. These list every game and its payout levels. The lists are constantly updated and tested by independent labs. Knowing what your chances are is a big deal when it comes to choosing where and what games to play. The thing is nowadays most of the top online casinos use more than one developer within their platform.
Different developers have different skills and have a reputation for being good at one thing or another. It used to be that most brands had one software platform and that was it. Now integration is the name of the game and the best of all areas can be melded together. The great thing about gaming software is that you don’t need to risk your money to try them out. There are many sites online that have all of the major software developers’ offerings that can be played for free.
So you can try before you buy. It is an important consideration when gambling online, casino games have to be fun and keep you entertained. The best UK casino has to be one that lets you experience their games before you commit.
Software Providers Powering the Top UK Casinos Sites
At the last count there was around 400 companies in the market. Some are more well-known than others Microgaming, Playtech, Cryptologic, Novomatic, IGT, RGT, Net Entertainment and Betsoft are probably the most used. Between them they cover thousands of online casinos. There are however some smaller companies that make some very good games NextGen Gaming and Thunderkick are two. The thing is that the platforms that actually run the casinos are so good now that almost any game can be incorporated.
One of the few industries that actively welcomes cooperation between suppliers the online casino world is doing a very good job at giving the player a great choice. When it comes to who is best it’s apples and pears. For example:
- Microgaming has a great reputation for slots and it comes up with new games at an alarming fast pace. Some examples are Jurassic Park, Hot as Hades, Dragon Dance, Titans of the Sun and Thunder Struck.
- Playtech like movie themed games and their progressive jackpots based on Marvel™ movies are some of the most popular online. They also have great table games and a progressive version of baccarat. They also have 3D games that are visually stunning. The big thing about Playtech is they offer a complete package a casino can be run from the ground up using their platform provided.
The Software You Don’t Notice Is Very Important Too
Day to day running of the casino is taken care of with software that is mostly backend. The player rarely has anything to do with it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. The way money is handled, how records are kept and the security used to protect it all must be checkable. The time all of this comes to the fore is in a dispute. Even the best UK casino will on occasion have a dispute. Real money is being gambled and issues will arise.
To help resolve these issues the best online casinos will have a comprehensive data base that records every single game ever played. These records are very detailed and are essential to get to the bottom of a problem. If a casino doesn’t have this at its disposal it can’t sort things out fairly.
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How the Best UK Online Casinos Guarantee Fair Play
We play casino games because we love a surprise. We risk money on a chance outcome because it excites us. Whether that be a roll of the dice, the hypnotic fall of the reels or the bouncing ball in a roulette wheel the randomness of it is what brings us back to what would otherwise be a very boring pastime. Land-based casinos use the human element to create that random act. Cards are shuffled, the wheel spun, dice are physically rolled. In the virtual world software controls everything so how can it be random? The RNG is how.
The RNG is an acronym for Random Number Generator without which an online casino would not function. There could be no random acts so players would not put up their money. So what is it? Well it a complicated mathematical algorithm that is designed to give a random number that is then used to determine the outcome of the game. It all starts with a ‘seed number’ this number is over 200 000 digits long. Yep that big! The result is used for the game and then fed back in as the next ‘seed’ and so on.
The algorithm is such that is doesn’t matter if the process is known it is statistically impossible to work out the resulting number by an outside source. This process is a closely guarded secret and some casinos go so far as to ask the player to submit part of the original seed. Every game played in an online casino uses this system slots, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, craps the lot. The quality and strength of the RNG is another area that is tested and regulated by the licensing authority.
The games are as random as it is possible to be. In a land based casino you have the risk that the dealer can manipulate the shuffle there are skilled croupiers that can even judge the speed of a roulette wheel putting the ball in at just the right time to land in a sector of the wheel. So the reality is that a respectable online casino has more safeguards than the land based equivalent.
Know Your Casinos by the Brand
The online casino industry is fast paced and fickle. There are so many out there that a wrong ‘un just doesn’t last. Reputation is one of the biggest deciding factors for a brand to be able to make it in an industry that is providing entertainment. From the start there have been player forums and watchdog sites that have provided a safety net for the punter. They have power! One of the oldest is now an accredited ADR and is highly respected by players and casinos alike.
The best casinos work closely with these sites to resolved issues and communicate with the playing public. Image is everything in business a tarnished one in the casino world hurts profits. When all is said and done a well-run casino will make profit the house percentage on all games see to that so it really does pay for online casinos to run a straight game and a tight ship.
Quality or Quantity – When It Comes to Games Never Settle for Just One
Every online casino has the usual suspects blackjack, roulette, slots and video poker. We will go into more detail about these games in separate pages. There are however many more games available and more are being developed almost indefinitely. Some online casinos have over 400 games in their stable. But having the most games doesn’t necessarily make them the best. This is a really subjective area. If all you want to do is play roulette but like a few different versions then 300 slots games won’t interest you.
What is important to remember is the house edge is not necessarily the same. Different rules will affect the odds. Slots are one area where the payout percentage has the most variables of any game number reels, payout lines and the amount of winning symbols in the first place. Payout tables are the tool needed to work out the best chance of winning for you. If of course like most of us you are just there to have fun, the one that excites you the most will be the one for you.
Bonuses to Look for at the Top-Rated Online Casinos
The subject of bonuses is a contentious one in the industry. Most casino reviews will rate casinos on the bonus packages they offer. This is another big subject that needs a page on its own but here’s a brief word on the whole issue. Online casinos are businesses, many forget that strangely enough, and as such market themselves. Bonuses are marketing strategies they are designed to keep existing players and to attract new ones. If a casino just gave out free cash it would go belly up pretty soon their margins are not that good! The way to rank how good a bonus are the terms and conditions it’s all in the small print as they say.
It is quite surprising the number of experienced players that get the whole thing confused. There are hundreds of forum posts of players complaining how the bonuses are fraudulent or impossible to claim. The fact is most don’t bother reading the T&C’s. Bonuses are meant to keep you playing. There is a growing number that advocate not taking any bonus at all. There is even a casino that markets itself as not giving bonuses but better odds instead.
That all said there are some promotions that genuinely give something away. The key to it is to remember that most are smoke and mirrors but some are real. So read the boring small print you never know you might win the holiday or the new car!
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Best UK Online Casinos for Live Dealer Games
It’s a fact that if an online casino has a live dealer set up it has to be up there with the successful. The costs involved are considerable. If you have never had the chance to visit a brick and mortar establishment the live dealer option is as close as you will get. It has the added advantage of anonymity, no dress code, and you don’t need to drive anywhere. If you are one of those that just don’t trust the RNG the rather fetching dealers give you that physical connection to the chance outcome of shuffled cards.
The number of games offered with the live dealer format is a great indicator of the quality of the brand. The more games available the higher the investment. It costs a substantially more to offer a greater range of tables live than it does virtually. This is tangible way to rank a casino the more money invested means a more serious commitment. There is a lot more to say on the subject and you can read more on our live dealer page.
Where Did It All Begin?
Online casinos have their roots in bricks and mortar. The ancestor of the virtual casino game was the humble slot machine that went totally electronic way back in the 70’s. Its debut was of course Las Vegas. Vegas casinos championed slot machines from their very beginning. Why? Because they make more profit. Simple. The slot machine takes in at least 70% of a casinos profit and always have. They require less floor space, need only cameras to watch them and are so simple to play that anybody can get their kicks from them.
The 1970’s was a time of electronic innovation it stood to reason that the cash rich casino industry wanted in to. The first video slot machine was a TV linked to a computer basically and was little more than a novelty. A novelty that the public loved however and the software developers went to town. Slot machine manufacturers couldn’t get enough out of the door and by the end of the decade the market was huge.
The next thing needed for the online casino boom to start was of course the internet. The history of the internet is well covered elsewhere but let’s just say it went viral. From a quirky new form of communication to watch is now some saw the writing on the wall and game developers quickly dove in. Simple online games became very popular very quickly and casino games where the logical next step. The truly global market was a big carrot dangling in front of everybody involved.
The pioneers in the game were Microgaming and Cryptologic, Isle of Man and Dublin based companies respectively. These guys pushed the boundaries. Casino gaming software and security to make it viable were two holy grails achieved but what was needed was a legitimacy that wasn’t there.
Crooked casinos back in the day meant the public were very wary. As far as the internet was concerned nobody trusted it, who oversaw any of it? Along came the far sighted Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda. 1994 saw the passing of the Free Trade and Processing Act. This Act was brought in to further the coffers of the state true but it had a huge impact. Suddenly there was an internet gambling jurisdiction regulating online casinos was now possible and the world’s first online casino was born in 1996 by none other than Cryptologic.
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A Real Money Online Casino Needs to Be Socially Responsible
Anybody who thinks gambling isn’t at all harmful is either very stupid, has never tried it or is an out and out crook trying to get your money. The vast majority of us can have a little flutter and stop when we want to. It’s solely entertainment and nothing more. For some it is a highly addictive pastime that can ruin your life. Most problem gamblers don’t start as such, it grows and as such it can be spotted.
There are certain patterns that are observable and serious problems can be averted. The very best casinos in the industry put a lot of effort into helping those who may suffer. The law says that there must be reasonable precautions in place to recognize the patterns. The top boys go a bit further and actually put money into research that is developing software that can pick up the betting patterns and other indicators for problem gamblers. There are also safeguards that you can put into play like setting a deposit limit. This is a good thing for all to use, it is far too easy to get carried away with the buzz and keep loading up your account.
Before you know it you have spent far more than you meant and the temptation to chase the loss is big. The spending limit gives you time to cool off and get back to your senses. There are many highly respected organizations that are out there to help. It is a license requirement for the UK to have hyperlinks to the websites of such accredited bodies. If at any time you stop having fun but continue to play get in touch with GamCare.org.uk they can help. It will all be anonymous. Have Fun.
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