Common questions and answers about online casino gambling

Is online gambling legal?
Are online casinos fair and honest?
Do I have to be an adult to play?
How do I choose an online casino?
Do I need to download software to play?
How do I purchase chips and get started?
How do I collect my winnings?
What is an Online casino?

Q. Is online gambling legal?

A. In many countries, yes. For example, Antigua allows online gambling and has issued licenses to online casinos. Kahnawake, a Mohawk Territory in Canada, also licenses online casinos.

The situation in the United States is a little more complicated. The US Senate, led by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, has been moving forward with legislation that will make most forms of online gambling illegal -- including gambling at online casinos. How this will be enforced if it ever becomes law is unclear. The proposed legislation targets casino operators, not the average person gambling from their home.

In contrast, Nevada is considering legislation that would allow Las Vegas casinos such as Caesar's Palace and Harrah's to legally operate online casinos.

Some online casinos are not accepting wagers from United States residents until the laws are clarified. Even so, some estimates indicate that up to 90% of online gamblers are in the US.

Currently, all online casinos operate their servers outside the US. Most are located in the Caribbean and Kahnawake, where online gambling licenses are available.

For more information on the legal issues concerning online gambling, check out the Interactive Gaming Council website.

Q. Are online casinos fair and honest?

A. Generally speaking, yes. Legitimate casinos don't need to operate crooked games to make a profit. There's enough profit built-in with the house edge and player mistakes.

Many casinos advertise that their games are tested for fairness. Some casinos have their payouts audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers or other major accounting firms.

But be warned that there are a few dishonest casinos out there. The most common complaint we hear from players is that some online casinos are slow to pay out winnings. In a few cases, casinos have not paid out at all.

For information on specific casinos, see our casino reviews

Q. Do I have to be an adult to play?

A. You must be 18 or older to wager real money. If you're under 18, you can still play for fun at a number of online casinos. Or play our free casino games.

Q. How do I choose an online casino?

A. There are hundreds of online casinos with more opening every week. Our directory offers links to nearly all online casinos. Before wagering real money, see our Beginner's Guide and read our casino reviews.

Q. Do I need to download software to play?

A. Not necessarily. Some casinos offer no-download games such as blackjack, roulette and slots. However, the download games are usually higher quality with better graphics, sound and animation.

Most casinos let you play the games for free before placing a real-money bet. That way you can "test drive" the casino and choose the games you like best.

Q. How do I purchase chips and get started?

A. Casinos generally accept deposits by credit card, check, money order, or wire transfer. Most people use their credit card because they can deposit money and start playing immediately -- no waiting for the mail system. Financial transactions are handled by electronic cash systems similar to those used for other purchases via the Internet. For example, InterCasino uses Cryptologic's Ecash system.

Q. How do I collect my winnings?

A. This varies from casino to casino. Many casinos will credit-back your winnings to your credit card, but only if you used that credit card to make the deposit and only up to the amount you have deposited. Additional amounts will usually be sent by check. This may change soon though as credit card companies rethink their policies concerning online casinos.

At some casinos you will have to wait for a PIN (personal identification number) to be sent to you by regular mail before you can make a withdrawal.

Some casinos charge for withdrawals, some don't. Always read the deposit and withdrawal policies before playing for real money at any online casino.

Q. What is an Online Casino?

An online casino is an Internet site where you can play one or more casino type games, such as blackjack, for real money. While some will let you play for free, the real reason to play is the same as Las Vegas - To win money.

Generally, online casinos are of three kinds:

The first kind are those that require you to download a program for free. These casinos are usually the most fun to play, but you will have the program on your hard drive. This means that you have to wait for the application to download from the Internet and then install it on your computer. Once installed, these programs typically offer great graphics, sound and animation. Several years ago, (in the computer stone age), hard drive space was much more precious than it is today. If you bought your computer within the last two years, then you shouldn't have to worry about the download taking up too much space.

The second type is a casino that uses JAVA instead of a downloaded program. These JAVA applets run through your web browser. Some of these online casinos offer sound and animation, and all of them offer some pretty good graphics.

The third kind of online casino uses all HTML and do not require any download time. Although these Casinos do not offer the sound and animation of the other online casinos, they do have great graphics and fast gameplay. The best way to find an online casino that suits your computer and needs is to look at the list of Top Online Casinos for a complete listing of the best the 'Net has to offer in online casinos.

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