Criteria used to rank and rate online casinos in 2023

We know that new players will find a lot of casinos featured on our site, so we have created a set of criteria that are used to rank and rate online casinos and make it easier for you to pick one or more that will be perfect for your style of play. Below you can see the order in which we put these features when doing an .

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We know that new players will find a lot of casinos featured on our site, so we have created a set of objective criteria that are used to review online casinos and make it easier for you to pick one or more that will be perfect for your style of play. Here’s the order in which we put these features when performing an online casino review:

Security and Safety Considerations

The first step? Make sure that we’re dealing with a legitimate operation. That begins with checking licenses from reputable gaming agencies like the UKGC, MGA and/or the government of Curacao. The casino’s home page will usually display its licensing partners as banners or seals. We check each one by clicking through to verify its authenticity. A trip to the site’s “About” or “Contact” page often uncovers the licenses along with the company name behind the brand. That company name and its licenses are then compared with the databases of all licensed operators found at the UKGC and MGA websites. Any discrepancies – or lack thereof – are noted. All of the top-rated and legit online casinos we recommend are safe and secure. Any site that raises red flags during this phase of analysis is automatically removed from further consideration.

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Once licensing has been verified, our attention turns to the operating company behind the brand. We want to ensure that the firm is active, solvent and operating according to currently-held licenses. To do this, we consult several business information services that maintain current corporate data including ownership structures, interlocking directorates and bankruptcies. If any of those conditions exist, the brand fails this test and is eliminated from further consideration.

The URL of every online casino site begins with “https://” rather than “http://”. The “s” indicates that the site uses the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol to encrypt communication between user devices and the casino’s servers. That makes it very difficult for hackers to obtain sensitive personal information such as social security numbers, credit card data or even game results before they’re officially recorded. Any site that doesn’t use SSL encryption is rejected at this point.

No encryption protocol is completely foolproof, though, and all gamblers should employ their own encyption utility to protect their communications. Our experts use the highly recommended and low cost Norton Secured VPN to shield their online activities – including casino games – from outside observation. Even theyzed-out grandmothers could easily set it up on any computer or mobile device.

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If an online casino site passes those three security tests, we move on to the next phase of evaluation.

Games – Variety and Fairness

What good is an online casino without great games? Once we’ve established the integrity of the site and verified the legitimacy of its operator, we turn our attention to what’s inside our proverbial oyster – the games and their providers.

In the early days of online gambling, most sites developed their own software to power their gaming operations. That was a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it enabled them to customize game rules to their own preferences while providing a truly unique product to their customers.

On the negative side of the ledger, they had to bear the entire expense of creating that software themselves. Worse yet, they had to compete with other sites using the same games – and perhaps even poach customers who had memorized the optimal playing strategies for those particular titles.

Today, the the majority of online casino games – even at proprietary gambling sites – are leased from third-party developers. This practice, known as white labeling, allows a company to launch a fully functional casino with thousands of hours of entertainment content in a matter of weeks… for a price, of course.

The benefits of leasing gaming software are obvious, but what about cons? There are a few to consider:

  • Everything looks the same. When you’ve seen one casino, you’ve seen them all – at least where games are concerned..
  • The games all feel the same. Even if you can’t remember playing a specific title before, your muscle memory may tell a different story.
  • All the games have the same return to player percentage (RTP). Or very close, anyway… and that RTP is probably around 96%.

The last point requires some explanation. One of the ways that game developers monetize their products is through the sale of progressive jackpot rights to outside organizations. Every wager of a specific game type contributes to one or more remote prize pools that can be won by any player wagering on that same game at any participating site. Since these outside organizations pay significantly more for progressives offered by major gaming corporations than they do for lesser-known brands, the latter must be priced accordingly.

That means that the non-progressive games – the ones that aren’t connected to million-pound slot jackpots – must have their revenue streams cranked up to keep the accounting department happy.

Is that a bad thing for the average player? It might be – but only if all similar games at all casinos were priced at that higher level.

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Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Each gambling site has its own accounting departments, and they sometimes make different decisions about which games to offer and how to price them. That’s why we spend many long hours comparing casino game inventories across the internet and ranking those that offer the highest ratio of high-quality titles to the prices they charge for the privilege of playing them.

Once we’ve identified a suitable group of candidates, we apply another metric – the number and variety of games in their inventory. We begin with slots, since those are the most popular game category with British gamblers.

First, we look for a large selection of classic three-reel slots as well as modern five-reel versions. We also note whether older titles still survive or if everything on offer is provided by the latest blockbuster licensing agreement. Next, we count the number of different slot game families offered – not just copies of the same game presented in different color schemes.

When we’ve completed our slots tally, we move on to table games. While not as popular among casual players, quality table games separate the best online casinos from the rest of the pack. We look for blackjack, roulette, baccarat, Sic Bo and video poker in their inventory, and award bonus points for subvariants and side bets.

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After table games come the specialty games, a catchall category that includes keno, scratchies, bingo, Superfecta football pools and various arcade-style amusements. While important, the variety and quantity of these games receive a lower weighting in our overall rating system.

Before moving on to live dealer games, we take into account the mobile compatibility of the remaining candidates. Most online casinos use a responsive design that automatically adjusts to the screen size of whatever device is being used to access the site. Others use dedicated mobile apps – preferably available for Android and iOS alike. Those that make our list offer a lengthy inventory of games for smartphone and tablet play.

Live dealer games complete our game inventory analysis. As mentioned above, the availability of live dealer titles sometimes varies considerably from one site to another. We take that into account while applying a boost factor for the number of live games offered and the quality of their presentation.

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Finally, we compare the game inventories across our short list of candidate casinos and assign weights based on user demographics gleaned from our traffic analytics. The casino with the highest score in this category makes out with the top spot for overall games quality and quantity.

Deposit Bonuses and Promotions

Everyone likes to get something for nothing. That’s particularly true in the gambling world, where the potential for losing real money is always present. For that reason, initial deposit bonuses and ongoing promotions are an important part of the online gaming experience for many players.

While almost all Internet casinos offer welcome bonuses – often called a , which is added to your first deposit – the terms and conditions vary widely regarding the amount, methods of acquisition and restrictive playthrough requirements. We’ll discuss each of these factors in detail below.

Amount of the Welcome Bonus

Initial deposit bonuses fall into one of three categories regarding size:

  • Reloaded. Also known as a , this is simply matching the deposited amount with free chips up to a certain limit. For example, 100% match up to £50 means that a £25 deposit would bring a £25 bonus for a total playing account balance of £50. A £50 deposit at that rate would maximize the free chips received at £25 for a total playing account balance of £75.
  • Multiples. Some welcome bonuses feature matched deposits at a multiple of the original deposit. A 200% bonus, for instance, would provide £50 in free chips for a £25 deposit – and £100 in bonus chips for a £50 deposit, for a total playing account balance of £150.
  • Fixed amount. Less common are the flat-rate bonuses offering the same amount of free chips regardless of the amount of the deposit. An example would be £25 in free bonus chips for any deposit amount.
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Which is best? That depends upon a player’s individual style and bankroll. Those comfortable with substantial deposits will obviously get more usable bonus chips from a multiple. On the other hand, a small deposit will bring more free chips from a reloaded bonus. Flat-amount bonuses generally require multiple deposits to assemble a sizable bankroll.

It’s also worth noting that many welcome bonuses include both matched deposit chips and a flat amount. Such a package might provide a 100% reload up to £50 as well as a £25 flat amount, for a maximum of £75 in free bonus chips.

An important distinction should be made here between cash and bonus chips. While cash winnings can be withdrawn from he account after satisfying UK tax obligations, bonus chips must be wagered a specified number of times before they can be kept. This is known as a playthrough requirement, and it can range from as little as 20X to over 80X.

Playthrough Requirements

Playthrough refers to wagering a certain multiple of the bonus chips before they can be considered played through and available for withdrawal. Let’s take a closer look at those examples from above to see how playthrough affects the profitability of welcome bonuses.

A 100% match up to £50 with a playthrough requirement of 20X would look like this:

  • Deposit £25 – Receive £25 bonus = £50 playing account balance
  • Deposit £50 – Receive £50 bonus = £100 playing account balance
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To playthrough the £25 bonus:

  • £25 deposit X 1 (the amount deposited) X 20 = £500 in wagers
  • £50 deposit X 2 (1 deposit amount + 1 bonus amount) X 20 = £2000 in wagers

It should be noted here that not all games contribute equally to playthrough satisfaction. Slots nearly always receive maximum weight, often followed by other random chance games like video poker and fixed odds poker. Table games like roulette, blackjack and craps contribute a smaller percentage – sometimes nothing at all.

This 100% bonus with a 20X playthrough and standard game weightings would require 40x the deposit + 0 x the bonus itself to satisfy the playthrough on the £25 deposit. For the larger deposit, the required wagers would be 60x the deposit + 0x the bonus

A 200% multiple on the deposit would appear on the face of it to be more advantageous, but let’s see:

  • 200% multiple – 20X playthrough
  • Deposit £25 – Receive £50 bonus = £75 playing account balance
  • Deposit £50 – Receive £100 bonus = £150 playing account balance
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Once again, here are the playthrough calculations:

  • £25 deposit X 1 X 20 = £500 in wagers
  • £50 deposit X 2 X 20 = £2000 in wagers

In this case, more bonus chips mean a bigger bankroll to start with, but a higher multiple and playthrough combination requires more wagers to satisfy those playthrough requirements before any profit can be kept. 40x the deposit + 0x the bonus for the £25 deposit; and 80x the deposit + 0x the bonus for the larger deposit.

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A £25 flat amount bonus with no deposit required has an instant playthrough requirement of £625, all other factors being equal to our previous examples. That works out to an effective multiple of 25X, making it less advantageous than either of the other two deposit bonuses once we take the playthrough into account. 25x the deposit + 0x the bonus

The bottom line? Welcome bonuses are certainly enticing, but they shouldn’t be the primary determinant of where you choose to play. Other factors like game selection, mobile compatibility, banking methods and especially customer support should carry more weight in picking a casino at which to wager real money. Still, a few bonus chips can sweeten the pot – pun intended – and the above guidelines should help you select the most profitable packages.

Promotional Offers

Initial deposit bonuses are just the beginning of the promotional offers available at most online casinos. We’ve seen special event bonuses timed to holidays like Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Reload bonuses provide a smaller matched amount on subsequent deposits, sometimes triggered by depositing via one of the eWallets (Skrill, Neteller, etc.) that some casinos discourage.

Loyalty rewards range from comp points accumulated while playing to VIP clubs offering special birthday gifts and technical support not available to commoners. And let’s not forget tournament entries, where a modest buy-in can result in a seat at heavily discounted – if not free – prize pools.

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We track and categorise hundreds of these promotional offers, speaking regularly with casino management to verify their legitimacy and satisfaction of player complaints – or, ideally, the prompt resolution thereof. The site with the largest welcome bonus isn’t necessarily the best online casino. However, the one that consistently provides a positive player experience with generous promotional offers and rapid resolutions to any issues that arise earns a top rating from us.

Mobile Gambling Capabilities

With the worldwide proliferation of smartphones and tablets, mobile compatibility has become a major criterion in choosing among online casinos. After all, being able to enjoy your favourite games whenever and wherever the mood strikes is a big part of the fun, and the best online casinos understand this very well.

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Almost all reputable Internet gambling sites nowadays offer full mobile compatibility. The question is, how do you go about finding the right one to suit your needs? Here are some things to consider.

Responsiveness vs. Dedicated Apps

The vast majority of mobile-compatible casinos utilize a responsive web design. That’s a fancy way of saying that the site’s layout automatically adapts to the screen size of whatever device you’re using to view it. In practice, this means that you can visit a responsive online casino by entering its URL into your smartphone’s browser window. No app download will be necessary, saving you time and potentially protecting your mobile device from unwanted software.

Some casinos do offer a mobile gambling app for smartphone and tablet users, however. These may be limited to the Android operating system or additionally include apps for Apple and Microsoft devices. Dedicated apps often feature simplified navigation menus to fit the smaller screens of mobile devices, and may require relatively current operating systems to run properly.

Casino Game Availability

When looking for the best mobile casino to join, it’s important to think about the types of games you enjoy playing. Like regular Internet sites, mobile-compatible casinos offer varying degrees of game coverage. At the low end, the mobile version may feature only slots and maybe some virtual scratch cards. Table games like blackjack and roulette may be entirely absent, or severely limited in their variants and betting options.

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At the other end of the spectrum are the fully mobile casinos, featuring all of the games found on the desktop version plus live dealer tables optimized for smartphone and tablet play. These venues are a rarity, but well worth the effort required to locate them.

Our experts spend many hours with a variety of mobile devices, testing the actual game inventories against the claims made on each casino’s home page. You can rely on our reviews to accurately reflect the reality of playing on the move with any recommended mobile casino.

Banking Methods and Customer Support

As with any online gambling venture, you’ll eventually need to fund your mobile account and take withdrawals from your winnings. Mobile-compatible casinos offer a variety of payment methods to accomplish this, with eWallets like Skrill and Neteller quite popular due to their anonymity and wide acceptance. Some sites also offer the option of charging or debit card deposits to mobile accounts.

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When a deposit method isn’t working quite right, or you need to initiate a withdrawal, reaching competent customer support personnel is necessary to resolve the issue. Live chat is the industry standard for remote support, and all of the mobile casinos reviewed by our experts offer this useful contact method. Telephone support is available at some sites, although the per-minute charging structure often leads to long waits on hold while users try to avoid another billing period.

Email is the slowest method of contact, typically requiring several hours for a reply – and several days during the weekend and on holidays. Even so, having email as the only remote contact method is a serious detractor that causes significant loss of ratings at our judicious whittling down of the many casinos claiming to be among the best.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, selecting the appropriate online venue for your favourite games requires careful analysis on many fronts. In practice, most casinos perform well in some areas and poorly in others. That’s why we publish separate reviews for each site, giving our readers the opportunity to select those that best fit their individual tastes and playing styles.

For our editors and expert contributors, though, the quest is different. We seek the elusive perfect online gambling site, one that performs well under all of the foregoing metrics. It’s an ongoing search that has yet to produce a clear winner, but we press on undaunted – spurred on by the knowledge that the quest itself is a worthy goal.

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