Selecting an online casino


Selecting an online casino?

August 17, 2009 Warning Update

FBI 33-page affidavit stamped June 24/09 names Rennick and now Poker Stars and FullTilt Poker

Points to consider when picking an online casino for black jack, slots, video poker and all the casino games.

Is it legal for you to play gamble online?

You need to determine if it is legal for you to gamble online. Some countries and states within countries have laws prohibiting online play for money (e.g. Washington State in the USA explicitly bans online gambling for money). You need to understand your local laws before you proceed.

Picking an online casino site?

There are 1000s of online casino sites that want your business. Online casinos are mostly privately owned and located in the safe havens of the online gambling world. This suggests caution since what do you do when there is a dispute? And will your account and deposits be safe? Will you be able to withdraw your winnings? Will the personal information you give up to register be properly protected? These are kinds of questions that cause us to immediately eliminate a large number of the online casino sites.

Fortunately, some of the online casinos are operated or backed by publicly traded company (e.g. PartyCasino is owned and operated by PartyGaming a publicly traded company on the LSE. CS Casino and Omni Casino are operated by Cryptologic, a TSE and LSE traded company, or through companies Cryptologic has setup to operate casinos for 3rd parties).

Consider the following strategy and its supporting rational to make a safe and reliable choice for your online casino:

  1. Limit your search to a casino room owned and/or operated by a publicly traded company. Casinos owned and/or operated by publicly traded companies tend to be very safe in following country specific laws. Some publicly traded companies such as Ladbrokes never entered the US market because of legal uncertainties. Other operators such as Cryptologic (suppliers of CS casino, Omni Casino,...), and PartyGaming (PartyCasino) exited the US market after the US passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). Although there is much discussion in the U.S.A. to repeal UIGEA (summary here), and although as of late 2007 nobody has been charged under the UIGEA, Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone after online gambling operators in the past and may still do so in the future. Consider the implications of a DOJ action from a US and non US player perspective:

    Gamblers in the U.S. need to worry about this because remote sites that are still accepting bets from U.S. residents are at risk of prosecution, which means frozen accounts and late or no payout. See the BetonSports and Neteller prosecutions as well as news on PartyGaming in talks with DoJ to discuss PAST U.S. bets DoJ claims were illegal, and the Discovery/Paradise Poker settlement agreement to name just a few.

    Gamblers OUTSIDE the U.S. need to worry about this because, again, if remote sites are still accepting bets from U.S. residents, there is the same risk of prosecution. If so, ALL accounts will likely be frozen - not just those of U.S. bettors.

    More discussion...

    The recent Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services Decision by the WTO Arbitrator report notes "As far as the risk of criminal proceedings is concerned, all remote gambling operators a priori seem to be an equally likely target, even though a number of Antiguan operations may have been subject to prosecution in the past." [section 3.135 on page 42]

  2. Restrict your casino site search to those coupled with publicly traded gaming companies. PokerPulse only carries banners from sites connected meeting the above criteria. As a result, we do not advertise for any site that takes U.S. resident players. Site ads at are in our view among the safest and most reliable sites on the net.

  3. Register with your correct information at several sites and try the play for fun tables. By creating a real account at a candidate site you have the option to upgrade to a real money account in future and trying the play for fun tables lets you learn the user interface to the games. By registering you will be noticed by the marketing team at the site and you can expect to receive e-mails with reminders on the first deposit bonuses and other special promotions for new player at the site.
  4. Understand the bonus offers and take your pick(s). Do read the fine print on all bonus offers you receive once you have signed-up for play for fun account. There may be non trivial conditions to be met to earn your bonus (e.g. having to play a minimum number of raked hands). If in doubt about any bonus offer do reply to the offer e-mails and ask questions. You can expect all of the sites linked by PokerPulse to offer excellent marketing support and ongoing customer care.


When you play online don't you miss the B&M casino feel?

Well, consider what you might be missing in the B&M casino. Consider this item at our Roll&Shuffle reviews...

A large, barrel-chested man in his late thirties, Bennett has short-cropped hair and a cheerful demeanour. He seems like a pleasant fellow, although underneath the calm exterior lurks a deeply cynical and distrustful man. That's how Bennett describes himself, after four years of service inside the casino. "I used to think most people were nice, and honest," he told me. "Not anymore. I've seen the worst of humanity."

As a pit boss, it's Bennett's job to "maintain a liaison between the casino and the players." This may sound simple, but it's not.

At Casino Windsor, Bennett hovers behind a group of four tables, keeping watch on the action, making sure cards are dealt properly, scheduling breaks, assisting in the dealers' development and arbitrating disputes. Breaking up fights. "We get a lot of jokers throwing insults around," Bennett said. "Guys yelling at the dealers, tipping over tables. Two weeks ago we had a urinator. The guy actually took a leak underneath the table, all over a blackjack dealer's feet. That's about the worst thing I've ever seen. But I'm sure someone will eventually come along and top it."
(From the chapter entitled, Paul Anka Night at Casino Windsor, at p. 145)

But PokerPlayer claims U.S. Internet gamblers are NOT at risk ...

Yes, here's an excerpt from the offending column by I. Nelson Rose, which appeared Jan. 7/08:

Although Prohibition 2.0 scared the bejesus out of publicly-traded poker companies, it actually does only two things: It creates one new crime, being a gambling business that accepts money for unlawful Internet gambling transactions, and requires new regulations for payment processors.

What it doesn't do is make it a crime to play poker on the Internet. It doesn't directly restrict players from sending or receiving money. It doesn't spell out what forms of gambling are "unlawful." Specifically, it does not do what the federal Department of Justice ("DOJ") wanted, which was to "clarify" that the Wire Act covers Internet casinos, lotteries and poker.

The new felony it creates is greatly limited. Only gambling businesses can be convicted, not players.

The folly of this analysis is two-fold:

1. It fails to take account of the risk U.S. prosecution of an Internet gambling site poses to winners hoping to collect their winnings. Quite simply, you probably won't or you won't for a very long time if DoJ freezes/seizes company assets it considers to be the proceeds of crime.

2. Can you trust recent assurances the U.S. will prosecute ONLY site operators - NOT American gamblers? As noted in America's OUCH! case again in the arbitration report released pre-Christmas/07, DoJ as recently as 1998 indeed encouraged Antigua to establish its Internet gambling business. As Ilsa told the Nazi general offering her conditional immunity in Casablanca, "We know what your promises are worth."

Consider, too, your exposure to U.S. tax law if you fail even by accident or mistake to declare winnings consistent with the value of the winning sessions your site might release to DOJ as part of a plea bargain.

Is it safe to play online?

PokerPulse would argue that playing online is much safer than playing in a B&M casino room. You play online from the comfort and safety of your own home. If you win big a B&M casino you eventually have to leave with the winnings in your pocket. Watch your local news and see just how often casino winners in your area are followed and assaulted. Playing online a casino backed by a publicly traded company is in our opinion a far safer choice.

Doesn't the U.S. just prosecute sport betting operators?

The U.S. DOJ has, since at least 2002, taken the position in public interviews that all online gaming is illegal (see our U.S. law blog here). In the December 2007 DECISION BY THE ARBITRATOR on the Antigua WTO claim you can see the conclusions reached by the WTO panel:

In order to not to falsely attribute such declines in revenue to the US measures, we are mindful of the fact that the US measures, in particular the enforcement actions involving the prohibition for credit card companies and systems such as PayPal to make payments to overseas gambling operators, are capable of affecting all providers, and not only those from a particular country of origin. As far as the risk of criminal proceedings is concerned, all remote gambling operators a priori seem to be an equally likely target, even though a number of Antiguan operations may have been subject to prosecution in the past. [section 3.135 on page 42]

The fact that the U.S. DOJ hasn't prosecuted a remote operator that delivers just online poker is not any protection against future prosecutions. The same WTO Arbitrator report quote above also contains "Antigua suggests that prior to 1998, the United States Government even supported Antigua in its efforts to develop and supervise the remote gaming industry."

CBC Early Edition source claims internet gambling is an industry operated by organized criminals? Is this true?

Read the PokerPulse letter sent the CBC (with copies to many of the large players in the industry) -- CBC Early Edition online gaming story risks possible defamation claims (note that an ex-MPP is already suing CBC over gambling claims)... more here.

Is it fun to play online?

If you like casino then you'll probably prefer the online version. Play is faster, much faster actually, since you don't have to deal with the physical crowding of a B&M operation.

So what do you recommend for U.S. players?

I don't know what to suggest.


Click here for tips on selecting an online poker room.