Online casinos rely on a huge deal of trust from their customers. After all, you're trusting that they can keep your credit card details safe, your money secure, and that they can offer a straight game.
You wouldn't deposit at a shoddy online bank, nor would you gamble in a seedy underground gambling club with no security. Yet, many casino players blindly trust gambling websites every day.
How can you play safe, and ensure a fair game? Let's see how you can be a happier, safer gambler online.
What Are Random Number Generators?
Online casino games work in dedicated apps that save to your desktop, or via instant-play games through a browser. They might be programmed in HTML5 (perfect for desktop or mobile) or in something like Adobe Flash for slick animation and graphics.
To make sure the games are random, be it the spin of the reels or the deal of the blackjack cards, RNGs are used. RNGs (Random Number Generators) govern the outcome of each spin. They ensure that every game is independent from the last and that there are no glitches in the software. As soon as a game finishes, it's on to the next one, with the correct payouts made every time.
But how can you be sure everything is above board? That's where the auditors come in.
Audits & Game Testing
To ensure the Random Number Generators are fair, and the whole software and back end are legit, casinos employ external auditors to check the operations.
Auditing labs are required by most licensing jurisdictions, so there's no way a casino can operate without some form of independent checks. Luckily, the testing bodies are very good at their jobs. In most cases, gamblers can read successful certificates on the casino site: just look for the test lab logo at the bottom of the screen.
What Testing Bodies Look For
Under the conditions of having a gaming license, online casinos must employ external testing bodies to make sure the sites are fair and secure. There are several respected bodies with experience in dealing with gambling websites, but the range of tests is fairly standard across the board:
Platform Tests: The casino platform contains the server where details and information are kept, as well as player accounts and the entire back end.
Security: To get a license, online casinos must conform to security protocols. That means having tested encryption on-site at all times. Licensed casinos must ensure they are kept secure and audits taken out. Testing bodies will do "penetration testing", trying to assess whether the firewalls are safe from hackers.
RNG Testing: Random Number Generators are programmed to keep slots and tables games truly "random". Testing labs have qualified engineers who perform tests on the software RNGs to make sure they comply.
Game Payout Evaluations: Payouts over a long term are tested by labs and detailed in audit certificates. You'll usually find a list of all game RTP percentages on a testing certificate.
Live Dealer Collusion Checks: Of course, online casinos can also include some human element. Live Dealer games let players gamble on games overseen by a real-life dealer. Tests are made on dealers and wheels/tables just like a land-based casinos would undergo, such as correct logging of results, collusion prevention, and making sure any cheating methods are not being used.
Good Testing Bodies
There are several leading, experienced games testers operating today. All have good track records in testing full casino sites and individual games.
eCOGRA (www.ecogra.org): Set up in 2003 in the UK, eCOGRA is one of the most respected independent testing agencies. It handles tests and audits of firms based and licensed in Alderney, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Malta, plus jurisdictions across Europe.
NMi (www.nmigaming.com): Over 40 years' experience in IT security and gaming, NMi is approved to perform compliance tests on sites in Europe, Canada and the UK.
TST (www.tstglobal.com): TST (Technical Systems Testing) forms part of the GLI Company and has been around since the early 90s. It performs tests for land-based and online casinos, including RNG evaluations, live dealer reports, and whole system and security audits.
Security & Encryption
It's not just RNGs that make things fair. Casinos should also have proper security protocols in place to protect you and your money. Your account should be hack-proof (including things like your username, password and card numbers) and your payments encrypted.
Just as with an auditing certificate, legit casinos will have evidence of the right SSL (Secure Socket Layers) encryption. You can often read the SSL certificate on the homepage. Also, look to the http bar at the top of the screen. Here, you will see a small padlock icon: that's the sign that the website is secure.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a casino, or you suspect foul play, you can make a complaint via the licensing body. In some cases, like the UK Gambling Commission, there will be an independent ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) provider which can handle serious cases.
Don't think that a casino won't have its licence taken away for poor software or persistent abuse of customers. Online casinos will get blacklisted and have licences removed if they don't look after their players.
Casino Fairness FAQ
How Do I Know Casino Games Are Fair Online?
A good online casino will be licensed and independently audited to ensure all areas of its operations are secure.
What Are RNGs?
RNGs (Random Number Generators) govern the outcome of each casino game, be it slots, roulette, or Keno.
How Are RNGs Tested?
RNGs are audited by approved testing labs who are able to run extensive diagnostics on the software itself. If it's found that a game's RNG is flawed, the testers will pick it up.
What Security Should Online Casinos Have In Place?
Online casinos should have SSL (128-bit or 256-bit) security which encrypts and protects players' information and bank details.
What Jurisdictions License Casinos?
There are regulatory bodies spread across the world who issue gaming licenses. They can vary in reliability, and some are stricter than others on any 'fit and proper' tests. The UK, Malta, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man are all highly-regarded, however.
Can I Read Security And Audit Certificates?
Yes. Most casinos display certificates on their homepage. Follow the link or click on the 'Security' tab, if available.
What Happens If I Have A Serious Complaint?
Some jurisdictions have dispute resolution providers who can assist if you feel you have been the victim of a poor result. If an investigation concludes that the casino's software is sub-standard, it could lose its licence.