There have always been people addicted to gambling with lives spent in the local bookies waiting desperately for the result of the next race. We have all had a flutter and most of us can enjoy the thrill and then walk away without any trouble.
Sadly some people get sucked in to a relentless quest believing they can beat the odds and this was a serious enough problem when they had to visit the bookies but things only got worse when the facility to gamble from their own home arrived.
Make something more convenient and introduce the ability to use a credit card and you have created an irresistible temptation. At least if you are betting on a race or the result of a football match you know what you are gambling on and the exact amount you stand to win or lose. There are fixed odds and your horse either wins or it doesn’t.
There is now a whole new form of gambling in which the odds are far from clear and the methods used to entice people to play are highly questionable. Welcome to the world of online casinos.
Advertisements for online casinos often highlight special welcome bonuses for new players. These are usually phrased in terms that make it sound like free money is available which you can claim by simply signing up. When you visit the websites you are also confronted by an array of special bonuses that you can claim when you start playing. What are not made so clear are the exact terms of these offers and the hoops you have to jump through to actually cash in. Let’s get one thing clear. Casinos do not give away money! If you read the terms and conditions of the various offers and in the unlikely event that you can understand them, you will find that some rather unreasonable conditions apply.
Rules and Regulations
The rules are often so complicated that only someone with PHD’s in both pure maths and law could ever understand them fully but the gist of them is that you have to gamble the value of the bonus several times before you can claim it, or any winnings from it, as actual cash. Terms vary but incredibly you may have to wager up to 40 times the value of your bonus and original deposit to cash in. So let’s say you are attracted to one of the many 100% welcome bonuses currently being promoted. You invest £20 and receive a £20 bonus for joining. You would then have to wager £800 before you could get your hands on the £20! Most of the other bonus promotions offered by casinos have similar terms and appear to be purely a method of trapping people into an endless cycle of playing to claim their right to the money. To make matters worse, if you gamble your bonus on many of the games available only a small percentage of it will actually count! These are naturally the games with the highest percentage return for the consumer. Some games will only contribute 5% of your wager towards your betting requirement. In short this means that if you play only those games to work towards cashing in your bonus you will need to bet £4000 to be eligible to claim your £20.
The terms of some operators also require you to achieve your minimum waging requirement within a certain period of time. You may be faced with having just one week to gamble that £4000! I understand that casinos have to protect themselves against people grabbing a bonus and running but really this is totally crazy. It is also disturbing to see how the offers are presented. Flashy adverts online promote amazing deals. You click on the offer for a brief explanation which will say something like “simply deposit £20 and play to claim your bonus”. At the bottom in very small print is a button which says “click here for terms and conditions”. You are then presented with a ridiculously complicated list of rules and regulations which are just the beginning because these are only the terms for the current offer. You will also need to consult the casino’s general terms and conditions to really get to grips with the situation and then you need to get your calculator out.
Getting Your Money
If you decide to go ahead and gamble and you miraculously manage to fulfil all of the requirements to get into a position to claim your bonus, your problems may not end there. You now have to actually get your money and this may not be straightforward. It is common practice for casinos to modify the terms of any offer for an individual applicant and so you need to read your welcome email which may contain a different set of requirements to those mentioned online. It is best to assume that you have to gamble even more than the amounts stated in order to claim your prize.
Casinos don’t like people who play simply to claim the bonus and may react badly to you reaching your target and then immediately cashing out. Most operations have terms and conditions which make vague statements about payments being at the casinos discretion and that they reserve the right to withdraw offers if they believe people are taking advantage of the system. This more or less gives them carte blanche to do whatever they like! There are a plethora of reports of unscrupulous casinos refusing to pay out for the flakiest of reasons and even more about how difficult it can be to contact them.
Even if your payment is approved you may still get a shock as some casinos charge transaction fees and credits can take up to 4 weeks to reach your credit card. You should also be wary of casinos folding and disappearing overnight with your money! If you have to gamble use an established company whose name you recognise to avoid being the victim of a sudden collapse.
Big Brother is Watching You!
If you fall foul of a casino operator don’t be fooled into thinking you can just move on to another one. Casinos have, in fairness, been frequent victims of fraudulent activity from their clients. In order to protect the industry they share information on gamblers with each other. If you are blacklisted by one company you will probably find yourself blocked from all of the others. It can be quite easy to find yourself on the black list. Gambling activity is tracked and if you are guilty of playing the system too well, like only gambling in bonus periods, you could find yourself on the list!
Playing the Odds
You may well be wondering what the odds are on online casinos and asking if the systems are rigged. Reputable casinos use software produced and audited by external suppliers and this appears to be above board but there have been instances of casinos using non-audited software and simply rigging it to cheat their clients. As for the odds, well if the systems are not rigged, the odds for table games should be the same as in a bricks and mortar casino. There are the same numbers on the roulette wheel and the same number of cards in a deck. Slot machine games generally have a higher percentage of pay out than a regular casino but this is because they have higher jackpots.
The inevitable counter balance is a lower amount of small pay outs which makes losing streaks more likely. The odds offered by the online casinos are not well publicised and to a great extent players do not really know what they are gambling on. It will probably not surprise you to learn that most of the companies end up keeping about 75% of the cash deposited with them.
If you do have an issue how easy is it to resolve? Well it can be quite difficult as it turns out. Many casinos have been shown to have poor customer service and be difficult to contact. Most have terms which state that the casino’s decision is final in any disputes which can make things rather awkward.
There is no regulatory body or final arbiter you can recourse to if you feel you have been badly treated but there are some online providers of gambling advice who offer the service of attempting to intervene on your behalf with the threat of bad publicity for casinos who do not cooperate. At the end of the day you are swimming in shark infested waters and you may well get bitten if you have the audacity to win.
You Have Been Warned
There are some real problems with the ways casinos attempt to entice people into gambling with them. I know many of the casinos are stable and legitimate businesses operating within the law but it cannot be fair to make such deceptive promotional offers and provide terms and conditions that are beyond the wit of man to understand. There are clearly some dubious practices going on here and it is time for some more stringent regulation.
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Sally S is a life-long social gambler and has seen many tricks and under-hand tactics used by the Industry over the years. Sally recommends that you either stay out of online gambling or if you really must, protect yourself and read every last page of terms and conditions before committing your money!
You can find out more about Sally Stacey via her Google+ profile.