I’ve been gambling online since 2001 and anytime I talk to someone new about how I like gambling for money online they almost always ask me the same question, “is it really safe to gamble online?”. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. I’ve seen all kinds of scams in the last 18 years. That’s why I started this website – to use my experience in gaming to provide unbiased reviews of the safety and security of online gambling sites in order to help protect players.
There are many concerns with the safety of online gambling, including but not limited to – local laws, personal and financial privacy/security, and game fairness.
Unfortunately, not all sites are ethical. Some abuse their customers’ trust through one or more ways, including slow payouts, poor customer service, and rigged games.
Our goal is to sort out the excellent gambling sites from the bad so that you don’t get cheated or have your money stolen. We’ve researched a variety of factors to bring you the most trusted online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks.
The following list features dependable sites that pass our standards for fair gaming, great customer support, quality licensing, responsible marketing, and more.
Safe Gambling Sites by Country
Country-specific gambling regulations have a significant impact on your ability to find a safe site in your jurisdiction.
Federal gambling laws in the United States are very strict on operators. This makes it impossible for offshore, reputable US gambling sites to offer their services to Americans without coming into conflict with the Department of Justice. Fortunately, regulations don’t impose penalties on the players, with the exception of Washington.
Other than that, all states have their own gambling regulations, which in most cases don’t address the issue of internet games directly. Residents of such states are free to play on offshore sites that don’t follow federal laws.
New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have legalized online gambling and have their own fenced iGaming markets.
Best Nevada-licensed sites:
- WSOP NV
Best New Jersey-licensed sites:
- Golden Nugget
- PokerStars NJ
- Virgin casino
Best Delaware-licensed sites:
- Casino Delaware Park
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Gaming Online
Canadian land-based gambling laws are strict and prohibit all types of gambling. Provincial and territorial governments are allowed to provide regulated gambling to Canadian citizens and have established regulatory bodies for this purpose. There are some secure sites operating under locally-issued licenses, such as Loto-Quebec and PlayNow. However, the traffic they get is very poor, which has a negative impact on the player experience, particularly when it comes to poker.
Importantly, there are no laws prohibiting individual iGaming enthusiasts from using offshore Canadian gambling sites. This means that Canadians have access to US-facing operators, such as Bovada, and massive international platforms, including PokerStars and William Hill.
Best international platforms that accept Canadians:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best US-facing gambling platforms available to Canadians:
The UK is one of the most gambling-friendly countries in the world, both from an operator’s and player’s perspective. All forms of internet gambling are legal there, and up until 2014 offshore sites weren’t even required to have UK-issued licenses to offer their services to UK residents. What’s more, players in the UK don’t have to pay consumption taxes because the government is interested in encouraging them to play on local, safe sites. This also extends to professional gamblers, who treat poker or sports betting as their main source of revenue. As a result, UK-based gambling aficionados have access to all the best iGaming platforms in the world. See our list of recommended UK gambling sites for more information.
Best international platforms available to UK-based players:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best UK-based iGaming platforms:
- William Hill
Australian gambling enthusiasts used to enjoy unrestricted access to international gambling platforms, thanks to legal loopholes in the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. However, the situation changed in September 2017, when the Interactive Gambling Amendment (IGA) Bill of 2016 came into effect. As things stand, offshore gambling operators face massive fines for offering their services to Aussies, which forced many of the reputable Australian gambling sites to withdraw from the market.
It’s worth noting that only operators were targeted by the government. There is no law that punishes individual gamblers for continuing to play on illegal sites. Furthermore, the IGA does not apply to Australian-owned sports betting sites or lotteries as long as they’re associated with a local land-based gambling company.
Legal Australia-licensed gambling platforms:
Offshore gambling sites that still accept Australia residents:
The Gambling Act of 2003 outlines what forms of gambling are permitted in New Zealand and grants the New Zealand Racing Board complete control over regulated sports betting in the country. This act was amended twice, in 2005 and later in 2015, but none of these amendments affected individual gamblers. In fact, the NZ legislation targets operators exclusively.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand didn’t take a firm stand against offshore gambling platforms, so most international operators still offer their services to NZ-based gambling enthusiasts. Learn more about online gambling in NZ.
Best offshore gambling platforms that accept New Zealand-based players:
- William Hill
NZ-licensed sports and horse racing betting sites:
The amended National Gambling Act of 2004 specifically prohibits South Africa residents from using real money internet casino, bingo, and poker platforms from South Africa. Government officials are allowed to confiscate unlawful winnings, which are then donated to the Unlawful Winnings Trust. Furthermore, the National Gambling Regulator is expected to be vigilant in alerting banks and payment processors to illegal iGaming transactions. The goal here is to block deposits to prohibited sites.
The only form of internet gambling that’s allowed in South Africa is state-licensed sports and horse race betting. Recreational gambling winnings are not considered income for income tax purposes.
Best online sportsbooks that accept punters from South Africa:
- Betway South Africa
The federal Public Gambling Act of 1867 is the central piece of gambling-related legislation in India. However, due to the outdated nature of this document, everything is regulated on the local level. Furthermore, the Information Technology Act of 2000 can theoretically be used to punish online gamblers for “transmitting information that can corrupt people”, but in practice, PokerStars has launched a successful site for India with a segregated player pool. All in all, the country’s legal framework is very ambiguous, but that doesn’t seem to be preventing local players from joining international sites. See our list of the best online gambling sites that accept Indian Rupees.
Best international gambling sites available in India:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best local gambling sites available in India:
How we find safe gambling sites
Trust is a vital part of online gaming. You want to choose a trustworthy gambling site that is professional, offers fair results, and can be trusted with your money. Playing at such sites eases your mind and allows you to get the most enjoyment out of internet gambling.
We scrutinize several aspects in an effort to find reputable sites and recommend them to you. Here are the main qualities we look for before approving any site.
Most online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks obtain licensing from one or more jurisdictions. This licensing allows sites to base their operation within the appropriate jurisdiction. Gaming sites can also offer their services to any country or territory covered by the license.
Some licensing authorities are more prestigious than others because they thoroughly vet applicants and provide protection for gamblers. This protection includes ensuring that all licensees adhere to required standards and revoking a license when an operator repeatedly treats customers poorly.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), Danish Gambling Authority (DGA), and Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) are among the most-respected licensing authorities. In contrast, Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica, and Curacao eGaming have lesser reputations in terms of scrutinizing applicants and protecting gamblers.
Many online casinos and poker sites undergo third-party auditing to ensure that their games offer fair and random results.
Auditors test internet casino software to verify that games deliver their advertised return to player (RTP) and that payouts are made according to pay tables. These third parties test poker software to ensure that card decks are odds are in accordance with a standard 52-card deck.
Some licensing jurisdictions require that sites undergo regular third-party testing. The UKGC, for example, requires licensees be tested annually. Therefore, UKGC-licensed sites undergo auditing, regardless of whether they display a seal on their homepage.
Reputable software providers
Dependable gambling sites feature renowned software developers with a history of fair gaming. NetEnt, Microgaming, and Playtech, which have all been operating since the 1990s, are three of the industry’s most-trusted software providers.
Reputable gaming sites avoid software developers with a scandal-ridden history. MGM Gaming Systems and SkillOnNet are two active providers that industry watchdogs have denounced for unfair gaming.
Visible parent company & ownership hierarchy
Companies that operate fair and credible gambling sites don’t have anything to hide. You can use a simple Google search to find information on these companies and their ownership hierarchy.
Unsavory internet gambling businesses, on the other hand, are less transparent with their ownership and relevant contacts. You should be wary of gaming sites that are owned by secretive, low-profile companies.
Well-run gambling sites process withdrawal requests within a reasonable timeframe. Standard wait times for popular banking options include 1-24 hours for eWallets, 1-5 days for credit and debit cards, 1-5 days for bank transfers, and 7-10 days for checks.
Any gaming site that significantly deviates from these timeframes should draw immediate suspicion. Shady sites often delay the cashout process in hopes that players will cancel their request and continue gambling their funds.
Ring-fencing customer deposits
Player funds should be kept completely separate from a gambling site’s operational and marketing budgets. Any company that dips into player deposits to fund their operation is likely in serious financial trouble. Gaming sites that don’t ring-fence player deposits may have difficulty processing cashouts in a timely manner.
Responsive customer service
Customer support at gaming sites needs to respond to players’ questions and comments within a reasonable timeframe. Nobody wants to wait two days or longer for a simple email inquiry to be answered.
Contacting customer service is always easier when a site offers multiple contact methods. Live chat is the quickest way to reach support reps – you’ll typically be connected with someone in less than a minute. Phone support is an excellent secondary option for quickly reaching customer service.
Reasonable explanations from customer support
Worthy gambling sites also have friendly and helpful customer service departments. Professional reps will answer your questions and help resolve any issues you may have to your satisfaction.
Let’s say that you ask about why you don’t qualify for a particular bonus. Quality customer support will be able to clearly explain why you didn’t earn the bonus.
A second-rate support department, in contrast, probably won’t know the answer to your question and may provide vague responses just to end the conversation. Low-quality customer service can also behave unprofessionally, indicating that the gaming operation as a whole is poorly run.
Gambling sites collect customer emails for marketing purposes. It’s perfectly natural for internet sportsbooks, poker rooms, and casinos to email offers to gamblers every so often.
However, no gaming site should use emails they’ve collected as an opportunity to spam players. Sites that use reckless marketing campaigns are not putting their customers first.
Gambling entities should also avoid misleading marketing efforts that give players unrealistic expectations on their odds of winning. The UKGC issues hefty fines to any site that they deem to be running misleading ads. Unfortunately, the vast majority of licensing jurisdictions don’t wield these powers.
Clear bonus terms & conditions
Online poker sites, sportsbooks, and casinos commonly offer bonuses, rewards, and promotions to attract players and retain their loyalty. Gambling sites attach terms and conditions to these offers to ensure that gamblers actually earn bonuses and other rewards through their play.
Terms and conditions cover aspects such as wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough), how long you have to meet playthrough, max bets, and whether any of the (casino) games offer reduced playthrough contributions. It’s the player’s responsibility to read through the T&Cs before pursuing any offer.
Gambling sites are responsible for laying out clear terms and conditions. Furthermore, they should avoid featuring predatory policies that severely restrict players’ ability to earn a bonus.
Important trust factors for online casinos
The biggest fear among many online casino gamblers is playing unfair games. Therefore, fair gaming is a crucial aspect of trustworthy casino sites.
Internet casinos and their software providers use random number generator (RNG) technology to ensure random results. The RNG is one of the main aspects that third-party auditors test before giving their seal of approval.
Auditors also ensure that payouts and RTP are in accordance with what’s advertised. For example, a casino or software provider can’t offer a slot with 93% RTP when the game’s paytable shows 96% RTP.
Internet casinos also need to honor earned bonuses and jackpot wins to maintain players’ trust. Some gaming sites refuse to pay bonuses to gamblers under the umbrella of ambiguous terms or rules that aren’t even listed in the T&Cs.
As for jackpot payouts, reputable casinos often exclude jackpot wins from withdrawal limits. This practice allows you to immediately cash out your payout rather than having to withdraw it in installments.
Other casinos impose small withdrawal limits (e.g., $5,000) and include progressive jackpots under these confines. If you win a large jackpot under this scenario, you’ll only be able to withdraw $5k per week.
The casino isn’t always at fault for slow jackpot payouts. Sometimes the software provider handles paying out jackpot wins. However, the gaming site should at least work with you to ensure that your winnings are paid out.
Notable online casino scandals
Internet casino scandals can involve a software provider, single casino, or parent company that operates multiple casinos. Here are some disgraceful incidents by game providers, casinos, and parent companies:
- Amigotechs offers faulty video poker games – Several casino watchdogs have reported issues with Amigotechs’ video poker games not paying according to their stated pay tables. In 2011, their 50-line Jacks or Better game didn’t make a single payout in 922 consecutive hands. Oddly enough, some casinos are still using the Amigotechs software.
- Betsoft refuses to pay full jackpot amount – In 2016, a player won a progressive jackpot on Betsoft’s Glam Life slot, only to be told that he didn’t qualify because the jackpot was hit during free spins. Glam Life’s pay table made no mention of this rule until Betsoft updated the table to support their claim afterward. The software provider later settled with the player for an undisclosed amount.
- Crystal Palace Group refuses to pay countless players – The Crystal Palace Group is one of the most notorious parent casino companies of all time. They’ve had numerous issues with slow payouts or simply refusing to pay at all. Their owner, Warren Cloud, died of a heart attack while sailing on his yacht in 2008. Ace Revenue has since taken over many of the old Crystal Palace-owned casinos.
- Rome VIP Casino features unfair slots – In 2009, Rome VIP Casino (formerly just Rome Casino) featured slots from Top Game (now Pragmatic Play) that excluded a crucial wild symbol needed to win the jackpot. The managers failed to remove the games even after being contacted several times. Rome VIP Casino has also received various negative reviews for low withdrawal limits, slow payouts, and unprofessional customer service.
- SkillOnNet offers misleading gamble feature – Industry watchdogs found that SkillOnNet offered a misleading slots gamble feature. Gamble options usually involve choosing the result of a coin flip (heads/tails) with a close to 50% chance of winning. The gamble feature in SkillOnNet slots, however, only offered around a 35% chance of winning.
Important trust factors for online poker sites
Internet poker sites are similar to casinos in that they should offer quality software with fair and random deals. An online poker RNG needs to deal cards with the same randomness that would occur in a 52-card deck.
Safe poker sites also work to prevent collusion in tournaments and cash games. In 2017, multiple accounts were found to be colluding in PartyPoker’s high stakes multi-table tournaments. Partypoker support reps banned the suspected parties and worked with affected players to rectify the situation.
Internet poker rooms also have to worry about bots, which are programs that play for account holders. Bots have become a big problem because their collective programming and skill level has improved over the years and can now beat the average human at many stakes. Reputable poker sites spend time monitoring customer playing patterns to root out bots.
Internet poker has featured more payout scandals than the casino or sports betting industry. Much of this has to do with legal events in online poker history.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 prevents American financial institutions from facilitating payments associated with unlawful gambling. The UIGEA motivated many iPoker rooms to begin working with sketchy payment processors to circumvent this law.
These practices helped fuel the events of Black Friday (a.k.a. United States v. Scheinberg) on April 15, 2011. Black Friday refers to the day the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted the world’s largest poker sites on bank fraud and money laundering charges.
Notable online poker scandals
The biggest internet poker scandals stem from sites failing to ring-fence player deposits before Black Friday. However, there were also two major incidents involving faulty software that gave Absolute Poker and UB Poker insiders an advantage over opponents. Find out more on these scandals and the ring-fencing debacles below:
- Absolute Poker (CEREUS Network) employee uses “superuser” account – In 2007, several Absolute Poker players complained that the handle “POTRIPPER” was using a superuser account, which allows one to see their opponents’ hole cards. A Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) report confirmed the allegations and fined Absolute Poker $500,000. The now-defunct Absolute finally admitted that an employee owned a superuser account and refunded $1.6 million to affected players.
- UB Poker (CEREUS Network) superuser wins millions off opponents – In 2008, multiple UB high-stakes players alleged that “NioNio” exhibited playing patterns similar to a superuser. The KGC’s investigation found that 1994 WSOP champ Russ Hamilton, who served as a high-level consultant for UB, used a superuser account from 2004 to 2008. The KGC report estimates that Hamilton illegitimately won as much as $22.1 million.
- CEREUS Network goes down with $50 million in player funds – The CEREUS Network had difficulty surviving following Black Friday as US residents were their primary customer base. They shut down in May 2012 while owing players an estimated $50 million.
- Full Tilt Poker folds with $350 million in player funds – Full Tilt was the biggest culprit in failing to ring-fence player deposits before Black Friday. They too struggled with remaining solvent after exiting the US and losing their main customer base. Full Tilt eventually closed while owing over $350 million to players. It was later revealed that the founding board members paid themselves exorbitant salaries.
- Lock Poker (Revolution Gaming network) goes offline with $15 million in customer funds – The US-friendly Lock Poker initially experienced success after CEREUS, Full Tilt, and PokerStars were forced to vacate the market. The company then ran into financial problems and began processing withdrawals very slowly. Lock went offline in 2015 and owed an estimated $15 million to customers.
Important trust factors for online sportsbooks
Internet sportsbooks differ from casino and poker sites in that they don’t offer RNG-based games. Therefore, sportsbooks don’t need audits performed on casino games or poker software. However, sports betting sites do need to inspire trust in other areas, such as offering fair terms and making timely payments.
Many sportsbooks feature policies to deter professionals (a.k.a. sharps) because they don’t want pros placing a lot of money on one outcome and ruining the line balance. Common anti-sharp policies include reducing maximum bets and withdrawal limits.
Few recreational gamblers have a problem with sites using lower cashout and betting limits to discourage sharps. However, some sportsbooks have gone too far by confiscating winnings from bettors under the assumption that they’re pros.
The sports wagering industry, much like poker and casino gaming, has had its fair share of slow-paying sites and outright scammers. Therefore, it’s essential that you look for sports gambling sites that make payouts within a reasonable timeframe.
See our page on the safest and most trusted online sportsbooks for more information.
Notable online sportsbook scandals
The biggest internet sports betting scandals revolve around sites either confiscating winnings under murky terms or shutting down without returning player funds. Here are some of the biggest black marks on internet sports gambling history:
- BetOnSports closes with $16 million in bettor funds – BetOnSports became one of the world’s largest betting sites, handling $1.8 billion worth of annual bets in 2006. However, the founder, Gary Kaplan, was arrested the same year and later sentenced to four years in prison for racketeering. BetOnSports shut down shortly after while owing customers $16 million.
- Oddsmaker confiscates $250,000 from alleged sharps – In 2012, industry watchdogs downgraded Oddsmaker for seizing $250,000 in winnings from gamblers. Oddsmaker took the money under their policy of banning professional play. However, they never presented any compelling evidence that the gamblers were indeed sharps.
- WSEX shuts down while owing $1 million to customers – The World Sports Exchange (WSEX) became a pioneer of online sports betting after launching in 1995. However, the company ran into severe financial troubles in 2013. They shut down on April 19, 2013 while owing bettors over $1 million. Co-founder Steve Schillinger was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on the same day.
Ranking the Safety & Security of Online Gambling Sites
Don’t get the wrong idea from all of the scams and scary language. A few bad apples should be avoided but you can find many legitimate online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks that can be every bit as safe as walking into your local casino. Some of them are probably safer.
Don’t focus on the negative. Focus on the best the web has to offer and you’ll have a great time. Let us help you find the most trusted and safest online gambling sites. Use our knowledge and the team’s knowledge to improve your online experience.
Any time you use a credit card or other payment method online you should consider how safe the transaction really is.
Not only can you get tricked into doing something unsafe, even when you deal with a safe and respected business, they could get hacked and lose your information.
We’ve put together a section covering possible scams dealing with the largest online gambling businesses and groups to help you learn more about where it’s safe and unsafe to play.
The ranking system is explained in the next section.
How we Rank Gambling Sites for Trust
Each online casino or gambling site we review receives a numbered safety score. The scale is 1 through 10 with 10 being the safest and 1 being a scam.
As the ratings are somewhat subjective you might want to consider including them in smaller groups when you’re trying to decide where to play.
The difference between a rating of 8 and 10 is small and you might rate them differently. In other words, a 10 may be better than an 8 or a 9, but all three of them are safe and offer quality gambling opportunities.
Likewise, we don’t recommend playing at anything rated from 1 to 3, because they all have issues.
The interesting area is the ones that fall from 4 to 7. While all of these locations can probably be used without too much worry, they all have at least a few red flags you need to be aware of before making a deposit.
Not surprisingly, only a few sites that rank below a 4 or 5 stay in business for long. The operators do something else that takes them out of business or the word gets around how poorly they treat players and they stop making money.
Here’s an overview of the rating system, number by number.
10 – A site or group that receives a 10 is so safe that not only would we trust them with our money; we’d trust them with our kid’s college fund and our mother’s grocery money. The only way a site receives a 10 is by operating in a perfect manner over several years.
9 – To receive a rating of 9 a site can have a few minor issues, but overall must have a long track record of safe and fair play. Minor infractions may include slightly delayed cash out times or occasional slow support response time.
8 – If a group receives a rating of 8 we consider them safe but they have a few more issues than a 9. The issues are still minor but can be frustrating at times. Another possibility is a fairly new group has been doing a great job taking care of their customers but don’t have a long track record yet.
7 – The differences between the next few numbered ratings are small. All of them have some issues, mostly dealing with bonus terms, poor communication, and extended withdrawal times. We trust and will play at the groups or casinos ranked from 4 to 7 but don’t expect the same level of service as the ones from 8 to 10. 7 is not far removed from the top tier so in many cases you could play there and never have an issue.
6 – Getting close to the middle mark, a rating of 6 is still good enough to consider playing, but anything below here and I usually deposit a smaller amount than usual and expect longer waits for withdrawals.
5 – The groups listed at 5 and 4 should only be considered when better options aren’t available. These groups are still considered mostly safe but they have some issues that some players won’t be willing to overlook.
4 – Just barely above the danger zone, casinos rated 4 are in danger of slipping into the not recommended area or are trying to climb out of that area.
3 – Any casino or gambling establishment rated at 3 is not recommended, but they can change their ways and move up the scale. As you’ll see below, a 1 is beyond hope and a 2 is close behind, but every once in a while a group or casino improves their service and can be trusted. If you see a 3 rating don’t play but don’t be completely surprised if the same group moves up or down at a later date.
2 – Only a step above a 1, a business ranked as a 2 is probably on their way out of business. They usually haven’t processed cash outs for quite some time, have predatory terms and conditions, and/or are just outright stealing from players. Never play at a 2.
1 – The sites or groups that receive a 1 are either already out of business or are so bad that they should be. You shouldn’t consider playing at a 1 no matter what. It’s not even safe to sign up for a free account because they might sell your information to thieves.
More Safe Online Gambling Tips
Here are a few important online gambling tips to consider before making a deposit at any site. These tips will help ensure that if you win big, you get to keep those winnings. The last thing you want is to hit a huge progressive jackpot and have the casino void your winnings because you violated their terms.
The main thing you need to be aware of at any online gambling site is their Terms and Conditions. A site’s terms will tell you all their rules regarding age requirements, country limitations, and rules for their bonuses.
- Avoid sites that have poorly written terms and conditions. Gambling site terms and conditions often include too much legal-speak as it is. If the person who writes the document does not have a mastery of the English language (or any other translation) it’s probably a good idea to move on. Poorly written terms and conditions will usually lend to problems down the road.
- Make sure the site allows players from your country. Certain casinos may not allow players from the United States, Canada, Denmark, Australia, or Russia. Also, make sure you comply with the laws in your local jurisdictions.
- Make sure you are old enough to gamble online. Some casinos allow players aged 18-21 while others do not. If you are between the ages of 18 – 21, look through the terms and conditions to ensure you are meeting the site’s age requirements. When in doubt, contact support to guarantee that they will pay your winnings if you win. Save any chat sessions or get in writing by email.
- Always read the wagering requirements and other bonus terms. Many gambling sites offer deposit bonuses to both first timers, and returning customers. However, because of people abusing bonus offers, site’s have become stricter with their guidelines. Always read the bonus terms and conditions before you accept an offer. For instance, some bonuses are for wagering purposes only. With these bonuses, only your winnings may be cashed out. Most no deposit bonuses have a maximum amount you can cash out without depositing. It’s always wise to understand how a site’s bonuses work before claiming them.
- Does the gambling site accept players from your area? Some online gambling sites prohibit players from certain countries from downloading their software or taking advantage of bonus offers. We do our best to only show you site’s that accept players from your area, but it’s still a good idea to verify the site before attempting to deposit.
- Make sure your system is compatible. In the past, this was a much bigger issue. Most online gambling sites were only available to PC users. Now, however, sites have developed Mac-compatible and mobile sites as well. These instant-play casinos use Flash software. So most of the time it doesn’t matter if a player runs a Dell, HP, Acer, or Apple computer. Flash casinos can be accessed in most of the popular web-browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. It is still important, however, for all Mac users to make sure the online casino is compatible before attempting to sign up.