Spotting Rogue Casinos

Most online casinos are reputable. They have to be. The online community is quick to expose any roguish behaviour, and blacklisting is tantamount to embargo. No one will play at gaming web site that has been known to rip off its customers.

That said, new web sites are so easy to create that there will always be hustlers trying to trick players out of their money instead of earning it honestly. For the sake of definition, “rogues” are those that not simply “unprincipled” or “deviant,” but those which are guilty of gross customer negligence that borders on criminality. They spring up, defraud players, and disappear without a trace, disgracing the industry as a whole.

The list of grievances against rogue casinos is lengthy. It includes unethical business practices, slow payments, non-payment, bogus license claims, confiscating player winnings, and unresponsive or nonexistent customer service. It also extends to spamming or dissemination of malware/spyware/viruses, fake credentials or security certificates, collusion, misleading web site content, incorrect payouts, outright cheating, and crooked software.

One of the most famous cases of a gaming web site bilking players was Canada’s “Ultimate Bet.” In 2008, a poker player noticed that one opponent had a win rate that was statistically improbable. Postings of concerns on a popular poker forum led to an official investigation, which in turn revealed manipulation of software and collusion involving 23 accounts and 117 user-names.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission discovered the cheating extended all the way back to 2003. In 2009, the owner of Ultimate Bet, Tokwiro Enterprises, was ordered to pay out more than $22 million to players who had been cheated out of funds, plus another $1.5 million in fines. The scandal shook the online casino world so greatly that watchdog organisations, such as eCOGRA, Casino Advisor, Casino Watchdog, and CasinoMeister, are now more vigilant than ever in ferreting out, identifying, and exposing rogues.

Apart from checking blacklists online, there are other ways in which players can protect themselves from being cheated. The most basic first step is to do some research, checking into the background of the casino at which one might wish to play. The owner and address must be listed somewhere, so try to find the parent company. If it is listed on a major stock exchange, that is usually a good sign of reliability.

Even if the owner is a privately held enterprise, it may manage other sites as well. They can be checked if little information is available on the primary site. If a dead end is reached, that may be a red flag, especially if whatever postal address given is incomplete. Rogue casinos do not want to be found, so they typically limit the amount of information available.

To operate a legitimate online casino, the web site own must be licensed by some legal authority or jurisdiction, offer games provided by a software developer, and have an auditor that verifies the fairness of the games. All three of these should be identified somewhere on the gaming web site. Should any of these be missing, that too is a red flag. Similarly, if any of the three has a poor reputation for service or is blacklisted, that’s cause for concern as well.

Reputable licensing jurisdictions include Aldernay, Antigua, Costa Rica, Curacao, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Kahnawake, Malta, Netherlands Antilles, and the United Kingdom. Less restrictive authorities are Belize, St. Kitts, and Venezuela, which are best avoided. In the same way, software providers like 888, Cryptologic, Electracade, Real Time Gaming, Microgaming, NetEnt, Playtech, and Wagerworks have solid reputations. Developers that serve only one site or casinos featuring “proprietary software” may be suspect.

Other tip-off to rogue operations include shoddy graphics, buttons or links that do not work, poor reviews, player complaints on blogs or forums, and a limited number of methods of making deposits or payouts. There are so many truly good casinos online, there is no reason whatsoever to take a chance playing at a suspected rogue. Big welcome bonuses, high payouts, and loose games mean nothing if winnings can’t be collected.

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