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Russell Hunter 
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Finding the Right Online Casino

There are about 3,000 online casinos as of the date of this publication.  There are many ways you can go about finding an online casino.  Perhaps the easiest way is to go to one of the online search engines, such as Yahoo.com, Excite.com, or my favorite, Google.com and type in "online gambling" or "Internet casinos."  Almost any gambling related word such as "gambling" or "blackjack" or "Las Vegas" will turn up thousands of hits on any of the search engines.  Many of the hits will be portals for online casinos, with most of them purporting to list a few selected and "safe" casinos.

Most of these casino portals have done no research at all on the safety or reliability of the casinos they have listed.  The casinos listed are there simply because the casino portal listing them is an affiliate of the casinos. As affiliates, they are paid a commission or referral fee for every customer who is referred to the casino by the casino portal and subsequently plays at the casino.  Some online casinos offer simple fees to their affiliates for visitors who register to download the free software, and others go much further, even offering their affiliates a percentage of the losses from persons who are referred and gamble in the casino.

Regardless of how the casino's affiliate is paid, you cannot rely on these casino portals to have taken any measures to protect your interests.  In fact, in many cases, the referring sites are rooting for you to lose so that they can be paid higher commissions.  The conflict of interest here is self evident, yet hardly any of these sites mention their relationships with the casinos they are recommending.

You can literally spend hundreds of hours building a list of prospective casinos if you go about it by searching through all the sites which come up through the search engines and the casino portal sites.  And, you still will not have answered some of the basic questions, such as "Is this casino safe?" and "Does it offer a nice sign up bonus" and "Is it a good place for me to play?"

I have done most of the work for you to help you find the best online casinos.  Appendix 1 lists almost 700 online casinos, giving their names, URLs and a description of the Sign Up Bonuses, if any.  This list should be your starting place to find a suitable casino.

You may wonder why I just don't give you a list of ten or twenty casinos where I have played and save you a lot of time and effort.  There are several reasons I have decided not to do this.

First, if I listed only my favorite casinos, and a thousand readers of this book decided to use the techniques I am describing to beat the casinos, you can be sure that the bonus offers would disappear very quickly.  My list would be quickly outdated as the casinos would change their offers to counter the large number of winning players suddenly descending on their site.

Another reason I hesitate to give you a small list of "proven" casinos is because of the fluidity of the Internet.  Online casinos change much more quickly than the brick and mortar variety of casino.  Because of this rapid change, there is just no way that any short list I give you is still going to be up to date in a year or two.

That is why I suggest you start with the large list of online casinos in Appendix 1.  This online casino list is comprehensive enough that it will be a good starting point for some time.

If you will look at the List of Internet Casinos, you will notice that I have indicated the ones with Sign Up Bonuses as of the date of this publication.  Like all things on the Internet, these bonuses will change.  You need to specifically verify that a bonus is still offered before you begin playing.  Fortunately, this is one of the easiest things to ascertain with an e-casino.  Many casinos use pop-up boxes advertising the bonuses as soon as the site appears in your browser.  These casinos want you to see the bonus as a major attraction of the casino so that you start playing immediately.  While you want to pick a casino with a bonus, as that is an essential part of advantage play, the bonus should be for a reasonable amount.  Ten percent bonuses are common and 20 percent bonuses are not rare.  However, any casino offering a bonus greater than 20 or 25 percent should be scrutinized very carefully.  If the casino's offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.  I would especially be leery of very large bonuses, such as 50 or 100 percent.

After finding a casino offering a bonus, it is a good idea to see if the casino is licensed.  While licensing is no guarantee as to the casino's trustworthiness, I would much rather play in a licensed casino than an unlicensed one.  Licensed casinos have to meet a number of criteria for licensing.  Perhaps as important as any other requirement is that licensees have to come up with cash to pay for the license.  Licenses range in cost from $25,000, for one in Dominica, to $350,000 for an Australian license.  Crooks usually try to set up a scam as inexpensively as possible and usually don't bother to get licensed.

You can also check to see if the casino is a member of the Interactive Gambling Council (http://www.igcouncil.org).  The IGC is the principal Internet gambling industry group.  It is engaged in lobbying and promoting a responsible, regulated online gaming industry.  There are a number of provisions of IGC membership designed to protect players.

Some of the terms IGC members are required to comply with are:

IGC members will abide by the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which they conduct business.

IGC members will voluntarily make their systems, algorithms and practices available for inspection and review by any legitimate gaming commission or governmental authority or by any independent testing authority recognized by the IGC.  

IGC members will design and operate their services to afford customers privacy and confidentially and will post their confidentiality practices and procedures. 

IGC members shall be truthful in all promotions.  Gaming and wagering operator rules as well as payout percentages will be made available to the public.

In order to provide for the prompt and efficient resolution of disputes, IGC members will retain detailed transaction records which will be archived, accessible and auditable by any legitimate gaming commission of governmental authority.

IGC members will conduct their banking and financial affairs in accordance with generally accepted standards of internationally recognized banking institutions.

IGC members will ensure that there is adequate financing available to pay all current obligations and that working capital is adequate to finance ongoing operations.  IGC members will pay winnings and account balances promptly on demand (italics mine).

In addition, it costs $5,000 to become a full member of IGC, placing another hurdle for those less-than-scrupulous operators.

Casinos which are subjected to audits by well known public accounting firms are more reputable than ones which are not.  Look for information about the casino's auditors on the e-casino's web site.

Check the appearance of the site.  If the site looks cheap or amateurish, or if you have a bad feeling about the site, don't play there.  With so many online casinos to choose from, you can afford to be picky.

If you are so inclined, you can check to see if the casino has had very many complaints.  A good place to start is deja.com (http://www.deja.com).  Go to the site and type in the name of the casino you are reviewing.  If you want to see an example of a casino which developed some notoriety for not paying its players, and now appears to be out of business, go to deja.com and type in "firstlive" or "first live." 

The site (http://firstlive.com) is no longer operative; however, a number of the complaints are still posted.  Appendix 4 lists sites you will want to avoid.  Appendix 2 lists a number of Internet gambling resources used to research a site.

The Better-Betting site (http://www.better-betting.com) features a "have your say" column where players can express their opinions about online gaming.  Casino Web Cast's web site (http://www.casinowebcast.com) also has a message board.  Gambling Magazine (http://www.gamblingmagazine.com) has articles on gambling and a "Not Recommended" list.  However, this list is too broad to be useful, as all of the Starnet casinos recently showed up on their bad casino list.  Starnet is one of the premier operators in the business and only Gambling Magazine seems to have a problem with them.

There are many other sites with forums or discussion groups.  The Daily Spread (http://www.thedailyspread.com) has a forum as does the Internet Gaming Commission site (http://www.internetcommission.com).  This site has a very thorough dispute resolution process and has an online form where you can submit disputes.  It also offers an accreditation process for members and has an online search engine for casinos.

If you want to find out more about the people behind the casino, go to the WHOIS registry at http://internic.net/whois.html.  This is a registry of all registered domain names used on the Internet.  Enter the exact URL of the casino (the domain name) and you will find out the information about the persons behind the casino, such as their home addresses, the web site administrator's name, and telephone numbers. 

There is a growing number of publicly held casinos.  I listed a number of the publicly held casinos in the  chapter  "Is it Safe to Gamble on the Net?"    For the latest up to date information on publicly held casinos, check the web site found at http://www.streetdice.com.

If you like to do original research, then I have given you several ways to go about it.  However, you may not have the patience to do all of these things.  A very easy way to judge e-casinos is to see if they use a major brand of software.  Appendix 3 lists the web sites of many of the major software developers.  It takes a large investment to develop the software for an online casino.  The large software developers have substantial investments, and they are going to do everything they can to promote a well regarded online gaming experience.  In addition, software companies often do substantial investigations on potential licensees and continue to monitor their activities.

If you have a bad experience with an e-casino, it will most likely be with one using a half-baked Java program and unknown software.  Many experts recommend that the easiest way to avoid problems is to simply avoid any e-casino using Java software and only play at casinos with large downloadable programs, as these casinos generally have much larger investments in their infrastructures and are more likely to be reliable.  The major software companies relying on large programs which you must download and install are Boss Media, Cryptologic, iCrystal, and Starnet.  Starnet alone has hundreds of licensees as shown in Appendix 5.

I believe that limiting yourself to only playing on the online casinos using a large, downloadable program, may be too restrictive.  I have had good experiences with the licensees of the following Java based software developers, all of which use Java based software:  Chartwell, Gambling Systems, Online Gaming Systems and Unified Gaming.  In addition, several of these companies are publicly traded, which adds to their credibility.

There is one major software brand which has been implicated in massive fraud, using software programmed to cheat the consumer and even cheat their own affiliates.  These companies are Funscape.com, CasinoSoft.com the game developer, Handa-Lopez Inc. (HLI) acting as the e-cash company, World Wide Multimedia and Scylinx Corporation.

There is hard evidence that the masterminds behind these frauds, David Brown and Raymond Clark, cheated their own casino operators as well as thousands of merchants who are advertising their banners on a commission basis. 

There is also evidence, based on statements made by Handa Lopez, Inc., that their software is also rigged to cheat the end consumers.  Handa Lopez is David Brown's ex-wife.

Just a short time ago, CasinoSoft, in a desperate effort to sell its expensive rigged software, set up web sites using graphics and animations stolen from casino operators and a game developer, who are their competitors.  The Internet service provider hosting the sites for David Brown removed the pages to avoid legal proceedings.

I recommend that you avoid any of the e-casinos affiliated with this group.  Here is a list of casinos using this software:

            Funscape.com

            Granddominican.com

            Starluck.com

            GoldenHollywood.com

            Caribbeanisland.com

            Casinoalitalia.com

            Pagodacasino.com

            Showgirlscasino.com

            Boathousecasino.com

            Elsanjuancasino.com

            Playbig.com

            Parisiancasino.com

            Desperadocasino.com

            777wins.com

            Cabanacasino.com

            Thepalmscasino.com

            CasinoCaribe.com

            HighStakes.com

            Cybersino.com

            IslandCasinos.com

            Grandtowers.com

            Lucky8casino.com

            CasinoPacific.com

            CowBoyStudPoker.com

            CasinoUtopia.com

            Casino21.com

            GoldenOasis.com

            07-LadyLuck.com

            7by7.com

            a1vegas.com

            Wallstreet-casino.com

I have given you considerable food for thought.  But it makes no sense to play in any casino unless you are comfortable with the casino.  After culling out the casinos which do not meet our tests for "reputability" and picking a casino which offers a reasonable bonus, the next step is to download the software and play some games for fun.

While you are trying out the software, you may want to call the casino with any questions you have.  If the casino does not have a phone number, don't play there.  If the phone rings and rings and no one answers it, do you think you will be able to reach anyone if you have a problem involving money.  After you have completed checking out the casino using background research, your final test resembles a full dress rehearsal.  Several times I have had problems with software I have downloaded.  If the e-casino is not responsive in solving this problem, then don't play there. 

Here is a list of items to check before deciding to deposit cash with an online casino:

1.  Find a casino with a sign up bonus.  There is no point in playing in any e-casino which does not give you at least a 10 percent bonus.

2.  Check to see if the casino is licensed.  Appendix 5 lists unlicensed e-casinos. 

3.  See if the e-casino is listed as a licensee of a major software brand.  Appendix 3 lists the major software brands and their URLs.

4.  Review some of the resources I have shown you to see if any obvious problems, such as numerous consumer complaints, are apparent.  Appendix 2 shows a number of Internet resources you can use to get the latest information.

5.  Check the lists of sites to avoid.  But don't forget to check some of the other references I have given you as situations change very quickly on the Internet.

6.  Visit the e-casino's web site.  Verify the current amount of the bonus offered.  If the bonus is given as a percent, is there a limit on the dollar amount?  What games are offered?  We will only be interested in playing certain games and the casino must offer them to remain in contention.  Are there transaction fees?  How much are they.

7.  Find out if the e-casino is audited?  If the auditor is a large, well known firm, so much the better.

8.  Visit the e-casino's "about us" page giving information about the operators.  If it doesn't have one, you may want to check the WHOIS database to get more information on the principals.

9.  Find out who processes the credit card transactions.  Not all sites show this information, but it is very helpful when you have played in dozens of casinos and are trying to reconcile your records.

10. Download the software and play some of the games without depositing any money.  If you are still not quite certain about the e-casino or if you have any problems or questions with the software, try e-mailing or phoning the e-casino.  If you can't reach someone now, don't even think about depositing a nickel with them.

If you want to shortcut many of these rules, only play at a casino using well known software.   Only play with downloadable software and make sure the casino offers at least a 10 percent bonus, can be contacted by phone and is licensed.  And don't forget to download the software and practice using it before making a deposit.        

  The above was taken from the Online Gambling Toolkit.

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