3 Important Factors to Look out for When Choosing an Online Casino
Despite the cloudy laws governing online gambling in Canada, betting and playing casino games over the internet remain among most the popular forms of entertainment for local players. There are many online casinos that serve Canadians – from those operated by provincial governments to those which operate offshore or have their servers located in Kahnawake (which lies in Canadian territory).
With so many options available to Canadian players, how will you know that a particular online casino is the best choice for you?
We’ve pinpointed three important factors to look out for when choosing an online casino, which will hopefully help you whittle down your choices to only the very best, safest and Canadian-friendly online gambling sites.
We look at what we consider the three most important factors:
- Reputable software
- Clear terms & conditions
Let’s examine each one and identify why they are such important factors to consider when choosing an online casino.
The dry letter of Canadian law states that an operator who wants to legally provide casino games for Canadians (betting, lotteries, slots and other forms of online gambling) has to be approved and licensed by the government. This means that an online casino which isn’t licensed by one of the provincial governments is not considered truly licensed under Canadian law.
But things on the ground are very different. The fact that players cannot be prosecuted for playing at online casinos that aren’t licensed by a provincial government means that millions of Canadians gamble at offshore sites. In fact, Canada is currently ranked number 8 in the world of countries whose citizens gamble the most online. The latest numbers show that Canadians spend at least $4 billion at offshore casinos each year – and that number keeps growing.
Licensed by Top Jurisdictions
So if these sites aren’t licensed in Canada, how can you be sure that you’re playing at a safe site? Just because an online casino doesn’t carry Canadian licensing credentials, doesn’t mean that it is UNlicensed. Some of the top online casinos that cater to the Canadian gambling public are actually licensed by some of the best gambling jurisdictions in the world.
So to get back to one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a Canadian online casino:
Check where the site is licensed.
We consider sites that carry licenses by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) or the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission to be among the best out there.
It’s important that when you look at a potential online casino, you check its licensing credentials to make sure that it is licensed by one of the above, or similar. If you’re not sure about a licensing jurisdiction’s pedigree, ask around. Our suggestion is to stick to the online casinos that are licensed by well-known gambling jurisdictions, just to be on the safe side.
Why is Online Casino Licensing So Important?
Imagine an online casino license as a seal of approval for the gambling site. This seal of approval is given by the country or territory which licensed the site. It confirms that the online casino has met the minimum standards and requirements set out by the country for the casino to obtain the license.
Naturally, the stricter the requirements and the higher the standards, the more difficult it will be for the online casino to get the license. But it also means that the player will be better protected. It’s clear that if an online casino goes to great lengths to meet the high criteria set by the gambling jurisdiction, its policy is to take your safety and security very seriously. It’s not just applying for a license to check off a box. It’s doing so because it cares about its players and it cares about its own industry reputation.
What is Required from an Online Casino to be Issued a License?
The requirements and standards that online casinos need to meet to qualify for an online casino license differ among gambling jurisdictions.
But in general, the requirements usually include:
- Checks on ownership to make sure that the online casino isn’t run by dubious organizations or characters with a bad track record in the industry.
- Positive cash flow position to make sure that the online casino can keep afloat.
- Proof that all systems to protect transactions and personal data are deemed safe and secure.
- Checks that games are fair and random.
- All anti-laundering measures are in place.
- Vulnerable and underage players will be protected through customer verification measures.
The top online casino jurisdictions will make the site undergo a long and sometimes exhaustive process which includes thorough background checks and owner screening. All procedures and methods are audited, while games on the site need to be fair and random.
Should an online casino fail to comply with these audits, they will not be awarded a license. In the case of the best licensing jurisdictions, sites need to prove that they are able to maintain these standards all the time. Meeting the requirements at the beginning is one thing, but maintaining them long-term is another. The top jurisdictions require continuous proof and will check these standards on a regular base. In some cases, a current license can be revoked if the online casino fails to keep up to these standards.
The Dangers of Playing at Unlicensed/Shaky Online Casinos
There are so many great online casinos licensed by top jurisdictions out there, that there is absolutely no reason to play at a site that doesn’t meet these standards.
Playing at an unlicensed site, means that there is no controlling authority to ensure that you are protected in any way. How do you know that the people behind the site aren’t just there to take your money and run? How do you know that the site is not a front for money laundering?
Some of the other dangers of playing at unlicensed online casinos or online casinos licensed by questionable licensing authorities include:
- Nobody to handle player information and to make sure that your personal details don’t fall into the wrong hands.
- Nobody to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Nobody to oversee deposits and withdrawals.
- Nobody to protect underage or vulnerable players.
- Nobody to get involved in the case of casino-player dispute.
- Nobody to test the fairness and randomness of games.
- Nobody to turn to if the site gets into financial difficulty and decides to block accounts.
Thankfully, you can protect yourself from these nightmare scenarios very simply. Stick to online casinos that are licensed by top jurisdictions. There are enough excellent, safe and highly-reputable online casinos for Canadians on our lists. There is absolutely no need to play anywhere else!
Another factor to look at when choosing an online casino is the site’s software provider/s. A software provider is the company which supplies the site with its games and gaming platform. Canadian players are blessed in that they have a great range of game providers to choose from. These providers are responsible for the gaming software, design and gameplay behind all those fantastic titles you find online, including video slots, table games, live casino games and progressive jackpot slot games.
You’ll see that online casinos are essentially divided into two main groups – single vendor sites and multi-vendor sites.
- Single vendor online casinos carry games by one software provider only. They usually use those providers that have been at it for many years, and that have an excellent industry reputation. Many Canadian online casinos are powered solely by Microgaming, for example.
- Multi-vendor online casinos have games provided by multiple software providers. Canadian sites usually have a good balance between older, more established online casino software providers, and more niche providers. The result is a fabulous blend of excellent, extremely popular casino games that have stood the test of time, new releases by established gaming sites and innovative new titles using the last word in online casino software technology by niche providers.
Software Providers for Canadian Online Casinos
There are over 15 software providers that fill the lobbies at the best Canadian online casinos. Some of them have been in the business for over a decade or even longer, while others are new to the industry.
Here are examples of some of the providers:
The Isle of Man based Microgaming was established in 1994 and boasts the largest and most entertaining gaming selections in the world. Microgaming is still extremely popular as a software provider at Canadian-friendly online casinos because players have learned to trust them for their random, fair game results and their absolute passion for providing the best games out there. Microgaming titles such as Thunderstruck II and Tomb Raider still top the list of the best slots of all-time, despite the fact that they were released many years ago. In addition, Microgaming releases new titles every month. Microgaming’s progressive jackpot network is one of the best in the world, with new millionaires made every month. Microgaming is also well-known for its branded slots that are themed on some of the best movies, TV shows and personalities in the world.
This software group has been around since the mid-1990s and one of the first groups to recognize the potential in mobile gambling. This is a top notch, Swedish-based provider which boasts titles such as Super Flip, Fire Joker and Hugo.
Another Swedish software group is Quickspin, which started off as a niche provider but went on to become an important part of Playtech’s portfolio when it was acquired by the gaming giant for around CA$85 million in 2016. Quickspin’s small but nevertheless high quality collection includes Treasure Island, Sinbad and Spinions Beach Party.
A world leader in online casino games, NetEnt was founded in 1996 and is a trail-blazing, award-winning provider around the globe. It has the largest pooled progressive jackpots in the industry and a wide range of thrilling games and are updated all the time. NetEnt’s best games include Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, South Park and Mega Fortune.
Yggdrasil was founded by former NetEnt CEO, Frederik Elmqvist in 2013 and has gained popularity for its innovative, bonus-rich and immersive games. Some of its most groundbreaking games include Jokerizer, Empire Jackpot and Double Dragons.
Established in 2006, Evolution Gaming is known as the King of Live Dealer games. Their software is excellent, licensed and regulated and they have the best live casino games in the industry. Many Canadian online casinos feature games such as Live Roulette, Live Blackjack and Live Poker from Evolution’s portfolio.
This rapidly growing group was established in 2014 and acquired by NetEnt in 2019. The UKGC and Isle of Man licensed group has many xcellent titles, including The Three Musketeers, Lucky Wizard and Dragons Luck.
This group is best known for its fantastic cinematic 3D games. Betsoft has been an important part of the industry since 2005, spoiling players with its exciting bonus rounds, unforgettable characters and immersive gaming experience. Some of the group’s best-known games include Heist, Aztec Treasure and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
This small but high-quality software provider is best known for its excellent HTML5 games and focus on compellingly beautiful games. Try out Dragon Sisters, Jammin’ Jars or Meet the Meerkats at online casinos powered by Push Gaming.
Canadian’s love the over 80 HTML5 optimized slots by Pragmatic Play which went live in 2007. The group’s big-sellers are Pixie Wings, Jurassic Giants and Queen of Gold, to name just a few.
Despite being a newer arrival to the industry, the team behind No Limit City has many years of experience under its belt. The Malta-based group produces slots and table games. It’s best known for games such as Owls, Wixx and Creepy Carnival.
his innovative and creative software provider was founded in 2015 and provides games to a handful of Canadian online casinos. Its best titles include Adelia the Fortune Wielder and AstroLegends.
Ash Gaming started distributing games in 2002, and later joined forces with Playtech. The group’s vibrant, multi-themed titles include Angel or Devil, the branded Britain’s Got Talent and Adventures in Wonderland.
New games are released by this group nearly every month, and its name has grown fast since its inception in 2016. Check out Zombie Queen, Caribbean Anne, Midas Treasure and Age of Ice Dragons.
The London-based group is loved for its Slingo games, including The Chase Slingo and Love Island Slingo.
Yet another group that comes out of Scandinavia, Elk Studios started its journey in 2012 and has become a popular name at Canadian online casinos. Its sleek, bonus-rich games keep players entertained for hours. Look out for Wild Toro, Tahiti Gold and Ice Wolf.
The Risks of Playing at a Casino with Unknown or Untested Software Providers
As you surely understand by now, it’s important that your chosen online casino is powered by providers which are well-known and have a good industry reputation. In the case of newer online casinos providers, which haven’t yet managed to build up their reputation yet, it’s important that they are licensed by reputable gambling jurisdictions.
When you come across an online casino that works with unknown software providers, take another look at the other providers. If the site also works with more established names in the industry such as Microgaming or NetEnt, we’d probably feel OK playing at the site. Any established provider whose reputation is important to it will want to make sure that it works only with good online casinos. There is little danger of an online casino using unknown and untested software providers together on the same platform with established providers.
What are the risks of you playing at a casino with dodgy software providers?
- You can’t be sure if the games are truly random and fair.
- The games selection is usually bland and unexciting.
- The online casino clearly doesn’t care about its own reputation, so why would it care about your safety and privacy?
- Your funds may not be safe on the gaming platform.
Clear, Concise Terms and Conditions
One thing we stress over and over to Canadian online gamblers is the importance to look beyond the glitz and pizzazz of online casino promotions. We’re not saying that the offers themselves aren’t important, and obviously you’ll want to gravitate towards bonuses which are more generous and allow you to get more bang for your buck. But more importantly, you want to make absolutely sure that the bonus rules are clear and concise.
Excellent Canadian online casinos want to make sure that their players understand the terms and conditions of every bonus and promotion offered. They don’t want to hide any facts and they don’t want you to have to guess what they mean. They are not out to trick you. The terms and conditions should be clearly spelled out in language that is simple to understand and unambiguous.
By the time you finish reading a bonus’ terms and conditions, you should be able to understand important things about the offer such as:
- Am I eligible for the offer?
- What do I need to do to redeem the offer?
- How long is the offer available?
- What do I need to do to withdraw my winnings?
- How long do I have to claim things such as free spins or other perks?
If for some reason, you don’t get a clear answer to your questions from the terms and conditions, you should be able to turn to the site’s customer support and obtain a quick and clear response.
What happens if you play at an online casino with dodgy rules?
- Problems with Playthrough Requirements: When you claim an online casino bonus and you want to unlock the bonus funds, you will need to play through a specific amount specified by the online casino. Say the gaming site offers you a 100% match deposit bonus worth up to $1000. You deposit $300 into your account, meaning that you’re eligible for a $300 bonus. The online casino will tell you that you have to play through the bonus a certain number of times. Anything up to 50 x is considered industry-standard. Dodgy online casinos, however, will require you to play through (or ‘roll-over’) the bonus amount an unreasonable number of times, which will make it impossible or simply not worth it for you to redeem the bonus.
- Enough Time to Meet the Playthrough Requirements: Even if you’re willing to meet the rollover/playthrough requirements, dodgy online casinos will make sure that you don’t have enough time to do so. A good industry practice is to give you around 30 days to satisfy the rollover, depending on the offer. It could be less if it’s easier to meet the requirements. Dodgy online casinos will make sure, however, that you don’t have enough time which will, essentially nullify the bonus.
- Trying to Withdraw Bonuses: Dodgy casinos put sneaky clauses into their terms and conditions that make it difficult for you to withdraw your winnings. Most importantly, look out for conditions relating to active bonuses. Some conditions state that if you attempt to withdraw before you meet the wagering requirements, your bonus AND your winnings will be nullified and forfeited.
Another standard limit is that only certain games can be played to meet the wagering requirements. It should be very clear in the terms and conditions which games can or cannot be played. Dodgy online casinos may put in a clause saying that even if you try placing a single wager on a restricted game, the bonus and winnings will be nullified and confiscated.
- Max Bet Restrictions: Say you understand the rollover requirements, the time limitations and the game restrictions and you decide that the bonus is still worth redeeming, there is another way that dodgy online casinos can ‘get’ you. They will limit the bet sizes that you can make during active bonuses. If you’re only allowed a small limit, and it will take you ages to meet the playthrough requirements, you may realize that it’s an impossible task, or you may miss the time deadline. Some dodgy sites even state that if you make one wager over the maximum limit allowed, the bonus will be forfeited.
What can you do to find bonuses with fair terms and conditions?
- Play at reputable, licensed and recommended online casinos only.
- Read through the terms and conditions more than once.
- Familiarize yourself with concepts and terms relating to bonus conditions.
- Learn the difference between various online casino bonuses.
- Make sure that you’re eligible for the bonus.
- Make sure that your bankroll size is large enough to meet the bonus conditions.
- If in doubt, ask customer support.
- Avoid online casinos that don’t publish the terms and conditions in a clear and comprehendible manner.
So How Do I Find the Best Online Casino?
This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information to go through, but the bottom line is that, if you want to find an online casino to play at long-term, it is important to do your homework.
Look beyond the initial glitz and glamour, and arm yourself with facts in order to make a smart selection.
Remember, all the casinos we promote on our site have been vetted and reviewed by our team of experts. So simply choose one from our list, go through our shortlist of checks to be sure, and play responsibly.