The online casino industry is expanding rapidly with new casinos opening up their virtual doors almost every week. Whilst choice is great for a consumer, it can also be quite daunting choosing where you’re going to play. With so many online casinos and bookmakers with slot side games fighting for space, the whole process might seem a little overwhelming. That’s where we come in.
Our aim is to feed you with as much information about online slots as possible. We feel that if we give you the knowledge to know what to look for then you have the power to make better, more informed, decisions about where (and what) to play.
If you are new then you’re going to learn a lot about online slots and how the industry works. It can be an exciting learning curve for new players, but even if you’ve been playing online slots for several years you can probably still learn a few things that will enhance your slotting sessions.
One thing we will note right away is that we only promote or mention brands that we have tried, tested and trust ourselves. Whilst there’s a lot of choice out there at the minute, there’s a lot of rubbish as well, so we’ve done the hard work and weeded out the weak links for you.
All you have to do is work out what you want from your slots playing experience and then go out and get it.
How to Choose the Right Casino
There’s going to be a number of things that you need to consider when picking an online casino to play slots at. We mentioned that there is a huge amount of choice, but what you’re going to find is that a lot of them are very similar and we’re going to explain why.
Before we do, we can’t stress enough how important it is to use brands or casinos that you have researched and that you trust. Most essential of all, make sure they have a UK license.
Slots are made by providers and not the casino
The first thing to note is that the majority of slot sites don’t actually create their own games. Instead, they use game developers to create the games and then simply buy the license for them. This is one of the main reasons why you will see the same game at multiple casinos.
A handful of the bigger slot developers include:
- Evolution Gaming
What often happens is a company such as Microgaming, for example, will have deals in place will multiple casinos, so when they release new games their partner casinos get instant access to them.
It’s also worth noting that a casino can use more than one developer to power their site. It’s not uncommon for them to have 5 or more different developers on their sites to create options. This way, they can either cherry pick what they think are the best games or simply include all of them and let the punter hunt through them all.
If you are new to playing slots online you might be thinking that this is a little odd, but there is a method to the madness. The costs and time it takes to produce online slots are both prohibitive. Because an online casino would need to produce a huge number of games across many genres (table games, slots, side games, live dealer etc.) most wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand cost effectively.
Having companies that are dedicated to making the games takes all this pressure off the casino. It means the casinos can work on things like implementation, marketing, and customer service, whilst the software providers focus on creating new content.
Even though the cross-over is large, it’s a process that benefits all parties including the player as they get a wider range of games. It also results in a better standard of slot game as providers battle against each other for market share, come up with new and unique features, or arrange licensing deals with popular films or TV shows.
Why would you use one casino over another?
Given that lots of the bigger casinos have large overlaps in the range of online slots that they offer, why would you choose one over the other?
Well, there might be a number of reasons for this. The first one comes down to the bonuses that are on offer. Even though the games are the same, the casinos aren’t, and this means that each will have their own welcome bonus to work through.
The amount you can claim from each casino is going to vary, but it’s imperative that you choose a bonus that you are going to be able to clear rather than the biggest, otherwise it just becomes a waste of money.
Next up might be a loyalty program; these are pretty popular in the industry right now. A loyalty scheme will reward you for playing at a specific casino, and this could be by accumulating loyalty points as you play, or by getting free stuff for hitting certain milestones, such as time playing or consecutive active days.
If you were going to be playing the same game, then you’re always going to be better off choosing a program that gives you the most free stuff. Think of it like shopping in a supermarket; if you have a Tesco Clubcard and receive points every time you shop, then it’s going to be worth shopping there over another supermarket who may offer the same product but not give you anything extra for shopping there. It’s basically money for nothing, which is great.
If you’re a high roller or you play a high frequency of games, then a loyalty program is going to start to become really lucrative.
Banking is vital
Another feature that, in our book, separates the better casinos from the weaker ones, is banking. More specifically, how long it takes to get your money out of there. You see, most if not all casinos will process your deposits instantly, especially if you are using a debit card or e-wallet (cheques and bank transfer might take longer), but withdrawals are a different story.
Everyone wants to get their money yesterday, but in reality, it doesn’t work like. You need to be patient with pretty much all sites when it comes to getting hold of your winnings.
However, some are much better than others. Where one casino might take 2 days to transfer back to your bank, another might take 10. The timeframes might not bother everybody, but most would rather have their money as soon as possible, and others take umbrage at unnecessary delays.
You can get a feel as to how long most casinos take with this prior to signing up, they usually state maximum timeframes. However, these times will differ for each site and from one withdrawal to another depending on how busy they are, so check the forums and Google them to get a more real-world feel. Alternatively, just test them out with small amounts and get some first hand experience.
There is nothing like being treated like a respected customer when you walk into a shop or restaurant or the like, and online slot sites should be no different.
Ideally, you’ll never need to contact the company as that will mean you have had a problem of some sort, but the reality is that at some point, you probably will need to speak to them, so you want the team to be knowledgeable, polite, and readily available.
There are a lot of brands out there for whom customer service is not a priority, and it’s highly frustrating trying to engage with the support team as a result. However, you will find that most of the bigger slots sites will have a pretty solid customer service team manning the lines and representing the brand with aplomb.
Another reason why you may pick one slots site over another is the location of the company. You will find that a lot of them are based offshore these days, in tax havens such as Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Malta, and Jersey, but this does affect who they are allowed to take on as customers at the casino.
All slots sites will have restrictions as to which countries they can operate in. We aren’t going to list the name of the casino, but here is a typical example of eligible nations for one well known casino:
UK, Spain, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Serbia, Ireland, Georgia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Belarus, Romania, Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Hungary, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Moldova, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Cyprus, Armenia, Albania, Gibraltar, Malta, Iceland.
As you can see, it’s a substantial number of country’s, but if you don’t reside in one of these territories then you won’t be able to sign up, which means that casino is closed to you. Worse still, before the new regulations verification didn’t happen until the first withdrawal, so if you had deposited from a country that wasn’t eligible your money would be lost.
The final reason why you might choose one casino over the other is simply to do with the features that are on offer. We don’t mean the features that are included with each game, these will be the same at any casino the game is available at, we mean the features that the casino itself offers.
For example, one of the most recent features that we’ve tested and love comes from Royal Panda, who have enabled gamers to play up to 4 slots at the same time. If you’ve ever played online poker, then it’s like multi tabling. It’s a cool feature as it allows you to play a number of different genres alongside each other but at your own pace, so you don’t necessarily need to spend any more money than you usually would.
Another feature that is worth noting is how well the casino functions on mobile. Whilst the majority are pretty slick on mobile these days, especially given the rise over the last couple of years on mobile casino gameplay and technology, there are still some that are an effort to use.
The casino now needs to be more than just mobile compatible. If it wants to really hold its’ ground it needs to be almost faultless. The majority of the bigger games have all be redesigned for mobile now, so any issues you find will likely be coming from the casino rather than from the game itself.
Online slots v Pub fruit machines
There’s always going to be an old school army who are mad keen on the fruit machine in their local boozer. It’s often the classic “I don’t trust the online slots” line that gets trotted out, when in truth, the opposite is more applicable given how strongly policed the online slots industry is these days.
So, what’s the difference in games?
Well, the first thing to note is that every slots game has what’s called a Return To Player (RTP) rate. This is the amount of money that the slot will theoretically pay out over an extended period of play. Online slots usually range between 90% and 97% per game, so a 95% game would mean that it pays out 95p for every £1 staked, essentially pocketing the 5p as a net win.
The rates are set by the casino game providers and not the casino, so if you play on the same game made by the same provider on different casinos, the RTP will be the same at both.
You need to understand, however, that you will not receive 95p for every £1 staked as there is no statutory minimum percentage payout for a gaming machine. The RTP is calculated over millions of spins to give the player a general idea.
The reason you want to avoid these physical machines is that the RTP’s on them are incredibly low, with some paying out closer to 80% than 90%, which would be considered low for online slots. The reason they differ so much is mainly down to volume. Given the number of people that play online slots, they can have smaller margins to entice punters and still make more than if they had a slot machine in a bar with a lower RTP getting played a few times an hour maybe.
The end of free play games
The online slots industry is constantly changing and one of the latest laws to be passed by the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission) is the removal of free-play slots from online casinos. These are the demo versions of the games that you can play for no money just to get a feel for how they work.
Well, not completely, but you will have to be registered and validated before you can access them, and that takes time.
The problem that the UKGC have currently is that if players dont need to be logged in to access the free games, they can’t control who accesses them. With child gambling issues on the rise, this is obviously something that needs to be tackled.
This rule change will make a fairly big difference to how online casinos operate, and some already have their game library ‘blurred’ until you are logged in.
The future of FOBT’s: Are Online Slot Sites Next?
If you’ve been keeping up with industry news related to gambling, then you are likely in the know about the changes being made to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. If not, then let us enlighten you.
FOBTs are basically like fruit machines, but they carry dozens of casino games, just as if you were playing at an online casino. They are available in their thousands in betting shops up and down the country and they make the bookmakers a massive amount of money.
The issue that people have with them is that you can lose a lot of money in a short period of time, with some allowing you to bet up to £100 per spin.
In October of 2019 a new law was implemented that meant that these FOBTs were limited to just £2 per spin, vastly reducing the amount you can lose in a short period of time.
This sort of staking cap hasn’t reach the world of online casinos yet, but it could be the start of something. If it did reach online slotting, then the way games are designed and the way players approach them would need a serious re-think.