Are real money gambling sites legit, safe, and secure? Can you really win money, and if so, how do you deposit and withdraw money? We get it – because we had the same questions when we started gambling online for real money over 15 years ago. That’s what led our team of gambling and casino experts to create CasinoRankings.com. We decided to build the online gambling guide that we wished we would have had when we started researching how to gamble online.
After nearly two decades of playing at various real money casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks we’ve come to learn one important fact – it’s hard (if not impossible) for a new online player to feel confident and secure when selecting an online casino or betting site unless they’ve put in hours of research ahead of time. The longer you’re in the iGaming industry, the easier it is to spot untrustworthy online gambling operators and scams.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about online gambling. But if you’d rather jump ahead, check out our list of the safest online gambling sites.
A Note on Accepting Online Casino Bonus Offers & Promotions
A lot of real money gambling sites will offer you bonuses for playing with them. It is important that you read the rules of the bonus before deciding to place money in a bank with them. For example, one site I played with offered a 400% bonus. When you deposit $100, they make it $500 to play. But to cash out (cash out restrictions) there are rules (called playthrough requirements) requiring your to bet a certain amount before withdrawing. Bonuses are terrific though if you are new to real money gambling because it gives you time to explore the online site, testing out different games and extending your playtime. Just remember, most bonuses are geared towards the online casino site – the longer they keep you playing the better their chances of winning.
Why Do People Gamble Online? Isn’t it Riskier?
If you’re like most people you’ve probably been bombarded with ads touting the convenience, fun, and rewards of online gambling. Advertisements pop up on your smartphone, slide up the side of your computer screen, and jump out at you from television commercials.
But what’s so great about online gambling? Isn’t it risky to trust some unknown casino with your credit card information? It’s true. Online gambling can be risky if you’re not careful. But it can also be fun, safe, and even lucrative if you do it right.
Imagine having your favorite slot machine all to yourself with no crowds, nerve wreaking noise, or smoke-filled rooms. Imagine playing at a blackjack table with just you and the dealer. How great might it be to bet on a keno or bingo game without the distraction of other players influencing your betting?
Have you ever gotten up from a seat only to see someone else drop in a quarter in the machine you spent hours playing to win your jackpot? Real money online casinos eliminate that possibility. You are in the driver’s seat and a quick trip to the bathroom or a moment to answer an important phone call will not cost you the chance of winning.
Unless you live on the Vegas Strip, gambling online is usually more convenient and cost-effective than traveling. Not that there’s anything wrong with traveling to a casino, especially when you want to do more than gamble (shop, hit the pool, go to some shows, etc). But if you want to be able to play slots on your phone or bet on your favorite sports team, online gambling is the only way to go.
Free Practice & Lower Betting Limits
Unlike brick-and-mortar casinos, online casinos allow you to sign up for a free account and practice all casino games for free. Then, once you can deposit as little as $20 in some cases. Best of all you can play table games for as little as a $1/bet, whereas brick-and-mortar casinos usually have $10 minimum bets (sometimes $5 tables, but they are becoming rare).
Tips for choosing a legitimate gambling site
Choosing a legit site can be a daunting task for the inexperienced, which is why the best approach is to break the process down into three steps. Begin by checking which of the sites available in your area of residence catch your interest due to their game selection and feel. Next, remove all sites that don’t have a long history of fair conduct behind them. Finally, compare available bonuses – not just in terms of size, but also in terms of wagering requirements. Check out our real money site reviews for details and recommendations.
Bigger is usually better
Platforms that get a lot of traffic almost always offer better services than ones that don’t. This is because more traffic means more revenue, and more revenue allows for better promotions, bonuses, and games. Furthermore, the iGaming market is overcrowded at this point, which results in fierce competition between operators. Usually, the platform with the largest market share offers a better product, while smaller competitors try to carve out their own share by offering more attractive welcome bonuses.
In the case of competitive gambling, higher traffic translates directly into a better player experience. This is most apparent in online poker, where bigger platforms are capable of sustaining more exotic game variants and give you access to larger prize pools.
Look for licensing
Although attracting a large crowd is heavily indicative of trustworthiness, always check whether the sites you’ve pre-selected for direct comparison have the right paperwork. In gambling-friendly countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, or Canada, this boils down to checking whether the operator in question has a valid license issued by a widely-recognized regulatory body.
Most international platforms operate under licenses issued in Gibraltar, Curacao, Malta, or the Isle of Man, as this allows them to avoid excessive taxation. Some countries have fenced iGaming markets that are isolated from international player pools. If you live in such a country and have no access to an international, secure site, you should prioritize operators that have been approved by your local regulatory body.
The above also applies to those parts of the United States that have legalized online gambling. If you have no choice but to play on an offshore site, always go for the most reputable operators, such as BetOnline or Bovada.
Bonuses are there to draw your attention, but you should always consider them last. That 200% match up to $3,000 first deposit bonus won’t mean much if your relatively unknown poker room or online casino refuses to process your legitimate withdrawal.
The size of the bonus isn’t the most important factor, especially when it comes to casinos and poker rooms. This is because you will be required to meet certain conditions before you’ll be able to withdraw a part of the bonus or any winnings.
Typically this means wagering the combined value of your bonus and deposit a predetermined number of times in less than 30 days. A $200 casino bonus with a 15x wagering requirement is significantly better than a $500 bonus with a 30x playthrough. The latter might seem larger, but odds are high you’re going to lose your bankroll before you’ll be able to cash out. The former might seem small, but there’s a higher probability that at least some of that cash will make its way to your pocket.
Scams come in many shapes and forms, but one of them deserves particular attention: spoofing. This tactic involves the perpetrators tricking you into believing they are representatives of an online casino or sportsbook. They do this either by e-mail or by setting up a website that looks surprisingly similar to a casino’s official website. The scammers will then offer you a particularly enticing bonus in exchange for making a prompt deposit. If you follow their instructions, you’ll end up sending your money to the crooks instead of the real site.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” – the old maxim is particularly true in the gambling world. Always make sure you are browsing a casino’s official website by double-checking their URL in your browser, and never initiate deposits from outside the casino’s official applications.
How to Fund Your Account
Credit Cards & Prepaid Cards
In this category, virtually anything with a Visa or MasterCard logo is included. Most sites will allow you to fund your account via a major credit/debit card, as well as pre-paid cards, although some sites do not allow this. The benefit of using a credit card is that it is secure and funds are applied rapidly. The biggest drawback is that it takes much longer to withdraw funds when you’re ready to cash out your winnings. Most people have to request a check or wire transfer, which can take up to 5 business days or more.
Funding an account with a credit card is easy. Just like any online purchase, you will be required to provide your name, billing information, and information located on the front and back of your card. If the information clears, the transaction processes and funds are deposited immediately. Some people may get denied because they are attempting to go over their limit, or information they provided does not match up with information tied to the account.
Pre-paid cards are a great route to go for those wishing to keep gambling transactions out of their primary card statements, and also for those who want to impose limits on their spending amounts. If you often find yourself going above and beyond your budget, or losing track of your spending habits, then funding an online gambling account with a pre-paid method can be an excellent option. It is important to note that some sites will not accept pre-paid cards.
Cash Transfer Services
Western Union and Moneygram are two of the most popular methods of funding an account via cash transfer service and can be completed either over the net or in person at a retail location. The benefit of using a cash transfer service is that you can use cash. Another benefit is that it is safe, although it does require a little bit of effort to get the money deposited. If you have decided you want to fund your account using this method, you will need to consult the gambling site you are using in order to gather the information necessary for them to receive your payment.
After you have done this, you can register online with the cash transfer service to set up your account. You can then fund the account and send that information back to the gambling site for confirmation. This method is fairly fast and also secure, although a small percentage of the transferred funds will be deducted as a service fee. For those who would prefer not to pay any fees, I would recommend sticking to a credit card when possible. But this is a great option for those who may not have a credit card readily available.
In our opinion, E-wallets and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are what will dominate the future market in terms of all online gambling transactions. Here’s why.
First and foremost, it is more private, and therefore more secure, than most major forms of transacting available. E-wallets essentially take the money out of your hand and put it in the hands of a trusty middleman, or your own personal banker.
Some popular e-wallets include Neteller, FirePay, and Paypal. The benefits of using an eWallet are that you are funding a personal account completely separate from your gambling one, so in the instance that the site you are using is fraudulent or gets hacked, your personal billing information and card information isn’t subject to compromise. For the most part, reputable online gambling sites are very safe in terms of privacy, but for those who are concerned, this can be an excellent safeguard.
Another excellent method to fund accounts without compromising your privacy is to use alternate forms of currency, sometimes called cryptocurrency, with the most popular and available option being Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a form of digitalized currency that was first released in 2009 and has grown tremendously in virtually every market since. It first gained popularity on the “darknet” simply because no personal information is tied to the account when transacting. It is another type of eWallet with optimal anonymity. Some people really value this and online casinos started recognizing that.
Legally, it is a little ambiguous as to whether or not Bitcoin transactions are in the same class as regular eWallet transactions, and so, for now, there is no formal legislation on its use in the online gambling sector. There are many online Bitcoin casinos, some specifically marketing themselves to American gamblers, for this reason. Bitcoin is easy to use and once you have your account established, funds can be transferred just like an eWallet.
The beauty and prestige of Bitcoin is that transactions are essentially very difficult to trace. This is made possible by its “decentralized” network where no one’s information is kept on a single server for too long and personalized credentials are nearly impossible for anyone to decipher. Bitcoin currencies do change in value over time, although historically, this value has only increased.
Regardless of which method you choose to fund and withdraw from your online gambling account, one thing remains clear: the primary methods listed in this article are all safe and easy to use. Depending on the legislation in your region, you may be limited to one over the other, but for now, the primary methods of funding are easily accessible to most. Do your research and find out what works best for you.
Best (and Worst) Ways to Gamble Online
There are many ways to gamble online, and the differences between them can be extreme. Whether you’re interested in gambling for entertainment or profit, this guide will help you deposit your money with the right provider.
Online Casino Games | Return-to-player score: 4/10
Online casinos give you access to the same games that you can find in most land-based gambling establishments. These include slots, blackjack, roulette, video poker, and keno, to name a few. The outcome of each game is generated instantly by means of certified random numbers generators (RNG), which means that internet-casino games are more fast-paced than their traditional counterparts. Some platforms also offer live dealer games, which are played using traditional casino equipment and real croupiers.
Different casino games come with different rules, so players must follow different strategies in order to maximize their odds of winning. What almost all games have in common is their negative expected value. Whether you’re playing roulette or slots, the house always has an edge. This edge can range from above 20% to less than 1%, so picking the right game is important. Regardless of your choice, you will always lose your entire bankroll if you play long enough.
Consequently, casino games should always be treated as pure entertainment and cannot be played professionally. You can win money if you get lucky and exploit the variance, but every casino player is guaranteed to lose in the long run.
Online Sports Betting | Return-to-player score: 8/10
Sports betting is offered by specialized online sportsbooks. Some of them offer other forms of gambling under the same brand, but the sports betting section is always separate from the other games. Available bets range from simple money lines or over/under bets, through parlay bets that require you to predict the results of more than one sporting event, to futures. Online sportsbooks offer more options than their land-based counterparts and take less juice due to lower operating costs, so using them is always preferable as long as it’s legal to do so in your jurisdiction.
The odds offered by online sportsbooks don’t reflect their experts’ real predictions, however, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become a winning bettor. In fact, there are people who turned sports betting into a successful career, but doing so requires a lot of hard work and success is by no means guaranteed.
Online Poker | Return-to-player score: 10/10
Online poker isn’t as popular as it was in the first years following Chris Moneymaker’s legendary 2003 WSOP win, but it’s still one of the largest iGaming markets around. PokerStars, the most popular network in the world, gives you access to every imaginable variant of the game. It also hosts weekly tournaments with millions of dollars in guaranteed prize pools. Smaller platforms, such as 888 or PartyPoker, aren’t capable of replicating this experience due to lower traffic, but the competition is generally softer there.
This is even more true for real money sites that are forced to operate on fenced national markets due to strict iGaming regulations, as their player pools tend to be so small that they’re essentially forced to stick to No-Limit Hold’em.
Competitive poker is a game of skill, so becoming a consistently winning player is a matter of learning the game and playing enough hands or tournaments.
It also requires mental toughness and an adequate mindset. All of this means that the road towards becoming a professional poker player is a journey of self-improvement. If you’re able to access poker rooms without excessive rake, you can undertake that journey yourself. Just keep in mind that online poker is significantly more competitive now than it was in the early days.
Online Horse Race Betting | Return-to-player score: 7/10
Many sportsbooks accept bets on horse races. Available options typically range from standard Win/Place/Show bets to the more complex Quinella and Trifecta bets. High-profile betting platforms have excellent track coverage, allowing customers to wager on races held in Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the United States.
It’s possible to profit from horse race betting, but it requires more research than betting on regular sports. This is due to the sheer number of horses participating in most races. Typically, you won’t have access to data on the performance of individual horses against one another, which can be difficult to workaround.
Online Fantasy Sports | Return-to-player score: 8/10
Fantasy sports gambling sites allow players to assemble virtual teams composed of real sportsmen or women. These teams compete with one another based on the real-life performances of their members. The most popular forms of competition are head-to-head 50/50s and guaranteed prize pool tournaments.
Being successful at fantasy sports requires a similar skill-set to the one that makes a successful sports bettor. The key difference is that you will be dealing with individual players instead of the team-level odds set by professional oddsmakers.
Online E-Sports Betting | Return-to-player score: 7/10
E-Sports betting is a new service offered by innovative sportsbooks. Through it, you can wager on the outcomes of competitive gaming events, such as League Championship Series, The International, DreamHack, or the Evolution Championship Series. Most e-sports betting is centered around MOBA games (League of Legends, DOTA 2, King of Glory), RTS games (StarCraft 2, StarCraft: Brood War), and first-person shooters (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch), but other genres are also available around major tournaments.
Betting options are less extensive than in traditional sports betting, but the most e-sports-friendly legit sites continuously add new bet types based on the mechanics of specific games. In terms of profitability, betting on e-sports is very similar to betting on traditional sports. Match outcomes are difficult to predict, but this is balanced out by the fact that the oddsmakers are less experienced with competitive e-gaming than they are with professional sports. As with traditional sports betting, it’s possible to become a consistent winner as long as you’re willing to put in the necessary work.
Online Bingo | Return-to-player score: 3/10
From a mathematical standpoint, bingo is just another casino title. It’s a game of luck with a significant house edge, which usually amounts to about 10%. Players can improve their chances by buying the right cards, taking advantage of bonuses and discounts, and tracking the size of the field. However, once the game starts, the outcome is out of control.
Playing online bingo for a living is impossible for the same reason one can’t become a long-term winner at slots or roulette: the expected return on each bet is negative, which means that every player will eventually lose his entire bankroll. However, it’s possible to exploit the variance and become a short-term winner.
Online Lotteries | Return-to-player score: 1/10
There are two ways to buy lottery tickets online. You can either use the official website, which is not different from going to a local distribution point, or you can use a lottery concierge service. The latter allows you to purchase tickets for any lottery in the world. The catch is that you’ll have to pay a small commission on every transaction, which reduces your potential profits.
In terms of profitability, playing the lottery is the worst form of online gambling by a large margin – the house edge is usually close to 50%. To put this in perspective, consider that casino games with a 15% or higher house edge tends to be considered highly unfair. Furthermore, the odds of scoring a large win are extremely low. As a result, you should only play the lottery for fun and without expectations.