I recently found a good copy of the most popular article I’ve ever written since I started back in ’98. I reckon this was probably first published in 2000-2001, give or take. I figured it might be a good one to preserve here for posterity but do keep in mind that this was written back in the early days:
#1: Thou Shalt Know The Local Law
Sad to say, but in some places it’s illegal to gamble on the Web. Know your legal status in your home state, province, territory, country before wagering cash. Online gambling laws are ever-changing and the best way to definitively determine the current laws that apply to you is by contacting your local authorities.
#2: Thou Shalt Know Thy Casino
Good online casinos provide extensive info pages that tell you where they are licensed, who’s behind the operation, what their game rules and cash policies are, and how to contact them for help. One of my favorite casinos has over 30 pages of details on their operation, policies, and so on. Use that as a benchmark.
Do your research. If you don’t you’re flying blind. Check out message boards to see if your casino has been tying players up with it’s Terms & Conditions, withholding bonuses or giving players the run-around. Visit websites like ours for casino reviews and information. Is the casino licensed by a government agency? How long have they been in business? Do they have a respectable reputation? (the message boards often have the best info). Spend some time reading to know who you’re doing business with before you haul out your credit card.
It is tempting to look to organizations that claim to certify or approve casinos. My recommendation is that you be very cautious with this. It’s relatively easy to make certification claims and hand out a “Seal of Approval” or a “Gold Star” or whatever. It’s quite another thing to do so reliably and with integrity. My suggestion is to only believe such recommendations when there is an active message board community there to back it up. Open debate is the online players best friend at this particular point in time, by a long shot.
#3: Thou Shalt Play For Free
Almost every casino offers a “Play for Free” option and if they don’t, go elsewhere. Playing for free is the first thing you should do since it’s your way of giving the casino a test drive. This will help you uncover unexpected problems or snafus that are part-and-parcel of the online experience.
For example, it’s better to know that the betting mechanism at Casino X drives you up the wall before they have your money. Or maybe you can’t access their site through your local network. Maybe their games just plain won’t run on your machine. There are hundreds of casino sites online so there’s no reason to rush into it.
#4: Thou Shalt Demand Adequate Customer Support
The better casinos offer toll-free telephone support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Other customer support options include 24/7 chat, local phone numbers, fax lines, and lastly, email. How available are they making themselves to you? Try out their service by calling to ask a question, or hop on the chat to see if anyone is actually there. As a prospective customer it’s your right to see if anybody’s home. Because if you do have a problem, you’re damn sure going to want them to be available and as helpful as humanly possible.
Keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all email address is the lowest level of service going because their box could be clogged with messages, they may or may not be there, they might not get your email, etc.
#5: Thou Shalt Know Thy Payout Options
The very best payout plan I’ve seen to date is the Instant Withdrawals via Neteller. This option is only available at a very few casinos (do a Google search for the words “Neteller”, “instant” and “withdrawal”) but I fully expect to see this payout option becoming much wider spread. UPS Express is also a good option for check delivery especially in the US and Europe, less so in Canada and possibly other places.
I’d suggest saying “pass” on a casino that places a charge on basic withdrawals. Why should you pay them to give you your own money? A good casino treats its winners (and losers) with respect.
#6: Thou Shalt Check Out The Bonuses
Bonuses have become a standard means of attracting and keeping players. These range from sign-on and referral bonuses to frequent-player “comp” programs. The bottom line is that a good casino will thank its players for their patronage with these small gifts and gratuities and that means your dollar will go a little further when you play with them. A no-bonus casino is a rare thing these days and generally deserves all the special attention it offers.
#7: Thou Shalt Know That All Games Are Not Created Equal
The Internet is a world of software and that means that the payouts, house commissions, number of decks in play, number of zeros on the Roulette wheel, and just about everything else can be set to whatever the software designers like. Please note that I’m not saying that casino managers sit there and mess with the games whenever they feel like it. What I am saying is that some online casinos have better odds than others.
If roulette is your game, why play a double-zero game when you can play single-zero? Prefer craps? Find casinos that let you plunk down double or triple free odds, or better. This information is generally published in the casino’s “rules and info” section. If it isn’t, feel free to contact their support people and ask. If they won’t tell you, find another casino.
Many casinos actually publish their payout tables right on their site. To be taken seriously you’ll need to ensure that the casino has some history of reporting these payouts reliably. Again, research is recommended because the online casino industry is self-regulated so the only thing that indicates a good probability that the games are fair is a solid reputation for being so.
#8: Thou Shalt Protect Thy Data
When it comes time to actually sign up to “Play for Real”, there are a few things you should watch out for. For the sign-on process the casino should open a secure, data-encrypted link to protect your peronal info from being scooped up by the bad guys. Believe it, it’s no joke. You must protect yourself by ensuring the security of your link.
While the browser people will tell you to check the little lock (Internet Explorer) or key (Netscape) symbol at the bottom of your browser, there’s more that you can do to ensure your safety. In the address box of your browser check that the sign-on page begins with “https://” instead of the usual “http://”. And don’t assume that the casino will just “do it”. We’ve seen one case where the casino made all the assurances that a secure link would be provided and then they just gave us a plain old Web page to fill in the data. Their “over-sight” could’ve cost us a lot of aggravation if someone scooped our credit card number, or got our home address and phone numbers. If there’s one golden rule of online gambling it’s caveat emptor, which is Latin for “watch your ass”.
#9: Thou Shalt Play To Win
Since you’re playing online you can take your time to make your decisions. You can even use that handy-dandy video poker or blackjack strategy chart to achieve optimal play. Who’s to know? And who cares if they do? It’s a great way to learn more about your game, hone your skills, and make you a sharper player for your next visit to Vegas.
#10: Thou Shalt Enjoy Thyself
When you choose to gamble on the Internet, you’re forsaking the smoke, the free drinks, the hangers-on and all the charms of the casino staff so you might as well do whatever you can to get the most out of it. Light up a cigar, play “The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly” soundtrack, have a croissant, whatever. You’re the floor manager when you play at home so make it good. Who better to pamper the player than you?
For those of you wondering WinnerOnline.com (aka WOL) has since become toast, the URL now redirects to InterCasino which is not much of a surprise because Cryptologic bought WOL in 2001-ish.