3 Forces That Will Keep You Safe from Sharks While Gambling Online
How do you keep safe while gambling online?
Do you know?
Because there’s no shortage of people who want to take advantage of you. This includes hackers, rogue casinos, review sites and forums. All of them lurking in the shadows, just waiting for you to walk by.
Many gullible, unsuspecting online gamblers fall prey to these crooks. Some lose tens or hundreds of dollars. Others, they lose everything – tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands.
You don’t want to be one of those people …do you?
Well, the good news is you don’t have to be. So long as you stay protected.
That’s not nearly as hard as you may think, considering that there are 3 forces at work – 3 forces who have the job of keeping you safe online. I want to spend the rest of my time telling you who those forces are, so you know how they work, what to look for when choosing a site, and what to expect when gambling online.
You know the first force very well.
1. It’s You
The first force that will keep you safe online is you. It’s going to be your choice of where you gamble that will set into motion all the good or bad things that will come your way.
Seriously. Join a shady casino and tell me how it’s going in a month or so. I bet you won’t be happy.
So, your first task is simple – join a legit gambling site. But how do you do that?
The easiest way is by reading gambling site reviews. But not to see what games, software or promotions the site has. What you want to look for instead are negative comments or problems other players have with them.
For example, a rogue gambling site will pull shenanigans like:
- Slow or No Pays – Simply put, they’re not paying players. Or, they take a long time doing it, stringing you along with promises of “it’s on its way”, over and over – sometimes for months on end.
- Changing Terms – Sometimes rogue sites will change their terms to match their position in a dispute against a player. They might change bonus terms, deposit limits or the rules for how much you can cash out per week. Basically, they’ll change anything to justify why they can’t pay you your money.
- Finding Loopholes – These are loopholes found in the gambling sites’ T&C’s that will allow them to weasel out of paying you. These are often for dumb things, like accusing you of being a professional gambler or a member of a gambling syndicate. Subjective and silly things, really.
- Offering Unrealistic Promotions – These are offers that are too good to be true. Like $5,000 offers, 400% match bonuses, low rollover requirements, or something else that’s not the norm at legit sites.
And others. But these are the biggies.
Your mission is to read reviews to see if the site’s you’re considering joining has, or has had problems like these. That way you can avoid them (or just be really, really cautious if you’re giving them a 2nd chance).
But don’t just limit yourself to casino reviews. One of the best things you can do is join a forum. If anything is going wrong with a company – like a legit complaint – you’ll know it fast …and often way before anyone else in the gambling community.
To sort of flip what I just said on its head, you do want to focus on user (other player) reviews, more so than a review from a gambling review site or forum.
The reason being is that most of these sites and forums are businesses. They post reviews for money. They’re all biased – some more than others.
I wouldn’t put my trust into a site or forum unless I knew they were honest, on the up-and-up, and wouldn’t sell their readers out for a few bucks. And that trust takes time to build.
So, definitely read site reviews, but try to find user reviews, if possible. They’re usually far more honest, and far less biased than reviews written by companies.
Do this right and you’ll be one step closer to keeping yourself safe while gambling online.
2. US States
If you gamble online in the United States – in a state where it’s legal – you are protected by the 2nd force – the individual state.
That’s because, if you want to be a gambling operator in America, you have to jump through hoops and abide by the laws the state sets.
For example, here are some rules or tasks an operator will have to complete – all in place to keep you safe:
- Operators will need to have geo-targeting technology so that only people within the state can play at their site.
- They need to offer self-exclusion options so players can take a cooling off period – or stop playing altogether if they have a gambling problem.
- They need to offer controls so players can place limits on themselves, so to prevent themselves from spending too much during a session or in a day.
- Operators have to apply for a license (and pay the fees). This weeds out the type of riffraff you often see operate offshore casinos.
- Gambling sites need to verify that players are old enough to gamble (18 or 21 years old).
- They need to have their software tested.
- Operators need to work with approved 3rd parties (software, payment processing, merchants, etc.), and they (the 3rd parties) may have to operate within state lines.
- Operators are overseen and regularly checked on by a gaming authority to ensure the casino is complying with the rules.
And so on.
These are rules designed to keep you safe from rogue operators. If you plan to play in the US (and, arguably, you should if safety is your main concern), then you’ll be doing yourself a favor by joining a US-approved gambling site.
Otherwise, you’ll have no choice but to rely on the 3rd force.
3. Online Casinos
Online casinos – the 3rd force – are the last line of defense against the crooks, hackers and scam artists. If you choose your casino wisely – if you join a safe online casino – anything the casino does to protect you will be icing on the cake.
There are a number of tactics online casinos use to protect you. Let’s go over the big ones now.
The idea is to give you a way to ban yourself from the casino for a specific length of time. This could be an hour or 1 day (to cool off), or it can be as long as 1 week, month, 6 months, 12 months or for life. The latter is for people who feel they may have a gambling problem.
Under no circumstance will the casino let you play. It doesn’t matter how much you email them, or beg them, or try to convince them you’ve changed your mind.
Once banned, most casinos will remove you from their marketing lists. And others – namely those operating in legal US states – will also add your name to an exclusion list so that other casinos turn you away, too.
There’s still a fair amount of personal responsibility involved. You have to keep yourself from visiting the live version of the casino. Or, perhaps, from joining an offshore site where they don’t know you’ve excluded yourself.
But this is a great way to protect yourself if you approach it responsibly.
- SSL Certificate – Another thing gambling sites use is SSL technology. The general idea is they buy a special certificate that increases the security of their site by encrypting your information. That means hackers won’t be able to access info like your name, address, date of birth, social security or credit card number.
- Maintain (Fair) Software – Another thing casinos do is maintain their software. This means a couple things, including testing their RNG for fairness, and ensuring their software is checked and updated regularly.
The RNG testing is fairly straightforward. Gambling sites will work with a 3rd party auditor, like Gaming Labs or iTech Labs. They make sure the software used is truly random (as random as an algorithm can be – to ensure fairness), make sure you’re compliant, perform network risk assessments, and many other things designed to keep players safe. You can see the services Gaming Labs offer here.
Gaming sites also make sure their software is bug-free so that no one can find ways to hack or cheat the software. PokerStars is a great example of a company who frequently updates their software.
An example of bad software – one that someone hacked from the inside – comes from the Cereus Poker Network – home of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. There were two different, yet similar incidents where players were taken advantage of because of a loophole in the software.
The first incident was in 2007. There were accusations that someone had Super User access – access that allowed that person to see the hole cards of each person in the poker game.
An investigation showed that an employee was cheating players for 40 days. As a result, Absolute Poker refunded $1.6 million to players. They were also fined $500,000 from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
Then it happened again at Ultimate Bet. According to reports, employees of the former owners, Excapsa Software, were able to transfer hole-card information of other players to perpetrators. The gaming commission found that the cheating happened from May 2004 to January 2008 – almost 4 years!
Who knows how often the Cereus Network tested their software for fairness and vulnerabilities. But I’d be willing to bet it was nowhere near as much as it should’ve been. As a result, a lot of players were ripped off, and both poker site’s reputations suffered.
But you don’t have to let them stop you from enjoying yourself online. In fact, you shouldn’t.
If you take matters into your own hands and choose a solid casino to join, you’ll find more than enough protection between online casinos and US states to ensure you’re never ripped off gambling online again.
But it all starts with you. So, follow my advice above and you should be just fine.