Is Online Bingo Fair?

I received e-mails from two different people this weekend who basically asked me if online bingo was fair or if the sites were run by scammers. One of the people mentioned that he’d done a little research on the matter and saw mixed opinions. So, this seems like an appropriate topic to address today.

Online bingo is fair if you play at a safe site. The online gambling industry is largely unregulated so pretty much anyone with a little money in the bank can set up shop. On the internet, reputation is everything. Until we get a worldwide governing body for gambling, we’ll have to rely on reputation to determine which sites are worth joining.

The key to getting a fair game of bingo is to stick with the big-name sites that you can research before you join. New bingo sites pop up all the time and it’s hard to get an idea of what those sites are all about. I’m sure most new bingo sites are legit, but there’s no easy way to tell for sure. For that reason, I prefer to stick with big name sites.

These are all bingo sites that have been around for a number of years. Based on my own experiences and talks with other players, these bingo sites know how to treat customers. They all offer high quality games but most importantly, they pay their winners.

Making Money
I should warn you that you shouldn’t go to online bingo with dreams of getting rich. The vast majority of bingo games on the internet run for fairly small stakes. Average wins are less than a hundred dollars. Bingo sites do host the occasional promotion with a massive prize pool, but most games are much smaller.

Bingo is more of a social game than a pure gambling game. Yes, there’s an element of gambling in the fact that you buy cards and try to win money, but that’s almost an afterthought. Visit any longstanding bingo site and you’ll notice that many of the players seem to know each other.

Online bingo is an experience. If you don’t have any plans for your evening, it’s nice to log in, play a few games and chat with people from all around the world. Bingo is a more lighthearted game than most other gambling games.

If your goal is to make money, there are other games for that. Sports betting, poker and blackjack all come to mind from that angle. And if you want to go for the really big wins, there are plenty of progressive jackpot slot machines that offer payouts in the range of a million dollars.

So to sum things up, online bingo is fair as long as you play at legitimate sites. It’s not the best way to get rich, but it’s fun and fair. I can think of much worse things to do on a slow evening.

Understanding Online Casino Bonuses

When you start looking at all of the different options online casinos offer, you are bound to get overrun with all of the different bonus offers. Every online casino seems to have at least two or three different bonuses and when you consider how many thousands of casinos there are in existence, it can quickly become an overwhelming barrage of information. Just in case you don’t already know, there are also different types of bonuses. Almost all of them fall into one of four bonus categories. Keep reading to learn more about each of the four bonus categories, why you always have to read the small print and when you may be better off not taking a bonus.

Types of Online Casino Bonuses
The four main types of online casino bonuses include cashable, non-cashable, no deposit and free spins. Each of these four types is explained in detail below. You may on a very rare occasion run across a bonus that does not fall into one of these categories. If you do, make sure to read the entire conditions and terms before accepting it. You can learn more about terms, conditions and small print in the section following the bonus types.

#1Cashable Casino Bonuses
Cashable casino bonuses are those that you can cash out once you meet all of the requirements. These are usually the best type of bonus for players, but more and more online casinos are switching to the non-cashable type. An example of a cashable bonus is if you receive 100% up to $200 on your deposit. If you make a deposit of $200 you will receive another $200, making your total beginning bankroll $400. After you meet all of the requirements you can take out any money that you have left. So if you have $300 left you can cash out the entire $300.

#2Non cashable Bonuses
Non-cashable bonuses are also called play only bonuses. The way they work is you receive a bonus amount and can play with it until you lose it or you get ready to cash out. When you cash out the casino deducts the bonus amount from your balance before processing your pay out. For example, you deposit $1,000 and get a $2,000 non-cashable bonus.

After meeting the play through requirements you have $2,100 left in your account. When you request a cash out the casino will deduct the $2,000 bonus amount from your balance, leaving $100 for you to withdraw. Understand that unless you read the fine print there is usually no way to tell if a bonus is cashable or non-cashable. They usually look the same with the common look of a certain percentage bonus up to a certain dollar amount. 100% up to $500 or 200% up to $1,000 are just two of the many possible combinations.

#3No Deposit Bonuses
No deposit bonuses are free chips or bankrolls given to players to get them to try an online casino. I have seen them as small as $5 and as large as $100. You don’t usually have to do anything to claim one of these bonuses except sign up for an account. They usually have a play through requirement and a cash out limit, but if you want to try a few games for real money without risking any of your own cash, a no deposit bonus is a great way to start.

#4Free Spins Promotions
Free spins promotions can be offered by themselves or in combination with any of the other bonus types. Technically a free spins bonus can be offered on games other than slot machines, but they are almost always for slots play and are often specific to a certain slot machine. Land based casinos run promotions involving a free hand of blackjack or spin of the roulette wheel, and things like that from time to time. The same type of promotion can be offered by an online casino, so I am lumping these types of promotions in with the free spins section as they are basically the same thing.

An example of a free spins promotion would be 25 free spins on slot machine “XYZ” where each spin is taken at a value of $2. This means that you can only play on the slot machine with the name “XYZ” and you receive 25 free spins and each spin is for $2. You may be restricted to only cashing out a certain amount of a free spins promotion and/or you may need to reach certain play through requirements after you take your free spins. Learn more about play through requirements in the next section.

Why You Always Have to Read the Small Print
You have already seen a few of the terms and restrictions that can be attached to a casino bonus in the descriptions listed above, but there are many more possibilities. Online casinos are in business to make money. They know that in order to make money they have to get players to deposit real money.

In order to get as many players to make real money deposits as possible they offer bonuses to get you to sign up and bonuses to get you to deposit again and again after they get you the first time. However, they are not in the business of letting you keep any of these bonuses if they can help it. So they design their casino bonus terms and conditions to give them the best chance to not only get their bonuses back but to get all of your deposit also. And they want to keep you just happy enough that you will make another deposit after losing your first one.

If you keep this information in mind, you will see why it is so important to always read the fine print. Here are some of the things to watch out for.

The first thing to find out after determining the type of bonus you are receiving (listed above) is how many times you have to wager the bonus and deposit to clear it.
This is usually called a play through requirement. These requirements range from 20 to 40 times generally and are listed as 20x or 20X for a 20 times requirement, 30x or 30X for a 30 times play through, etc.

Here is an example of how a play-through requirement works.

Imagine you make a deposit of $500 and receive a 100% match of $500 with a play through of 30X you will have to make bets totaling at least $30,000 to clear the bonus. The way to figure this is add the deposit and bonus together and then multiply that total times the play through requirement. $500 + $500 = $1,000. $1,000 times 30 = $30,000. You don’t have to make any particular size wagers, but the total of your wagers must reach this amount. For example, if you play slots at $2 per spin you will need to play 15,000 spins. If you play a game at $10 a spin or hand you will have to play 3,000 spins or hands.

This table shows how small differences in bonus requirements makes a big difference in the value of the bonus. In this example, the bonus amount is $20 on a $40 deposit:

Play-through Multiplier Cost to Clear Bonus
20x Bonus $400
20x Bonus plus Deposit $1,200
25x Bonus $500
25x Bonus plus Deposit $1,500
30x Bonus $600
30x Bonus plus Deposit $,1800
35x Bonus $700
35x Bonus plus Deposit $2,100
40x Bonus $800
40x Bonus plus Deposit $2,400
The thing that stands out the most is the vast difference between a multiplier based on the bonus amount and one based on the amount of the bonus plus deposit. Playthrough requirements based on bonus plus deposit are way more common these days.

Some bonus promotions include a maximum amount you can cash out.
Free chip and free spin bonuses are usually where you will find these, but always check for one of these provisions no matter what type of bonus you’re accepting. For example, you may only be able to cash out 10 times the free chip value. So a free chip of $7 can only lead to a maximum cash out of $70.

Restricted games are a big issue for any player who enjoys playing anything except slot machines. Almost all casino bonuses let you play slots to clear. But most of them either don’t allow you to play table games like blackjack and roulette or only count a small percentage of your play at these games against your bonus clearing requirements.

There are quite a few online casinos that will forfeit your entire bonus if you play games on their restricted list. A common restriction is only counting 10% or 20% (or some other low percentage) of each wager made at blackjack, roulette or video poker (or any other number of games) toward clearing your bonus.

If we continue with the example above requiring you to wager $30,000 to clear your bonus and assume blackjack only counts 10% toward clearing, you would have to wager $300,000 while playing only blackjack to clear your bonus. Even at $25 a hand you would have to play 12,000 hands.

There are specific bonuses for table games available at many online casinos, but just because a casino has a bonus for table games does not mean it has favorable clearing conditions.
The restrictions are usually just as bad, if not worse, on these special game specific bonus offers.

The bottom line is if you don’t take the time to read and make sure you understand all of the bonus terms and conditions, as well as exactly what kind of bonus you are receiving and how to clear it, you shouldn’t play. There is no excuse for getting surprised by any bonus terms. Many players falsely assume that all bonuses are cashable until they sign up for a non-cashable one, meet all the play through requirements and then try to cash out. They are usually angry and disappointed, but it is their responsibility to find out what they are signing up for in the first place.

Should You Always Accept a Bonus?
While it may seem strange to consider not accepting a bonus from an online casino, there are a few situations where you may want to pass. As you learned above, the small print, or terms and conditions, can be quite restrictive on what you can do with your winnings and when you can do it. Here are a few specific examples where you might be better off not accepting a bonus.

Casino Gambling Laws

The biggest problem with developing a page for a web site that deals with casino gambling laws is that almost as soon as you put it up some of the information has changed. There are literally thousands of jurisdictions around the world and they each have their own rules, laws and regulations about online casinos.

Some countries have specific laws regulating the running and licensing of online gambling establishments, some countries have specific laws against online gambling and some countries don’t have any laws about online casinos at all. In addition, if you just included a few lines about each jurisdiction in the world you would end up with a page that was miles long.

There are often many different jurisdictions within each country that may have their own set of laws. The United States is a perfect example of this with laws on the federal level, state level, city level and county level. Sometimes you need a law degree just to figure out who has the authority to do what in any given situation.

Because of the ever changing legal landscape and different jurisdictions I have included many tips, tricks and methods for finding out what the casino gambling laws are where you live or where you are planning to visit.

Gambling Law Disclaimer
Before continuing you need to understand that I am not offering legal advice and you are responsible for determining if any actions you take online are legal where you live. This page is simply for educational purposes and to help you find the answers you need.

The Best Advice about Casino Gambling Laws
By far the best place to learn more about casino gambling laws is to speak with an attorney who specializes in online gambling laws. There are not many of these types of lawyers around, but they do exist.

If you want to be 100% sure you are receiving the best advice possible this is your only option. Plan to spend a fair amount of money, because these lawyers are in demand and they charge for their services.

Learn About Casino Gambling Laws Cheaply
This is the way most players and potential players approach online casino gambling laws. They may do a quick search online, but for the most part if they can make a deposit and play at an online casino they assume it is legal. Searching on the Internet for questions concerning the law and legal advice can be dangerous.

You need to realize that just about anyone with Internet access and a few dollars can launch a web site that says anything they want, whether true or not. In addition, just because you find multiple sources reporting the same things as fact you can’t be sure they are true.

Often a site will make a statement of fact and other sites will start saying the same things and presenting them as factual without verifying them. Remember the old saying that says you often get what you pay for. By reading free advice you may be setting yourself up for an unpleasant experience.

If you must research gambling and casino laws using the Internet make sure to verify any information you find with reputable sources.

Just as a word of caution, Wikipedia is not a trusted or reputable source. It often does have good information, but just about anyone can edit there so many times the details can be incorrect. You can often find solid sources referenced at the bottom of the page in Wikipedia, so if you must use it at least follow the links to find credible resources.

Is Anyone in Jail for Gambling?
This is the test I often use to help me determine if it is legal in a certain jurisdiction to gamble online. I try to find out if anyone has ever been sentenced to jail for doing what I want to do. For example, if I want to play at an online casino I see if anyone where I live has ever went to jail for doing so.

While this is far from a solid defense if you ever get charged, it does make me feel better if no one has done jail time. In other words, you can’t say “Well no one else got in trouble for doing it so I should be allowed to do it” as a defense in a court of law. (I guess you can say it, but if you broke the law it will not help you get the charges dropped.)

You can even take this a small step further to see if anyone has even been charged with a crime for playing at an online casino.

Can You Trust Advice on Online Forums?
While it’s dangerous to say anything is 100% certain one way or another when it comes to sharing information online, I can say that most advice that you find on online forums is suspect at best, and much of it is just plain wrong.

Do not ever base your safety and protection from possibly breaking the law based on anything you read on an online forum or message board. Anyone with Internet access can post on most forums and act like they are an expert.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because someone has a bunch of posts they know what they are talking about either. I have seen people with thousands of posts tossing around completely inaccurate information. I don’t know if all of these people are bad or intentionally trying to spread bad information, but some of it is close to criminal and can cost people money and / or get them hurt. Just like anything else you find online, make sure you verify the important details.

Is Any Place Safe to Gamble?
I realize that so far I have painted a discouraging picture about online gambling and the law. The good news is there are plenty of jurisdictions that have specific laws in place to make online gambling and casino play legal for companies that operate with the correct licenses and for players.

This information can often be found on the government owned web sites in your country. Local attorneys are also likely to have this information if you live in one of the countries that have specific laws allowing online casino play.

However, don’t make the mistake of thinking online gambling is legal just because you have land based casinos in your country. Often the biggest opponents of online gaming are the land based casinos. There should either be specific laws allowing online gambling in your jurisdiction or at the very least no laws that prohibit it.

There are often different laws concerning owning an online casino and playing at an online casino. In many jurisdictions you can play legally but you can’t own an online gambling establishment. There are even a few places where you can own one but citizens are not allowed to play in one.

How Do Banks Factor Into Gambling Laws?
The online casino and gambling industry is fueled by the movement of money into and out of the online casinos and other gambling businesses. Without a safe and secure way to move the money around the online gambling business would quickly go away. So in some jurisdictions the law makers try to either control online gambling through banking laws or try to do away with online gambling by making banking with online casinos illegal.

The UIGEA passed in the United States is an example of this. It doesn’t make gambling online illegal, but it tries to target the banking industry to get them to stop dealing with online casinos. But it hasn’t been very successful at driving the online casinos out of the market. There are still plenty of places for United States citizens to play at online casinos, poker rooms and sports books.

Getting money into and out of these establishments may be a little more challenging than it used to be but it is still fairly easily accomplished. There were many e-wallets, casinos, sports books and poker rooms that left the US market, but just as many stayed or entered the market after the UIGEA.

I Want to Start an Online Casino
If you want to start an online casino then the only advice you need from this entire page is to seek the help of a qualified attorney. There are jurisdictions where you can do this in a legal and safe manner, but there are also places where you will go to jail for running one.

In addition, once you find a legal jurisdiction you will need to find reliable banking solutions, a solid software provider and possibly a local person who you can trust to help you set everything up without being taken advantage of. You may also need to move to whatever country you plan to run your online casino from so you can watch over the day to day operations.

Conclusion
With all of the different laws around the world governing gambling and with the possibility of many of them changing at any time, it can be quite a challenge to know what is right and wrong. In addition, the existing laws in many places are not well worded or thought out and create more questions than answers.

Other places have laws that were put into place well before the Internet even existed and people are trying to determine how these laws fit with the online world. The only thing you can do is find a group of trusted sources to keep up to date and / or use the services of an attorney.