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Trusted & Safe Online Casinos & Bingo Sites


Sue Dawson

Trusted & Safe Online Casinos & Bingo Sites

According to a previous Gambling Commission report, in 2007 61% of respondents to their survey thought gambling was fair and could be trusted.  By 2016 – after many years of growth in online gambling – this figure was down to 34%. The latest figures show a further drop in around 2019 to about 30%, which is where it still is today.

It seems players are less likely to trust gambling businesses that are online.

So what are the factors which determine whether an online casino or bingo site is considered safe and trustworthy?

  1. UK Regulation
  2. Funds protection
  3. Brand Reputation
  4. Fairness & Transparency
  5. Social Responsibility
  6. Customer Service
  7. Complaints
  8. Data Security & No Spam
  9. Most Trusted Online Casino?
  10. Keep Your Account Secure

UK Regulation

To market to UK players legally, an online gambling site MUST have a licence from the UK Gambling Commission.  And all UKGC licensees have to adhere to the LCCP (Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice) which includes many provisions on treating players fairly.  It’s very easy to check whether or not an iGaming site has a UKGC licence – if they do, there will be a Gambling Commission logo that you can click or tap to view the licence details on the Gambling Commission website.  We also include the Gambling Commission register information in all of our brand reviews.

Some of the iGaming sites you may come across on Google are unlicensed.  Reputable international brands with licences from other jurisdictions (such as Malta) but without a UK licence usually block UK players from their sites.  The ones that allow UK players tend to have licences that contain no provisions about black market operations and if you play at one of these sites you will have zero protection and zero redress if they don’t pay out winnings.

“Is it UK regulated?” is thus the first and most important question to ask when looking for a safe online casino or betting site.  (Note that there are no UK regulated gambling sites that accept cryptocurrencies).

Funds Protection

When you keep your money in a bank account, if the bank fails you can claim your money back from a government backed compensation scheme.  You may be surprised to hear that this is NOT the case with iGaming and betting sites even though some players may have hundreds or even thousands of pounds of cash in their account at times.

Although all online gambling operators with a UK licence are obliged under the terms of their licence to keep money that belongs to players in a separate account, this does NOT guarantee that players will get their money back if the operator goes out of business.  That is where funds protection comes into it and there are three levels on offer as detailed below, assessed and self-declared by the operator but subject to checking by the Gambling Commission.

  • Basic aka Not Protected:
    • At what used to be called the basic level of protection, player funds are kept in a separate account but in the case of insolvency they would be counted as part of the business.  This means that other creditors such as suppliers and the tax authorities would have a claim on those funds and players could see little or even nothing returned to them.
    • Of course, a big name site or network of skins that only has this level of protection is not very likely to go bust – but as the creditors of Carillon will tell you, there’s no such thing as too big to fail. Indeed, there has been a very high profile case as recently as 2021 – that of Football Index – where an operator ceased trading with more £100 million in open bets; years later, nothing had been returned to its half a million customers and it probably never will be.  Some lost six-figure sums
    • In March 2019 the Gambling Commission amended its guidance on player funds protection to provide more clarity for players regarding just how rubbish the basic level of protection is – the new terminology is Not Protected.
  • Medium:
    • At the Medium level of protection, the operator has an arrangement in place – such as insurance or a bank guarantee – to ensure players are paid in the event of insolvency, but there is no cast iron guarantee.
  • High:
    • At the High level of protection, player funds are held in a fully legally segregated account controlled by an independent person or external auditor and so are ring-fenced for players no matter what happens to the business.  Only a small number of online casinos, bingo and betting sites offer this gold plated level of protection and the complete peace of mind that goes with it.

We expect developments in this area during 2024 as the Gambling Commission is currently consulting on whether players need more information and guidance on funds protection.  The proposal is to send players a reminder that their funds are not protected, either automatically every 6 months or when their funds exceed a threshold which is to be determined.  Under the latter proposal, a substantial win or large deposit would trigger a reminder, to be sent within 24 hours, that the funds are not protected.  Which seems like a good idea.

Brand Reputation 

Brand reputation encourages trustworthy behaviour as a brand with a good reputation will care about it and want to keep it, even if it is one of those big brand sites that are owned and/or run separately from the brand itself (Sky Bet, for example, is not owned by Sky and Sun Bingo and The Sun Play are run by Playtech and Jumpman respectively rather than by News UK).

Brand reputation can come from a bricks and mortar presence in the UK whether this is in the form of bingo halls (Mecca Bingo), betting shops (Paddy Power) or offices (bet365 and tombola), and it can also come from sponsorship, TV advertising campaigns, winning awards and other positive exposure. PlayOJO for example has won multiple awards inside and outside the industry, has run numerous memorable advertising campaigns and even has its own late night show on Channel 5.

Fairness & Transparency

Fairness is about whether players ARE treated fairly, and transparency is about how operators DEMONSTRATE that they are treating their players fairly. This is a massive great can of worms and some of the things to look for are:

  • Promotions that are explained in clear and simple language so players know exactly what they have to do to qualify
  • Wagering requirements that are not excessively high
  • Clearly specified and easy to understand wagering requirements with the amount left to wager easy to check
  • Not imposing win caps or maximum conversions on bonuses
  • Prominently displayed information on the RTP and volatility of slot games.  This is especially important now that many slot games have variable RTP.  You can find out more about this on our Best Payout Casinos page.
  • Easily accessible and comprehensible account history showing net deposits (basically cumulative losses)
  • Pop-ups to tell you when you have qualified for a promotion – as at Heart Bingo.
  • Specific to trusted online bingo sites –  information about how many other players are close to winning and which numbers they need – as at Unibet Bingo.

Social Responsibility

All UK licensed betting and gaming sites are required by the terms of their licence to put these safer gambling tools in place:

  • Deposit limits
  • Reality Check – a reminder of how long you have been playing
  • Take A Break – a informal opt out which lasts 1 day to 6 weeks
  • Self exclusion from all sites under the same licence, minimum 6 months
  • GAMSTOP – the BFG9000 of responsible gambling tools.  GAMSTOP enables self exclusion, not just from one site or even just from one group of sites, but from EVERY online gambling site with a UK licence.

Some operators do just enough to satisfy these requirements, whereas others go much further with some or all of these extra tools:

  • Dedicated micro sites all about responsible gambling
  • Sophisticated player behaviour monitoring systems such as PlayOJO’s SafeMate and Entain’s MyHub
  • Additional tools such as
    • Wagering, loss and/or session limits
    • Facility to block deposits at certain times of day
    • Facility to place certain games off limits
  • Last but not least, putting the link to safer gambling content somewhere prominent instead of hidden away in the site footer

Even if you never need any of the safer gambling provision, when an operator goes above and beyond in this area you can feel reassured that they care about their players.

Customer Service

At a well run online casino, bingo or betting site there should rarely be any need to contact customer services.  Even at a top site, though, occasionally things can go wrong and that is when the customer service department comes into its own.  There are a number of different ways in which support requests can be handled.

Live Chat

Live Chat is by far the most widely offered form of support but can vary widely in quality.  It may not be specific to one site (if the site is a skin on a big network it almost certainly won’t be) and may not be 24/7.  And these days, it’s highly likely to be some kind of a chatbot rather than a real person!

Email

Again, this probably won’t be specific to one site if on a big network and response times can vary dramatically.  At Jumpman, for example, the response time is up to two working days which is very poor given that it’s the ONLY way of accessing support at their sites.

Phone

These days we’re all used to submitting help requests via an online form or live chat rather than phoning, so it’s no surprise that in 2024, very few operators still offer telephone support as a first port of call.  One exception is Dragonfish where there’s a centralised number to call (free from a UK landline) alongside live chat and email options.

Many operators ended telephone support in order to shield staff from abuse by players following the imposition of mandated anti money laundering and affordability checks.  In other cases telephone support was replaced by a smart chatbot that routes enquiries to the correct department (which may involve being given a phone number to call if you have a complex issue), or a channel for requesting a callback when someone’s available, which is much cheaper for operators as they don’t need someone on the phone lines all the time and better for players as the callback will come from someone who’s already familiarised themselves with your issue.

So while a phone number you could call for support was once a strong indication of trustworthiness, technology has moved on and it’s no longer important.

Other methods

Perhaps the most unusual method of contacting support offered was by the now defunct Vernons Bingo – a free fax line!  Quite the oddity even in the 2010s which is when it was around.

Seriously though, the existence of other channels such as frequently monitored social media accounts is a good sign of trustworthiness (and of a desire to keep up brand reputation which, as we’ve already seen, is a good sign)

Complaints

At the moment it is not easy to make a complaint about a gambling site and the Gambling Commission does not have any powers to help consumers get their money back.  There is a proposal to appoint a Gambling Ombudsman but this has not yet come into effect.

  • The first step is to complain to the operator.  It may or may not be possible to use the free Resolver tool to submit your complaint.
  • If the operator fails to resolve the complaint in a satisfactory manner within 8 weeks, the next step is to go to the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution provider) specified in the operator terms and conditions.  ADR providers are free, independent services and eCOGRA and IBAS are the ones you will most frequently come across.
  • ADRs can only deal with complaints about specific transactions – most commonly related to disputed winnings and refused withdrawals due to identity checks or misleading offers – and not more general complaints about poor customer service, refusal to accept your custom or how a gambling business is run.
  • ADR decisions can take up to 90 days (and even longer if it’s a complex issue).  Some ADRs have an appeals procedure if you are unhappy with their ruling.  Beyond that, the only recourse is the small claims court.
  • If the complaint is about something which could involve a licence breach you can complain to the Gambling Commission but they will not give any feedback or get involved with individual cases, so while they may investigate the operator and eventually impose a fine or sanctions if there has indeed been a licence breach, they won’t resolve your issue.

Ideally, then, one would choose a site where complaints are adequately dealt with in the first place – so back to customer service again!

Data Security & No Spam

The days of lax data security and leaked or sold on email and phone number databases may be well in the past now due to ICO involvement and GDPR, but there is a still a difference in the way different iGaming sites handle player communication preferences.  Now that many operators require you to give them your mobile phone number in order to send an account verification code by text as part of the account opening process, you should still be given the option to opt into SMS and telephone calls separately rather than have to choose both or neither.

The best online casinos also let you easily opt out of those pesky push notifications, as seen here at a Skill On Net brand:

Most Trusted Online Casino?

Taking all of the above into account there is a clear winner for the UK’s most trusted and safe iGaming site of all – and that is tombola.  Although they are best known as a bingo site, they also have an arcade area where you can play their proprietary slot and instant win games.  Here are just some of the reasons why they are head and shoulders above the competition:

  • They have the highest level of insolvency protection.
  • Their support department is open 24/7 and they aim to answer live chat in 4 seconds, the free phone number in 8 seconds, and email in 4 hours.  They also have a UK postal address.
  • There’s an extremely clear complaints procedure which is detailed in the site terms and conditions .
  • They have simple and clear bonus rules and easy to find game RTP information (and indeed, their game RTPs are generally higher than at other sites).
  • They have a full set of safer gambling controls including the facility to freeze individual games (with 24 hours’ notice needed to unfreeze).
  • They’ve never been fined or sanctioned by the Gambling Commission

They don’t, however, have any live casino games; if you want those, bet365 are the top contender due to their lack of wagering requirements and transparency over slot game RTP.

Keep Your Account Secure

We’ve covered all of the things operators can do to ensure your safety and gain your trust, but there are also many things that YOU can do to keep your online casino account secure.  Here are just some of them.

General internet security

    • On a home network, ensure you have a firewall and malware/spyware protection enabled.
    • If you’re using a computer on public wifi, be mindful of what information you’re sending over the internet. Passwords, bank details and personal information could be intercepted.
    • With phones you may not need to be so vigilant, as many modern smartphones will not connect to insecure wifi in the first place.
    • Think before you click on any links in an email!  Some phishing emails can be very convincing.

Password security

    • Your casino account involves real money, so pick a password that isn’t easy to guess, not something lame like your pet’s name, “password” or “casinoroyale”.
    • Don’t use a password for an iGaming site that is the same as either the password for your bank account or the password for your email account (and they should also be different from each other).
    • Don’t use a password that is the same as the answer to the security question on any of your other accounts.
    • Don’t put a tick in the box that says “remember me” if you are playing on a shared or public computer.
    • If you are phoned, emailed or otherwise contacted by someone claiming to be from the casino and asking for your password, don’t give it to them. If you are at all worried that your password may have been compromised, change it without delay.
    • It’s also a good idea to enable 2FA (two factor authentication) where possible (definitely on your payment methods and email accounts).

Phone security

    • Set a lockscreen, and set it not to display the contents of notifications (so that any authorisation codes you are sent via SMS or app notification are not visible while the screen is locked).
    • Consider enabling biometrics (i.e. facial or fingerprint recognition) if your phone supports it.  You won’t have to remember a password or PIN, and some apps can also use biometrics for access.

Personal information security

    • Beware social engineering!  You know all those viral threads where your favourite colour and your pet’s name determine which city you should visit?  They are designed to get you to reveal the answers to your security questions, so don’t do it!
    • Consider making your photographs and social media posts friends locked, so random strangers can’t find out when your birthday is, where you live or that you’re out of the country.
    • For bingo and live casino players – don’t use your real name as a username and don’t give it out in the player chat. Also be careful not to give out your address or phone number in chat, or your date of birth (easily done by accident on your birthday). Even if you trust the person to whom you are talking, who knows who else might be lurking in the room and what use they might make of that information?

In a nutshell, then – to ensure a safe and pleasant player experience, use one of the top sites for funds protection, customer service, social responsibility and transparency and follow all the online safety tips.

 

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