The online casino industry is incredibly profitable for everyone involved in it except the players. And in some cases, some players walk away with a lot of money, too. But that's rare. Winning the lottery is rare, too, but some people pull it off.
I've put together a list of lies and half-truths you might hear from some online casinos. Not all Internet gambling sites make these claims. And not all of the sites who are making these claims are lying.
But it's important that you go into Web gambling with your eyes open. In any highly profitable industry, naïve and/or unaware customers can lose a lot of money. Be suspicious. Be a little bit paranoid. Don't put a lot of money into an online casino until they've earned your trust.
Here are some lies to watch out for:
This is more of a half-truth than an outright lie. I'm talking about these bonus offers that casinos tout so aggressively on their site.
Isn't it funny how the amounts of these bonuses are always written in really big colorful letters, but all the terms and conditions attached to those offers are written in fine print one or two clicks away from where you first read about the offer?
Here's an example of how a casino bonus offer might work:
You sign up at an online casino that offers a 200% bonus on your first $250. You get $500 in bonus money, so you now have $750 in your account.
That sounds like free money to most people.
Here's the problem:
You can (most of the time) ONLY use that money to gamble at the casino.
And you can't just gamble it once and pocket your winnings. Online casinos have wagering requirements, which require you to place a multiple of your deposit plus your bonus before being allowed to cash out.
Here's how that works:
The casino has a 35X wagering requirement. So you have to place 35 X $750 in wagers before cashing out. That's $24,500 in wagers.
Most casinos require that these wagers be placed on their slot machine games, too. Those games often have the highest house edge in the casino.
Let's assume, though, that you're playing at an online casino with a pretty low house edge. Let's say the payout percentage on their slots games is 96%. The house edge in that case is 4%.
4% of $24,500 is $980. That's the amount of money you're mathematically expected to lose when you place that many wagers.
Of course, you only had a bankroll of $750. If you're expected to lose $980, you've got nothing left. In fact, you're probably going to go broke pretty fast.
Let's assume you're an average slot machine player and that you make 600 spins per hour. Let's also assume that you're playing for $1 per spin, so you're putting $600 per hour into action. It should take you about 40 hours to get in $24,500 of action—assuming you don't go broke first. I think most players are going to go broke in 30 hours or less.
Don't get me wrong. I think online slots are fun. I think getting 30 or 40 hours of play instead of 10 hours of play for your money is a great thing, too.
But it's not the same thing as free money, and you shouldn't believe the casino when it tries to convince you that it is.
Online gambling sites make a big production of touting where they are licensed and regulated. Of course, the implication is that a company which is licensed and regulated is doing business legally. But this isn't always the case.
Taking bets on casino games from players in the United States, for example, is more or less illegal throughout the country. There are some variations in laws depending upon which state you live in. But the Wire Act might apply even in those states.
There is a kernel of truth in this assertion, though. Enforcement activities always focus on the company providing the bets. Players are never arrested or prosecuted. (At least they haven't been yet. Who knows what might happen if Trump gets elected, though—he does have ties to the land-based casino industry here in the United States.)
Your risk of being arrested and prosecuted for playing blackjack or a slot machine on your computer is incredibly small. But that doesn't make the activity completely legal.
And if enforcement does something to the casino where you have your money, like they did with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker a few years ago, your money might be tied up for a little while until the legal dealings are settled.
I heard a joke once about how everyone thinks they have a great sense of humor, but it couldn't possibly be true in every case. The same holds true for good taste. If everyone had good taste and a good sense of humor, we'd never be able to tell, because you can't distinguish the good from the bad unless someone out there IS bad.
But no online casino is going to market itself by saying, "Hey, guys. We're not the best casino on the Internet. Heck, we're not even the second best. But we're probably good enough for you."
The truth is that different casinos appeal better to some players than others.
Here's an example:
You might love blackjack, but you also like to place an occasional bet on a football game. You love to play Texas hold'em, too.
Slots.lv is a website that focuses almost exclusively on video poker games and slot machine games. Yeah, you can play blackjack there, but that's not the focus of the site at all.
On the other hand, Bovada.lv is a one stop shop for gamblers. They have great blackjack games, but they also offer poker and sports betting.
Neither site is "better" than the other—but one of the sites is better for a certain type of player than the other site is.
To be fair to the online casino industry, their games are fair… from a certain point of view.
But the reality of casino games, and the reason that the gambling industry is so profitable, is because their games are mathematically inherently UNFAIR.
Here's what I mean:
Roulette is a game where you have 38 slots on a wheel. 18 of them are black, 18 of them are red, and 2 of them are green. If you place a bet on red or blackjack, you get an even money payoff.
That doesn't sound like such a bad deal. You ALMOST have a 50% chance of doubling your money.
But look at how the math works out for the casino (and for you) over the long run.
Let's say you have 38 perfect spins, where the ball lands in each pocket once. You'll win even money 18 times, but you'll LOSE 20 times.
That's not a fair game, not in the mathematical sense, anyway.
That being said, the games at online casinos are, for the most part, just like the games in a land-based casino—at least mathematically. Video poker does indeed use the same odds as a deck of 52 cards. An online roulette game offers you a 1 in 38 chance of hitting a single number bet. You still have a tiny house edge on blackjack.
So yes, they're fair. But they're not fair in the mathematical sense.
In that respect, online casinos are no different than their land-based cousins.
Some of these sites do offer excellent customer service. We do our best to only recommend sites where the customer care is at least adequate. But not all properties are competent or even that concerned with customer service.
The biggest customer service concern at most casino sites has to do with cashouts. It's common for a lot of these companies to reluctantly and/or slowly pay out your winnings. Just because these sites make a lot of money doesn't mean they're not greedy.
I recommend playing at casinos with a solid reputation and a recommendation from a legitimate gambling portal.
Casinos make much ado about how hard it is to do business when bonus abusers are constantly trying to take advantage of their promotional offers. The truth is that they have less of a problem with this than they say.
Let's face it. The math is on the casino's side on every single bet you can make. How much money would a casino have to give away to new customers in order to overcome that fact?
As if that weren't enough, the casinos have wagering requirements that are sky-high. I haven't seen a casino with a wagering requirement low enough for a player to stand a chance of abusing their offer in years.
The reality is that a lot of gamblers would be better off just playing with the money they deposit and turning down any bonus offers at all.
Don't feel sorry for an online gambling site looking for sympathy for the customers taking advantage of their bonus offers. That's not nearly as big an issue as they'd like you to believe.
Online casinos make it sound like everything you need to do with them is easy. Making a deposit is easy. Setting up a new account is easy. Clearing your bonus requirement is easy.
The reality is that some of these things are easy, and others are not so easy.
Making deposits SHOULD be easy, and they are if you're using certain deposit methods from certain parts of the world. But if you're trying to use a credit card from the United States, you might run into more trouble getting the charge to go through than you'd expect.
Making withdrawals should be even easier, but here's where the rubber meets the road. You can really tell the caliber of the site you're dealing with when you're trying to withdraw some winnings. If they make it easy for you, stick with them, because they're the exception to the rule.
One aspect of casino gambling on the Internet that really is easy is the gameplay. Most reputable online casinos offer intuitive, user-friendly games that aren't at all hard to figure out. That's a casino gambling tradition, and it's probably not going to change soon. The easier they make it to play their games, the more money they make.
Not all online gambling sites are liars.
But a lot of them are.
Look for claims like the above when you're getting ready to sign up for a new online casino. A healthy dose of skepticism could save you a lot of money, frustration, and heartache.