Online casinos, also known as virtual casinos or Internet casinos, are online versions of traditional ("brick and mortar") casinos. Online casinos enable gamblers to play and wager on casino games through the Internet.
Online casinos generally offer odds and payback percentages that are comparable to land-based casinos. Some online casinos claim higher payback percentages for slot machine games, and some publish payout percentage audits on their websites. Assuming that the online casino is using an appropriately programmed random number generator, table games like blackjack have an established house edge. The payout percentage for these games are established by the rules of the game.
Online casino types
Online casinos can be divided into two groups based on their interface: web-based and download-only casinos. Some casinos offer both interfaces.
Web-based online casinos
Web-based online casinos (also known as flash casinos) are websites where users may play casino games without downloading software to their local computer. Games are mainly represented in the browser plugins Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Shockwave, or Java and require browser support for these plugins. Also, bandwidth is needed since all graphics, sounds and animations are loaded through the web via the plugin. Some online casinos also allow gameplay through a HTML interface. Apple devices such as iPod, iPad and iPhone cannot play Flash games as the technology is not supported.
Download-based online casinos
Download-based online casinos require the download of the software client in order to play and wager on the casino games offered. The online casino software connects to the casino service provider and handles contact without browser support. Download-based online casinos generally run faster than web-based online casinos since the graphics and sound programs are cached by the software client, rather than having to be loaded from the Internet. On the other hand, the initial download and installation of a download-based online casino client does take time.
Virtual casino games
In a virtual casino game, the outcome of each game is dependent on the data produced by a pseudorandom number generator (PRNG). This determines the order of the cards in card games, the outcome of a dice throw, or the results produced by the spinning of a slot machine or roulette wheel. PRNGs use a set of mathematical instructions known as an algorithm to generate a long stream of numbers that give the impression of true randomness. While this is not the same as true random number generation (computers are incapable of this without an external input source), it provides results that satisfy all but the most stringent requirements for true randomness.
When implemented correctly, a PRNG algorithm such as the Mersenne Twister will ensure that the games are both fair and unpredictable. However, usually the player has to trust that the software has not been rigged to increase the house edge, as its inner workings are invisible to the user. Properly regulated online casinos are audited externally by independent regulators such as eCOGRA to ensure that their win percentages are in line with the stated odds, and this can provide a degree of assurance to the player that the games are fair, assuming the player trusts the regulator.
Live dealer casino games
In a live casino game, a human dealer runs the game in real time from a casino gaming table, which can be seen via a live streaming video link. Players can make betting decisions via a console on their computer screen, and can communicate with the dealer using a text chat function.
The results of the physical transactions by the dealer, such as the outcome of the roulette wheel spin or the dealing of cards, are translated into data that can be utilized by the software by means of optical character recognition (OCR) technology. This enables the player to interact with the game in much the same way as they would with a virtual casino game, except for the fact that the results are determined by real-life actions rather than automated processes.
These games are a lot more expensive for websites to host than virtual games, as they involve a heavier investment in technology and staffing. A live casino studio typically employs one or more cameramen, several croupiers running the various games, an IT manager to ensure that any technical hitches are dealt with swiftly, and a pit boss that acts as an adjudicator in case of disputes between players and croupiers.
In most cases, this requires at least a three room setup, comprising a live studio, a server/software room, and an analyst’s room. The configuration of these rooms varies from casino to casino, with some having several gaming tables in one room, and some having a single table in each room.
The high running costs involved with operating live dealer games is the reason why online casinos only tend to offer a handful of the most popular games in this format, such as roulette, blackjack, sic bo, and baccarat. In comparison, the running costs associated with virtual games are very low, and it is not uncommon for online casinos to offer hundreds of different virtual casino games to players on their site.
Online casinos vary in their approach to the hosting of live games, with some providing live games via their own television channel, and others offering the games exclusively via their website. In the case of televised games, players can often use their mobile phone or television remote controls to place bets instead of doing so via a computer connected to the internet.
Casino Games - More can be found out at our Casino Games Guide here.
A typical selection of gambling games offered at an online casino might include:
Many online casinos offer sign-up bonuses to new players making their first deposit, and often on subsequent play as well. These bonuses are a form of marketing that may incur a cost (potentially justifiable in order to attract a new player who may return and deposit many more times), since the casino is essentially giving away money in return for a commitment from the player.
The Welcome bonus is a deposit match bonus on the first deposit ever made in the casino or casino group. Welcome bonuses sometimes come in packages and may be given to match the first two or three deposits (First Deposit Welcome Bonus, Second Deposit Welcome Bonus, etc.). They can also be tied to specific games, such as the Welcome Slots Bonus or the Welcome Table Games Bonus. The casino may also offer Welcome bonuses for high rollers who make an initial deposit above the standard amount limit.
Cashback or Insurance bonuses
Cashback or Insurance bonuses are offered as a percentage of all losses in the player’s previous gaming activity. Typically, only deposits that were not matched with bonuses count towards this bonus.
No deposit bonuses
The most popular form of bonus is one that can be claimed without the need to deposit any of the player's own money - known as a no deposit bonus. These bonuses are used as acquisition tools by casinos wishing to attract new players.
Comps are commonly available at land-based casinos, but also exist online. Comp points can usually be exchanged for cash, prizes, or other comps. The amount of cash given per wager is usually very small and often varies with game selection.
In addition online casinos may offer comps such as free tickets to online tournaments, free slots online, tickets to other special events, extra bonuses, souvenirs and pay back.