Differences Between Online and Land-Based Casinos

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The year was 1998, and the internet was changing the way our entire world conducted business, interacted socially, and managed our financial lives. As computers were becoming an integral part of society, it’s no surprise that the first online gambling site launched.

The original betting sites provided the basics, but lacked the ambiance of walking into a casino and being immersed in the entire experience. However, as designs became more intricate and software evolved throughout the years, online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms became more viable alternatives to the real thing.

I don’t think it would be fair to call them “replacements,” though. Even today, with open doors to the first virtual reality casino and hundreds of gaming sites offering everything from multi-million progressive slot jackpots, live dealer tables, and in-play betting action, online betting is still quite different in many respects.

The following are the differences that I think are the most significant when it comes to playing casino games and staking some bets online. In some cases, the pendulum swings in the direction of website access, and in others, you just can’t beat the live experience.

The Buy-In

Not only is the financial end of things the most significant difference between betting online or walking through casino doors, but it’s the most challenging for website players.

Let’s face it; if you’ve got a little cash in your pocket and you’re in the vicinity of a casino, you can walk in and get things in motion. Money is king in a casino, and even if you’re short of bills, you’ll most likely bump into an ATM wherever you turn.

When you opt to utilize a betting site, it’s a much different story. Americans have a much more challenging time moving money into a betting account.

But even in a place like the United Kingdom, where casinos are regulated by the UK Gambling Commission and fully approved for its residents, it can take some time.

Each casino will provide a different menu of financial options that it will accept. The best scenario is when players find a list of debit cards, credit cards, e-wallets, prepaid options, Bitcoin, and bank transfers.

However, that’s not always the case.

I’ve seen some sites that limit the choices
to debit and credit only.

US players benefit from Bitcoin, as it’s the one option that will guarantee a successful transaction without any outside agency involved in its approval.

Regardless of the different ways to make transfers, there’s still a process in place that involves more than just putting cash into a slot machine or buying chips with it. A Bitcoin payment could take twenty minutes to process. Bank transfers and wire transfers could take several days, so there won’t be any gaming for a while.

Before you even stake one wager, you have to strategize how you’ll have the money to do it.

Geographic Restrictions

While some land-based casinos may require their customers to fill out a membership registration, casinos in the United States don’t need anything other than players to be twenty-one or older.

If you’re gambling in a place like Las Vegas, it doesn’t matter if you’re from another state or another country; you can walk in and risk your cash in the game of your choosing.

Restricted Countries

Online casinos have quite a few legal stipulations attached to them. First of all, they need a governing body like the Malta Gaming Authority, Curaçao e-Gaming Commission, or Gibraltar Gambling Commission to provide licensing and regulation. From there, customers are only allowed to register and use the services of specific operations based on their home locale.

For example, residents of the United Kingdom can only use gambling sites that are officially licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

On the flip side, each casino has a list of allowable countries and jurisdictions in their terms and conditions area. I’ve never seen one that was entirely wide open to everyone. Some will list a few dozen acceptable locations, and others will contain the excluded areas.

Regardless, online players do have to find a site that provides services to them and accepts their method of payment.


Just as the financial side of gambling poses the most challenges with online betting, bonus rewards provide the most significant difference when looking at land-based casinos compared to website-based.

It was really surprising to me when I started researching online gaming and looked closely at the promotional structure. It’s like apples and oranges.

At first glance, new player and similar bonuses are appealing with offers like “Deposit $100 and Receive $100.” I’m from Las Vegas and well aware of how generous casinos can be with their player rewards points and bonus programs.

I’m definitely on the recreational side of betting and I still have claimed free dinners, free hotel rooms, gifts, and bonus cash of $50 or more at a time. So something like a $100 match doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

But when you delve deeper and look at the terms and conditions, you’ll find that it’s not a straightforward “here’s $100 for you.”

There are a lot of strings attached when it comes to online casino bonuses.

When I’ve received some bonus play money in a Las Vegas casino, I did have to bet it all the way through. I couldn’t just bet $1 out of a $50 bonus and then cash out $49. I do know that the entire $50 needs to be played through entirely. But then it’s mine to do with what I choose.

Not so when you accept a bonus online. There are strict requirements that need to be complied with, or you could potentially surrender your winnings. For example, if you are offered a $100 bonus, you most likely have to bet that $100 at least thirty times before you can ask for a payout. That’s $3,000 in wagering!

I’ve probably looked at one hundred or more deposit and reload bonuses. And to this day, it still is shocking to me that there are such massive wagering requirements. I’m also surprised that many people agree with them and are still excited about them, even fully knowing about the rollover.


The different environments are no surprise to anyone. In one case, you’re on your computer in your home or office, and on your own. In the other, you’re in a building surrounded by people, music, bells and different signals, and smoke. It’s basically sensory overload.

Casino Gambling

There’s no better or worse in this case. It’s just entirely different. If you’re looking for privacy and you just enjoy casino gaming, then having access to it twenty-four hours a day from the comforts of your home is beneficial.

Some people enjoy the social aspect that gambling provides to them, though. They like being at a table with other people and chatting and interacting with everyone.

Even at a slot machine, there are other players in the vicinity, and many casinos make the experience as inviting as possible.

You can order a cocktail or press a button for assistance. If you get hungry, there should be at least one dining option in the building, and you can get up and move from game to game or table to table at a whim.

Online, the focus is entirely on the gaming. No one is coming through your computer screen and offering you something to drink. While you can live chat with a customer service agent, it’s all done via text, so no human component is apparent.

Betting through website providers is more of a solitary pursuit, while visiting a casino allows you to be as social as you prefer.


In just the last few years, most casino and sportsbook sites have made efforts to convert as much of their gambling services as possible to mobile access. Previously, where 50% of the entire gaming might have been available on smartphones or tablets, some sites these days provide 100%.

Playing on the go is something that land-based casinos won’t ever be able to provide. Regardless of where you are, if you have wifi access, you can most likely access your go-to betting site. Some of the most significant progressive jackpots have been awarded to players who were using their mobile devices.

Visiting a casino is a planned activity, but mobile gaming can be a hobby or just a way to fill time every so often. Players can bet while waiting in line, on a train, in a coffee shop, or anywhere they want.


The one thing that stands out for me when comparing a land-based casino to gambling on a website is the lack of smoke. I enjoy going to a casino and spending a few hours playing my favorite games.

I like to get a drink and just let my mind go for a bit from the daily to-do list. It can be a lot of fun, especially if there are happy players in the vicinity.

What changes everything for me, though, are the nearby smokers. Not only do my contact lenses cry out for help as the air changes, but the smell that lingers is not pleasant to me at all.

I do know of a few casinos with some dedicated non-smoking areas, so I gravitate to those. But if the air gets bad enough, it’s enough to prompt me to make an early exit, winning or not.

Other Players

In addition to smokers making a difference, other players can also enhance the fun of live betting or detract from it.

When nearby players are friendly and having fun, you enjoy yourself a lot more. It’s social gambling at its finest. But if they’re in a lousy mood, slamming their hand down on the slot buttons or grumbling at the table, it’s a different experience.

Online, you don’t have to worry about anyone else. It’s you and the computer, and the computer stays consistent, mood-wise anyway.


Unless you’re visiting a casino that requires you to fill out a formal membership to use the service, you can get in and out of a casino without anyone ever knowing who you are.

If you sign up for a players card and use it to rack up some points, everything changes. Your identity has to be confirmed, and your gameplay is tracked. But without that card, you’re anonymous.

The only way you can maintain your privacy online is to find a solely dedicated Bitcoin-only casino that doesn’t require your name and address or other personal identification.

Websites require your name, address, email, and phone number to get started. Then, depending on the financial method you choose, you’re sharing other private information with the operator.

Online betting takes away the “play for cash” equation.

Help Materials – Learning Curve

The emergence of online casinos provided brand new gamblers with access to gaming in a much more comfortable environment.

There aren’t any pressures from other players to play quickly. You’re not being compelled to bet a certain way or keep up with everyone else. You can play blackjack online and opt to stay on “12” if you want and no one will criticize you.

But in that same vein, you can also use websites as learning experiences. Not only do most sites provide helpful instructions and tips for each game, but if you get stuck, you can ask a customer service representative to help you via live chat. And you’re still not delaying anyone else. Or you could open up a book or another website with tips and tricks to teach you a new game or help you to enhance your skills while you’re in the midst of a casino game.

If you sit down at a real table and start looking up information while other players are anxiously awaiting their outcome, you probably won’t have a very enjoyable time. I would venture a guess that you wouldn’t last very long at that table, either.

I do know that some casinos will offer lessons from time to time, but it’s not an around-the-clock benefit, and you won’t find instructions on every game in the casino.

Beginners and betting websites are a great combination. You can even use an online casino to prep you for your vacation to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Macau, or any other gambling destination.

When the state of New Jersey made provisions for online casinos, the expectation was that business would decline on the boardwalk. But instead, the opposite happened.

New players who honed their skills through a sanctioned website were anxious to try them out in person. Atlantic City casinos experienced a rise in tourism and traffic.

Slot Games

While slot games are the easiest to transfer over from the physical to the virtual world, they also provide the most significant differences in games. The assortment of slot games that you find while walking through your favorite casino will most likely not be available to you online, and vice versa.

Some software companies design specifically for website use. Many of the people who frequently use them are well aware of who they are and the games they provide. You’ll find player forums discussing the benefits of a Microgaming casino over a Betsoft, or how they specifically look for Playtech games.

In-person players are more familiar with one game over another. They’ll head right to the Wheel of Fortune game or are excited to try the new Big Bang Theory machine. They’re concerned less with the manufacturer and more with the name of the game.

The Online Jackpots

It’s a common fact that there are a handful of online slot games that offer players the biggest payout potential. Mega Moolah and Mega Fortune swing back and forth vying for the top prize, shattering another Guinness Book World Record.

They’ve awarded top prizes of more than $13 million, are well known, and can be found through a large number of websites, depending on the software being used.

You can pull up the name of a progressive jackpot slot game and find a long list of locations that provide it.

Traditional casinos will be more location-oriented with the progressive jackpot games. Las Vegas has its famous Megabucks peppered around the city, and some places will offer in-house jackpots that you can’t find anywhere else.

Same Game – Different Machine

If you enjoy going to the casino and playing your favorite slot game, the chances are that it’s not a one-off game. Many times, you’ll be at a slot bank where there could be six or eight of the same game. If you’re not feeling lucky on one machine, you can move to a different seat and play the same exact slot.

Sometimes you can even walk around the casino floor and find the same game in a few different areas so you can move locations entirely.

When you play slots online, there’s no worry about your game being taken by another player, but you’re also limited to clicking one button. The same game won’t be listed multiple times in the menu, so you have no option of different “machines.”


I’m circling back now to the financial side of gambling, and as deposits may pose a few challenges and delays, payouts are ten-fold.

The payout process with a website is not instant. In person, you can click “cashout” and have your money in hand within a minute or two, depending on the closest payout station.

Even the absolute fastest sites still have an internal process to complete before payment is issued. They need to make sure that all bonus wagering requirements have been met and conduct a review of gambling and deposit activity.

There’s a very small number of websites that will issue a payment within an hour or two. They do exist, but are few and far between. It’s more likely that you’ll wait at least a few days, if not a few weeks, in some instances.

In addition to standard practices, you’ll come across many operators who implement a “pending withdrawal” period. What that means is that they take your withdrawal request and leave it alone for something like a few days.

During that time, you, the player, get to change your mind. So, if you exhibited willpower and cashed out when you were ahead but then decided you want to play some more, you could click and button and reverse your withdrawal.

If you factor in a pending period and then an internal processing/review plus any external processing from banks and financial institutions, cash in hand could take quite some time.

I like the opportunity to go into a casino and play for an hour or two and maybe walk out with more than I brought with me.

The Live Casino – Live Casino Comparison

No, I didn’t make a typo. I’m talking about the online live casino and the in-person live casino.

Live Dealer Casino Question Marks

Online table game players frequently have the option to enter the live casino area. The table games in this area are hosted by actual “real people” dealers. You can see them on your screen and may even be able to ask a question here and there via live text chat.

The cards that are dealt are converted electronically for you so you can then make your decisions on your computer or mobile device.

Many people enjoy this type of gaming, as it combines the privacy and anonymity of being online with some human interaction. You see the cards on the table instead of solely in graphics format for your electronic device.

While this type of gaming is closer to the real thing, you still don’t have the opportunity to speak voice to voice, and no one can see you. You see the dealer, but no one else. So, while this takes you another step toward physical gambling, playing with the chips or holding cards in your hand is still out of the picture.

Benefits of Both In-Person and Virtual Gambling

I started out by saying that there are pluses and minuses to both, and it really boils down to what you prefer, as well as what you have access to in your area.

Some people live near a casino, and it’s an easy commute to go whenever they’d like. If you’re someone who is hours away or even more, then online is your only viable option unless you’re on vacation.

Online betting isn’t always the obvious solution, though. With geographical restrictions and some challenges for some people in transferring funds over for betting, it may be easier to trek over on the weekend to a nearby destination.

In some locations like the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, the choices are wide open. Bettors can spend some time in person and can also easily find a website they enjoy that allows the freedom of movement and doesn’t take as much time to get the reels in motion.

For anyone who enjoys casino gaming, it is a lot of fun to make a social outing or vacation out of it.

Today’s casinos have so much to offer, with every type of game imaginable combined with fine dining, casual options, top shows, and other activities to keep you busy when you need a break from the tables.

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