Rating and Ranking Gambling Sites
There is quite a difference between walking into a popular casino on the Las Vegas Strip or a well-established bookmaker on the High Street and in visiting an online gambling site with which you have little familiarity.
Any online business can leave you with many unknowns. There's no face-to-face interaction, and in some cases, you may not even be aware of who owns the website. That can be disconcerting if you're considering transferring your hard-earned money into a betting account. There's risk on your part, and you need to be assured that you'll be provided with fair gaming and correct payouts when the time arises.
We stay up-to-date with the most recent websites to hit the virtual gambling world, as well as keep tabs on established operators that have been around for years. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the best-of-the-best websites. Our extensive research will benefit you and provide you with helpful recommendations that can considerably narrow down your search.
The Types of Websites We Review
There are hundreds of online gambling providers, and they each offer a different service to their customers. Some are exclusively casino-only, while others may focus on sports betting and poker. You'll find some operators to be a comprehensive go-to for any type of online betting, with a casino, sportsbook, bingo parlor, poker room, and lottery area.
We don't stick to one type of site. We evaluate as many of these services as we can, and then go back and revisit them for changes and updates. The first sportsbooks and casinos from 20 years ago are just as important as the newest websites to hit the market today. Management changes from time to time, software is updated, and financial methods are continually evolving, so we stay up to date with fresh reviews and insights.
How We Compile the Data
Ranking and rating a gambling site isn't a one-step process. It's not as simple as looking at the games, betting opportunities, or tables, and coming up with a conclusion.
Our process is much more involved. While we do spend quite a bit of time on the website we're evaluating, we first start by researching the owner and the licensing and regulation that's in place. Priority number one is knowing who is behind the operation and how secure it is.
We then comb through player forums and Q&As to come up with patterns. Not that we don't value an opinion, but one comment about a site doesn't affect our conclusion. We need to see consistency. Remember, we're talking about gambling sites where everyone is risking money, and they're not all walking away winners. So, there will be disgruntled customers.
We've seen all kinds of negative posts about how "this game or that game doesn't let you win" or "I lost out on a payout because of an unfair bonus" or "This site is the worst - I waited a week for my payout."
Keep in mind that sometimes games aren't always going to offer you the outcome you'd like. When it comes to bonuses, we still issue a warning about accepting them, because they do have some stringent guidelines that accompany their use. But some people jump in headfirst without reading and are then disappointed. Maybe the site took a week to pay out, but it's clearly stated in the banking section that it could take 5-7 days before you have cash in hand.
That's not to say that there aren't many compelling pieces of information provided by players, because regular customers are the experts. They know the ins and outs of the casino or sportsbook, and their expertise is invaluable. When it is, though, it will typically match other similar comments.
Finding uniformity in player opinions is an integral part of our rating process and can help assess the turnaround time for withdrawals, the level of customer service, and whether or not the selection of betting opportunities is enough to appeal to both recreational and experienced bettors.
After we review the ownership and licensing and then get a good sense of what actual clients have experienced, we take a very methodical approach in appraising the website and the online operation as a whole.
We read through the terms and conditions, determining the banking structure and how quickly payments are turned around, and we go through the bonus and promotional programs step by step.
It's not enough to relay the types of offers available. You want to know the ins and outs of these rewards. The data we compile includes the rollover and if it pertains to the bonus or also comprises your cash deposit. It also takes into consideration the games that contribute to meeting the wagering requirements and what the consequences are for not complying with the bonus rules.
As far as the betting opportunities, every site will be different, and we keep that in mind. Some are smaller services and are designed to just provide a sampling of sports markets or a relatively compact-sized casino. We can still rate a website high even with limited betting options if the overall service is superior in other ways.
Ideally, though, each operator will provide a healthy balance of quantity and variety. There should be something that will appeal to most everyone. Geographic considerations also come into play. A sportsbook marketing to Canadian clientele needs to provide a substantial menu of NHL, CFL, and MLB games, as well as some international favorites.
A Closer Look at the Criteria
We've given you an overview of the approach, but that's just the beginning. We have a long list of items to consider when we put together our ratings and rankings of online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms.
Providing you with a full picture will be much more beneficial than honing in on one aspect of the operation. You may not mind that one casino only offers 100 games, but you do want to see more bonuses.
Or you understand that a payout may take a week or two, but that's fine with you because the games are superior to other competitors. You may only bet on one particular sport that isn't offered through most bookmakers, and that's your only decisive factor.
The reviews we provide are broken down into different sections, and we try to be as fair and objective as possible when looking at each component individually.
This first category can be the one significant determinant of whether we recommend a website or not. If you look at some well-known, reputable gambling service providers, you'll notice that a link to their licensing and regulation is prominently placed on the homepage, and if the ownership group isn't in the same area, it's typically noted in the "About" page or the "Terms and Conditions."
If we pull up a site and have no idea who owns it or if it's even licensed and regulated, it doesn't matter if they offer one of the biggest betting selections or are promoting a two-hour payout turnaround; chances are, we won't recommend the site. We will give you an honest assessment of all of the different areas of the operation, but we can't in good faith encourage you to patronize an unlicensed organization.
Transparency is essential for gambling websites. You need to know that your money is safe, and there should be no reason why a link to an overseeing authority isn't being provided. That is, unless the operator didn't retain the proper licensing and regulation.
We'll get into the banking section separately, but in the matter of transparency, it needs to extend to financial services as well. Everything should be upfront and easy to review.
It's helpful, but not necessary, for an excellent site to have longevity in the industry. We do provide the launch date for each operation, as well as any information we can gather regarding sister sites under the same ownership.
If an operator has been in business for quite a while with a good reputation and proven payment record and then launches a new site under the same umbrella, chances are the new site will be equally as reliable.
This category doesn't affect sportsbooks as much as casinos, but it is important that the website is providing quality, licensed software. Casino players know the "big guys." They seek out Microgaming, Playtech, NetEnt, or a handful of other prominent developers.
These days, we like to see a combination of software companies used on the same site for enhanced quantity and variety, but at the very least, we want to see a name that carries a good reputation in the industry.
Software providers also determine the level of gaming you'll be offered. Bigger names provide greater opportunities for top prizes. A company like Microgaming, Playtech or NetEnt is going to have some millionaire-makers in their collection - slots like Mega Fortune, Mega Moolah, or Age of the Gods.
This area is just as important as the gaming being provided. You can't stake bets if you're unable to fund your player's account, nor will you stick around if you're not being paid on a timely basis.
When we review the banking section, we look for a varied menu of options, fee-free transactions, quick turnarounds for payouts, and full disclosure.
Full disclosure references the transparency factor. Before you register a new player's account, you have the right to know the whole service that's being provided. Meaning, there should be a comprehensive banking page detailing every method that's accepted, if any fees apply, minimums, maximums, turnaround times, and if there are any restrictions on using a particular provider.
Believe it or not, some sites won't show you this information until you're a full-fledged registered customer. That's just not good business.
Matching up financial services to the player's locations is important. An international servicing site needs to host a variety of options, including debit, credit, e-wallets, prepaid, and bank transfers, and cryptocurrency is also helpful.
A US-servicing site should be obligated to include Bitcoin in the mix, as Americans have a very challenging time getting a betting account funded, especially with credit and debit cards. And e-wallets aren't as widely available, either. Operators that do allow US players also tend to tack on some significant banking fees, and we focus on those, especially when they get too far overboard.
Ideally, the best sites will offer a wide variety of options, as well as low minimums and higher maximums for both deposits and withdrawals. Financial technology these days also makes it possible for much faster payouts, so sites promoting one- or two-week turnarounds should be stepping up their game and competing with others that are turning them around in a day.
Financial services also encompasses the internal processing time and if reverse withdrawals and manual flushing are part of the picture.
If you're not familiar with these terms, some operators will take all withdrawal requests and put them into a "pending" status. It could be something like 24 hours, but we've also come across some with much longer waiting periods.
That pending status allows players to go back in and change their mind. They can request a "reverse withdrawal," and the cashier will put the funds back into the betting account. There are two sides of the story when it comes to reverse withdrawals, but for players who get tempted quickly, reverse withdrawals don't do them any favors, because they are apt to take advantage of them.
However, there's also something called "manual flushing" where players can specifically request that their transfer is moved from pending to processing. It doesn't expedite their payout, but it does take away the option for a reverse withdrawal.
There aren't very many, but some casinos are notorious for long pending periods that encourage clients to reconsider their decision. When a pending period is extensive, it's included in our overall assessment of financial services.
The promotional programs can be tricky areas to review, but we do our best to be objective. Some players love and rely on deposit match bonuses, while at the same time, they're the most significant area of complaint and debate by those who accept them.
When we look at a casino's promotional program, we initially take note of the variety of bonus opportunities. While most sites will offer some deposit match bonus, especially for new players, we prefer it when more thoughtfulness is applied. Deposit match bonuses may suffice for some players, but we're looking for free spins, tournaments, contests, and an all-around creative approach to incentivizing players.
Of course, then we delve deeper into the ins and outs of the opportunities. Low rollovers that only include the bonus and not the bonus/deposit combination are preferred. And alternative rewards that have no wagering requirement attached are even better.
We also look for a loyalty or VIP club that has some real meat to it. It's one thing to offer a standard "betting converts to points, and then points convert to a small amount of cash" kind of program. We'd prefer faster payouts, private tournaments, real cash prizes, gifts of value, individual invitations, exclusive opportunities to try out new games first, etc.
Just like bonus preferences, customer service is up to interpretation as well. A service agent could be having a bad day and come across as short or unhelpful, though at any other time, he or she may provide superior assistance.
We do look for trends in player feedback regarding customer service, as well as rating the department as a whole. It's important for a 24/7 site to have round-the-clock service, because there could be some immediate assistance needed.
There should also be several ways to contact the service department, including email, phone, and live chat. Additionally, the service agents should fluently speak the language of the majority of the customers and should provide thorough responses. It can be frustrating to go back and forth with a representative trying to get a definitive answer.
The heart of the matter - the variety and number of betting opportunities.
Sportsbooks should provide a comprehensive menu of sports, as well as thorough market coverage for each, especially for the most popular matches favored by its customers. UK bookmakers should be well equipped with hundreds or even thousands of football markets. US-centered bookmakers will have a different focus, and American sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) should be plentiful.
Casinos need to consider the various types of gaming, including slots, table games, live dealer tables, specialty, and video poker. But the focus will need to also be on the variety within each category. For example, a table game area with just blackjack and no craps or poker leaves out many players who aren't looking for the game of 21.
It's handy for a slot game section to have a mix of classic and video slots, as well as some jackpot progressive opportunities.
Specialty games and video poker can be the most neglected types of casino games, so when a site steps up and well-stocks those areas, we take notice and pass along that information to you. It can sometimes be hard to find more of the non-traditional casino games, so we want to assist you in your search.
Poker rooms and bingo areas also need to provide variety, not just with the games, but with the betting options. Some players only want to invest the bare minimum and just enjoy playing, while others are looking for big money action and require high-stakes betting. Bonuses and promotions, especially tournaments and free rolls, are a must for poker players.
When it comes to casinos especially, we place a lot of weight on the software provider or providers. Well-established gaming developers don't just allow their products to be used anywhere. They have a vetting process that also helps us with our review procedure.
On the whole, we take into consideration the variety of betting options, the ease in finding precisely what you're searching for, and an interface that allows you to quickly place your bets without the fear of making a mistake.
These days, sites are always trying to outdo each other by adding more and more to their list of betting options, so the bar is set much higher. We do need to consider that. The more established operators still need to remain competitive and continuously add to their libraries and keep things fresh.
In just the past few years, smartphone and tablet access has become increasingly more important. More players have the desire to take their betting with them everywhere they go, so mobile formatting is a prime consideration.
We use 50% as the starting number for a decent mobile casino. If a player can access at least half of the games available on the full site, they should be pleased. That number is starting to rise, though. We're noticing more websites focusing in this area, and some are now even coming in with sites that are 100% available regardless of if you're on a laptop, PC, smartphone, or tablet.
Our ratings factor in the games, as well as the ease of use. Do the graphics translate well? Does the site load quickly? Is there an app available? Is it easy to navigate?
This section follows up on the "reliable player feedback" that we previously outlined. We're not looking for one player's opinion of a website. Everyone has different ideas of what's good and what they'd prefer, so we look for trends.
The most important things we hope to learn from players' experiences is if a site is paying out as it promises, if customer service is being answered quickly and efficiently, and if bonus requirements are spelled out adequately. If every comment references a problem with a bonus, then the operator either needs to change the program or detail it in layman's terms.
Comments become even more valuable in our rating process when they're clearly detailed with facts rather than mere opinions, and when a pattern has emerged with consistent feedback. You have the right to know if a site promises a two-day payment turnaround but implements a two-week process, or if the customer service department has been contacted several times and remains unresponsive.
With online casinos and sportsbooks, you sometimes have to rely on the experiences of others to know what to expect, and many loyal players are willing to share what they've learned along the way, so we do factor that knowledge into the equation.
Why Should You Trust Our Ratings and Rankings?
The immediate answer to this question is, "Because we're fair."
We take into consideration all of the factors that we've outlined, and we spell them all out for you as clearly and efficiently as possible. Our objective is to do the legwork and provide you with the facts as we've identified them to be so that you can then decide for yourself which website is the best fit for your needs.
You may note that we may be especially critical in one area, but that doesn't affect our view of the entire service.
For example, a casino might be offering bonuses that come with a high 40 times rollover that applies to the award and deposit combined. In this case, we're not going to sing the praises of the promotions.
But it may also offer a casino with 1,000 games from the top software companies with a better-than-average variety. We are going to give credit where credit is due. Our overall ranking will reflect the average of all of the ratings, but you'll also see an unusually high number for the casino and a lower one for the bonuses.
Using a wide range of criteria helps us to come up an accurate overall picture of the service, as well as break it down one by one so you can decide what's most important to you. After all, it's your money that's being staked, so you need to be well informed.