Despite the negative social stigma sometimes associated with games of chance, online gambling has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in the span of just a few years.  With hundreds of options for casino play on desktop and mobile devices, and thousands of different games spread across those individual casino options, the player new to online gambling can be forgiven for throwing up their hands and just picking a single casino at random.

They might not, however, forgive themselves so easily if the casino they choose is part of the small minority in the industry that is operated not by a legitimate business, but by an operator that puts greed ahead of all other things.  To gamble online while avoiding such scams, read on for our guide to finding the safest online casinos.

Isn't One Online Casino the Same as the Next?

It can certainly seem that way.  Many online casinos have very similar-sounding names, and most offer a lot of overlapping games.  That can create confusion among players, as can a lack of clear information about the company that's actually behind the online casino in question.  Add to that the ease with which just about anyone can put together a credible-looking website and you can see why it's so hard for players to tell one casino from the next.   

As the old saying goes, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover - and you shouldn't judge an online casino by its website.  There can be a significant distinction lurking between two casinos that seem quite similar on the surface - one could be a legitimate operation, while the other could be a rogue online casino.

What is a Rogue Online Casino?

A rogue casino is an online casino that seeks to profit not just by the natural house edge in casino games, but by defrauding players - for example, offering games unfairly tilted toward a house advantage or by refusing to pay players who do win.  While the nature of the scam may vary from one rogue casino to another, the basic idea is the same: Rogue casinos rig the game against the player so that the casino not only wins in the long run, but all of the time.  

How Do Rogue Online Casinos Survive?

Rogue casinos rely on uninformed players, lax regulation and unscrupulous advertisers to continue their scam.  Players may be embarrassed to admit that they gamble online, or unsure about the path to take to file a complaint against the casino.  Rogue casinos that attract too much attention simply shut down and pop up soon after under a different name.  Generally operating under no (or very weak) regulatory oversight, these casinos promise players the moon, abscond with their money and then move on to the next from their steady flow of new victims for the scam.

Checklist for Finding the Safest Online Casinos

As a smart casino player, you're not likely to be among those victims.  However, even experienced online casino customers can fall for the tricks of rogue casinos from time to time, so we've assembled this quick checklist for determining whether an online casino is safe or rogue.

Regulatory Strength

Strong online gambling regulators stop scams before they start.  While no one expects you to become an expert on the multiple regulatory bodies that service the online gambling industry, it shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to identify the regulator for a given casino and to conduct a quick Google search on said agency.  What other companies have they issued licenses to?  What problems have players had with those companies, and how were they resolved?  A bit of research upfront can save you from a critical mistake later on.

Customer Support Quality 

Rogue casinos are generally slipshod operations, while safe online casinos are the kind of companies that pay attention to detail.  The easiest way for you to get insight into which kind of casino you're dealing with is to interact with their customer support.  Ask some easy questions and some tough ones.  Try chat, email and phone.  If representatives seem incompetent or evasive, you can bet that there are larger internal issues at the casino and move on.

Measure Complaint Quantity

Do a small bit of research on the casino in question (a couple of simple Google searches should do the trick), but take a very specific strategy to save your time and your eyesight: Look for quantity of complaints first.  There is not an online casino in the world that hasn't angered a few players - after all, the house does generally win in the end.  That means you shouldn't be too concerned with getting into the particulars of complaints, but rather the amount of complaints.  Legitimate casinos will have a few complaints that pop up in a search, but rogue casinos will have page after page of complaints from various sources - a sure sign that you've found a casino to avoid at all costs. 

Start Small and Withdraw

There's no reason to move your entire bankroll to a single online casino.  In fact, there's a great reason to move very little of your bankroll to a new online casino: To see first how that casino handles withdrawals.  Keep your deposits small, and try to withdraw very quickly after depositing and playing a bit.  See how many roadblocks the casino throws in your way (if any).  Some are natural (identity verification, for example), but any casino that makes it tough for you to cash out small amounts is probably not an online casino where you want to play for any serious money - or, if you're more cautious than the typical player, probably not a casino where you want to play at all.

Gambling is meant to be an entertaining pastime.  When you're worried about the integrity of the casino running the game, however, it's a lot harder to have a good time.  By applying the simple rules of our guide to the safest online casinos to your search, you'll dramatically improve your odds of having a safe, fair and genuinely fun experience gambling at a casino online.