Online Casinos vs. Land-Based Casinos

Comparing Internet casinos with those based on land is a bit of an apples-to-oranges challenge. They both offer gambling opportunities, but the similarities do not extend much further than that. Following are seven ways in which the two differ, along with some advantages and disadvantages one should consider when choosing where to play.

  1. Entertainment Value : Land-based casino have taken to calling their activities “gaming” and their customers “players.” The reasoning behind this is that people will pay to play games and feel good about the experience if they have been entertained, whether they come out ahead in the end or not. “Gamblers,” on the other hand, make wagers only with winning in mind and can become quite upset by losses. By serving players complimentary drinks, providing free music and lounge acts, and drawing enthusiast crowds to mingle with, land-based casinos create a timeless, party atmosphere. Some even pump pure oxygen into the room to heighten the feeling of euphoria. No Internet operation can come close to matching it.
  2. Convenience : Very few people actually live next door to a casino that’s open for business 24/7, but that is exactly what the Internet provides. Every computer with online access is a de facto Cyber Casino. Just a few clicks will turn a home, office, hotel, Internet café, library, or even a high seas cruise into a personal gaming haven. Never has it been easier to place a bet. In fact, most major online casinos now offer the added convenience of wagering via mobile device, so not even a computer is required.
  3. The Cost Factor : Because their betting minimums tend to be higher, most land-based casinos require a bigger initial bankroll than online casinos do. This is especially true of table games, but somewhat less so for slots and video poker machines, which now have penny versions. Nonetheless, a trip to a bricks and mortar casino will have other expenses involved, from transportation to tips and any extras, such as drinking, dining, or overnight accommodations. On the other hand, regular players and high rollers are eligible for “comps”—free meals, rooms, and shows, which can help defray such expenses.
  4. Payout Ratios : All casinos, online or off, are regulated by gaming commissions that require payouts be no less mandated minimums, typically 80% or higher. On land, the average payouts tend to be closer to 95%. Online, they may be as high as 97% or more. Although it may seem like a slight difference, a few percent in favor of the casino means much higher revenues for the house. Because web sites have limited infrastructure and few staff, their overheads are lower and they can afford to pass the savings on to customers. In general, bigger casinos have economies of scale and better payouts; casinos on Native American Indian reservations typically have lower payouts.
  5. A Matter of Control : Playing at the tables of a land-based casino can be fun or frustrating depending on the dealer, who controls the pace of the game. Similar games played online put the player in charge of when to bet, when to initiate play, how long to take making decisions, and how much time elapses between plays. Also, there is never any waiting for a place at an online table of machine; players may come and go as they please.
  6. The Learning Curve : Most online casinos today offer visitors the opportunity to “sample” their games by playing in the software’s “For Free” or “Practice” mode. There is no risk involved as players take their time becoming familiar with rules and play. The equivalent in land-based casinos is the ability to watch others play and learn from their successes and mistakes.
  7. Cashing In : Land-based casinos are the most cash-intensive business in the world. Although most offer credit to their best customers, the vast majority of players have put up cash to get into the action. Online casinos allow virtually anyone with a credit card or bank account to buy in. They are, by nature cashless. What seems like an advantage, however, can also be a liability. After a winning session, “credits” are transferred to an online account. Turning those credits into “real money” can require jumping through a few hoops, plus a waiting period. Live casino cashiers provide instant gratification, turning chips, tokens, or paper credits into cold, hard currency on the spot.

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