Having been in the business for many years and seeing things from an unusual perspective – that of a party in between players and operators – I’ve developed strong opinions on the mistakes many players make when it comes to choosing which operator they want to spend their gambling buck with and how they handle things if a problem comes up. Some of these mistakes are more significant than other, but all players should be thinking about the below factors next time they come to choose between online casinos.
1. Choosing A Casino Because They’re A High-Street Brand Name
The big names that are well known aren’t always the best choice for players for several reasons. Firstly, unless you are a legitimate high roller it’s unlikely that one of the really big operators will attach significant value to your account. Where an operator has thousands of new accounts opening every month on top of the tens or hundreds of thousands of daily active accounts, the low or mid-range spender is never going to be their top priority. If you’re happy to lose a few hundred a month then the chances are that one of the smaller providers will attach a far higher importance to your account than the corporate giants.
Alongside this, the big brand names are by and large far less willing to consider the possibility that they’ve made a mistake. While many of the smaller brands are happy to demonstrate their transparency when complaints come in by discussing the issue with 3rd party dispute mediation services and taking on board independent perspectives of the situation, for the most part the larger an operator becomes the more entrenched their view of their own infallibility becomes and the more significant a barrier the corporate structure that exists between the mediator and anyone with any authority to discuss the complaint presents.
In short, while big brands may seem like the best choice, you as an individual are likely to matter very little to them.
2. Blindly Trusting Affiliates
Simply put, players would be well advised not to trust what they see on most site advertising online casinos. An affiliate site is a site that gets paid for sending players through to online casino (and a host of other products and services across different markets). Many of them will represent themselves as impartial and almost all of them will provide some sort of listing system to tell you who you’d be best playing with.
While there are some affiliate sites that focus on making recommendations that genuinely are what they believe to be the best thing for their players, by and large when you see a ‘top 10’ list on a site advertising online casinos the list represents the online casinos that have paid the most to get the best positions (i.e. #1 is paying more than #2).
As a general rule if you’re looking for recommendations of where to play you should find a site that makes clear what their criteria for receiving certain positions are. Have they actually played with the casino? Do they do checks for player complaints anywhere else? Is there a trial period before the casino is allowed to be shown in the top positions?
Don’t be fooled when a review shows a ‘pros and cons’. Almost every review site has got wise to the fact that readers won’t trust reviews that are glowingly positive. Look for a site that provides real reasons for their recommendations and beware of any site that carries exclusively positive reviews.
3. Jumping In First To Try A New Casino
This ties into the previous point about trusting affiliate sites. New casinos often start turning up all over the top positions of the various top 10 lists on loads of different affiliate sites when they first launch. This happens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, new casinos often make a big push to advertise as much as they can to get off to a good start. This means they have money to spend and are willing to pay affiliate sites to get the ‘recommendations’. Alongside this, new brands tend to convert better (make more sales) for the affiliate. This is because fewer players visiting the affiliate site will have seen the brand before.
For both of these reasons, there’s significant financial incentive for affiliate sites to press untried and untested new casinos. It’s in the affiliate’s best interests.
The affiliate’s best interests don’t marry neatly with your best interests as a player. While a new operator may seem exciting or be offering an attractive bonus, they’re also often inexperience in the market, poorly funded or even associated with previously failed casino operations.
As a player when you find a new start casino that you think you might like to try you should stop and see how long the casino’s been in business for. Look round to see if there are any complaints and what other players think of the new operation (casino forums are a great place to get information directly from players). Don’t be the first to sign-up. Hundreds of other players will do this anyway and seeing how they feel about their treatment can be invaluable. Wait and see what other players have to say rather than risking not getting paid. There are hundreds of well-established casinos in operation today that you can try while waiting to see how the new operator does.
4. Know What To Do If You Do Have A Problem With An Operator
All too often the complaints that come through to the complaint service at ThePOGG.com come in against operators that won’t cooperate with us. In every instance we attempt to contact the operator and resolve the issue but time and time again we send off emails knowing that we’ll either get no response or we’ll be told by the operator that they won’t talk to us. In most cases these problems could be easily avoided by checking to see how operators have responded to previous complaints.
Even without looking at old complaints, the best thing that you as a player can do is make sure that any operator you play with is licensed in a reputable jurisdiction. While not a hard and fast rule, if a casino is licensed in the UK or Malta they’re far more likely to talk to dispute mediators than those licensed in Curacao or Costa Rica.
That said, many UKGC or Malta licensed casinos won’t talk to us. The advantage with these casinos is that there are other bodies that the casino HAS to talk to when complaints come in. For UK players, all UKGC licensed operators have to provide an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. You can find a list of these services at the Gambling Commission and you can find the specific ADR service that the casino uses within the casino’s terms and conditions. For non-UK players when choosing to an operator that holds a Malta Gaming Authority license you can submit a complaint here.
5. If A Bonus Looks Too Good To Be True It Probably Is
Every so often you’ll see a bonus come round that simply looks too good to be true. The sad reality is that if it looks that good it probably isn’t what you think it is. Whether there are a stack of negative and restrictive terms associated with the bonus (capping how much you can win with the bonus or the amount you can bet are common ones) or whether it’s being offered by a disreputable operator, there’s almost always a catch.
Putting aside terms and conditions, the groups offering huge bonuses are usually located in poorly regulated jurisdictions and are often involved in all sorts of other questionable practices. Often they’ll illegally accept US players and the frequency of no or slow payment issues are high.
Even where operators are more reputable and have simply made a mistake and offered a bonus that’s a little too generous this can lead to serious problems. In 2010 Betfair offered a ‘Happy Hour’ promotion that appears to have resulted in mass closures of player accounts and non-payment of winnings (see Casino Meister).
The bottom line is that even where the operator is reputable if the offer’s done them too much damage they will look to use term clauses related to voiding winnings if they make a mistake rather than paying lots of players that have won too much.
6. Read The Terms And Conditions For Any Offer You Accept
This seems obvious but a significant volume of the complaints we see coming in arise because the player has failed to read the rules of the bonus that they’ve accepted. There are many areas in life where you’re unlikely to get into serious bother by clicking the ‘accept’ buttons on online contracts without really reading them. Online gambling isn’t one of them.
As bonuses can give players an advantage over the casino when used the right way, online casinos HAVE to attach long lists of terms and conditions to any promotion they offer so that they don’t find themselves losing money. As long players see bonuses as their primary incentive to play they will have to read terms and conditions.
There really is nothing more frustrating than seeing a player lose thousands in winnings because they didn’t read the terms and conditions and have exceeded the maximum allowed win or played a game that was restricted, but it happens all too often. It is a bit of a chore but it really is important to fully read the terms and conditions of any promotion you accept if you want to receive your winnings.
7. Don’t EVER Be Abusive Or Rude To Customer Support
Time and time again we see complaints where the player has resorted to name calling, threatening behaviour or just being flat our rude. While it’s understandable at times that emotions run high and even the best of us can get frustrated, the best thing you can do for yourself is to always be nice to casino support staff. You want these people to help with your problem and the moment you create a negative atmosphere the chances of you getting that help drop significantly. Even if your problem can’t be resolved by the person you’re talking to, it’s that person that makes the decision whether or not to take your problem to someone further up the chain of command. We’re all human and while everyone should endeavour to behave in a professional manner when at work, the casino employee is just as open to emotional bias as anyone else. And even if they put your behaviour aside and decide to take your issue to their manager, when their manager sees how you’ve behaved they’re far more likely to circle the wagons and protect their team member than to go out of their way to help you.
Make yourself dislikeable at your own peril!
Top 7 Mistakes Players Make At Online Casinos