What Makes a Good Slot Site?
Slot games themselves are exactly the same whatever site you play them at, right? So why should it make any difference where you play?
For a start, that isn’t entirely true. Because the UK Gambling Commission requires the slots themselves to be licensed, not just the operator, the basic game does have to be the same at all sites for UK players However, there are a few optional extras such as feature drop which operators can (or could, until recently) choose whether or not to enable, and maximum spin value and the availability of autoplay can also vary from site to site. Outside of the UK regulated market there have been cases of rogue casinos running counterfeit slot games (most famously in 2016 when a group of non UK regulated casinos were discovered to be ripping their players off by serving fake Netent games) so do make sure you play at a licensed site.
Then there’s the player promotions and rewards – but before we even get on to that, in the case of many of the slot games themselves it DOES make a difference whether you play them at several different sites, or always at the same site, because the game has some kind of bonus collection or level progression mechanic. A classic example of this is Microgaming’s Immortal Romance, where different versions of the bonus round are gradually unlocked through prolonged play. More modern examples are the level progression in games such as Gemix and the collection of items towards bonus features in the Vikings series by Yggdrasil (for the very patient) and Village People Macho Moves (for the not so patient). Perhaps the most sophisticated example is the Kingdoms Rise slots by Playtech, in which players collect tokens as they play to be redeemed against bonus features for any of the games in the series. If you enjoy this type of gaming experience you’ll really benefit from finding a slot site with the right selection of games and promotions and sticking with it.
But how can you find the best site to play at?
Standalone or Skin?
While there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of slot sites open to UK players in 2020, the choice is not really as big as it looks because lots of them are basically the same as each other.
This is because there are a number of platform providers who supply what is called a white label solution, meaning that all the operator needs to do is to apply their own design – a “skin” – to the ready made casino. The platform provider usually holds the Gambling Commission licence and in many cases they also carry out all the player communication. Some white label solutions are inflexible meaning that all sites on the platform have the same games, the same promotions and the same welcome offer (hello Jumpman Slots!) but others give the operator plenty of scope to choose which slot games to feature and to have an exclusive welcome offer and/or run their own promotions.
White label solutions are extremely prevalent in the world of slot sites. Progress Play, Stride Gaming, Dragonfish Casinoflex, Nektan, Jumpman and White Hat are just some of the ones you will come across.
The main disadvantage of skins is that too many slot site launches that are basically all the same is just plain boring, but there are also some possible advantages to picking a skin to play at:
- There have been several cases of smaller standalone operators exiting the UK market but only one case (so far at least) of a white label solution provider doing likewise, so a skin may actually be a better bet for future stability
- Some progressive jackpots such as Red Tiger Daily Jackpots and Blueprint Jackpot King are pooled within networks of skins and are not available at smaller standalone sites
- It’s extremely common for operators to own several skins and those that do, tend to have more staff to look after their VIP players properly
The welcome offer is usually the first thing that players come across at a slot site and there are a few different ways in which even a skin site can stand out from the crowd:
- A big percentage bonus offer. 100% is pretty standard for a slots welcome offer but some sites offer 150%, 200% or even more.
- A high maximum for the bonus offer. For example, a site with a 100% welcome bonus offer valid on deposits of up to £500 would fall into this category
- The inclusion of bonus slot spins in the welcome offer, especially if they are on a game other than the ubiquitous Starburst or Fluffy Favourites
- No Wagering – these sites give out free spins instead of deposit bonuses, paying all winnings in cash with no playthrough requirements.
- Something completely different – for example, no welcome offer at all but weekly cashback instead
Range of Games
Even the best welcome offer won’t entice unless the site has an appealing selection of games and in 2019, what it’s all about is the range of game providers rather than just the number of games. Basically, a slot site with 200 slot games cherry-picked from 20 different providers will generally score much higher for entertainment value than a site with 300 slot games all from the same provider.
Nevertheless most players have their favourites and will want to ensure, before they sign up to a slot site, that those games are available.
As a result of action taken by the Gambling Commission in October 2017, this is now a whole lot harder – if you happen to like slots that feature cuddly toys, fairytale characters, cartoon superheroes or anything else the Gambling Commission thinks appeals particularly to children. Operators are no longer allowed to advertise such games anywhere it might be seen by under 18s and what this may well mean is that in future you won’t be able to see your favourite cuddly toy slot on the slots page of a site unless you already have an age verified account there and are logged in. The trick, then, is to be able to work out whether a site offers the slot you want without having to sign up there first – and this is much easier if you know which slot provider goes with which slot.
A good example of this is the Ted slot game by Blueprint; the titular naughty teddy bear can’t be shown so despite the enduring popularity of the game it often isn’t visible till after login which means it doesn’t appear in the main lobby area. Eyecon is another slot provider with many slots on the blacklist and again, the missing unicorns, plushies and the like can be found by looking for slot sites with other Eyecon slots in the lobby.
We’ve produced a handy list of which slot goes with which software house:
Microgaming – Immortal Romance, Jurassic Park, Mega Moolah, Thunderstruck II, Beautiful Bones
Playtech – Gladiator, Age of the Gods, Jackpot Giant, Sporting Legends, Kingdoms Rise
NetEnt – Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, Dead Or Alive, Mega Fortune, Butterfly Staxx
(SG) Williams – Zeus, Cool Jewels, Elvis the King, Raging Rhino, Super Monopoly Money
(SG) Barcrest – Rainbow Riches, Ooh Aah Dracula, Money Mad Martians
Nextgen – Medusa, Merlin’s Millions, 300 Shields, Foxin’ Wins
Blueprint – Fishin’ Frenzy, TED, The Goonies, many Megaways slots, Jackpot King progressives
Play N Go – Gemix, Viking Runecraft, Book Of Dead, Tome of Madness
Red Tiger – Pirates Plenty, Dragons Luck, Reel King Mega, Rainbow Jackpots
Thunderkick – Esqueleto Explosivo, Arcader, 1429 Uncharted Seas
Quickspin – Big Bad Wolf, Eastern Emeralds
Eyecon – Temple of Iris, Shaman’s Dream, Fluffy Favourites, Sugar Train, Beat the Bobbies
IGT – Cleopatra, Kitty Glitter, Da Vinci Diamonds, Pixies of the Forest
Gamesys – Double Bubble, Secrets of the Phoenix, Agatha Christie, Wonderland
Pragmatic Play – Wolf Gold, Leprechaun Song, Sweet Bonanza
Yggdrasil – Vikings Go Berzerk, Holmes & The Stolen Stones
Big Time Gaming – Bonanza, Danger High Voltage, Donuts
ELK Studios – Taco Bothers, Wild Toro, Hong Kong Tower
Novomatic – Book of Ra
Realistic – Super Graphics Upside Down, Black Ice
All slot sites add new games from time to time, but some are much better at doing it than others. You want the games in the new games section for the lobby to be genuinely new, not months old – and if there’s a hot new release, you want to be able to play it the day it comes out! A slot site that makes you wait months to play a game like Dead Or Alive II just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Good slot sites add new games frequently – whether these be the latest releases from Net Ent and Microgaming or from up and coming talent such as Gamevy . Again, the best slot sites do both.
Player promotions which award a bonus or slot spins for meeting deposit or play requirements are very common, but the best slots and casino sites also run other promotions such as raffles, some of which have amazing prizes such as cars or VIP trips away.
Gamification & Level Progression
Many casino and slot sites these days have some kind of gamification for added entertainment value – basically, collecting trophies or badges and qualifying for bonus games. If some form of level progression is included it can be tied in with a player reward scheme such as the Wheel of Rizk, the bgo Boost Bar or the Jumpman Slots Mega Reel.
Slot tournaments allow players to compete against other players and interact with them (if a chat room is provided). While some slot tournaments are simply races to see who can spend the most money, many are not and in these, the aim is either to get the biggest win relative to stake within a set number of spins in a set time, or to get the biggest win relative to stake in a specified number of consecutive spins (with multiple attempts allowed). To make it more interesting points may also be awarded for certain achievements (e.g. 5 wins in a row). If done well, tournaments can massively increase entertainment value – but if done badly, they can be simply a race to see who can spend the most money, which is not a good look.
Responsible Gambling Tools
All slot and casino sites are required to include certain responsible gambling tools including deposit limits, take-a-break, self-exclusion and reality check, but some go way beyond that. How about a responsive tool that monitors your behaviour and updates your risk profile (as seen at Mr Green) or the ability to block yourself from a specified game only (as seen at Tombola Arcade)? The most reputable slot sites in this regard tend to have an entire separate website about responsible gambling, well away from the games themselves, rather than just a page on the regular site.
Lack Of Nasty Surprises In The Small Print
No-one likes unpleasant surprises in the small print and therefore it is always important to check the terms and conditions before accepting any offer. Here are some of the things you might find and unfortunately even the best slot and casino sites can have one or two of these issues.
- Excessive wagering requirements
- Wagering requirements that can only be completed by bonus play, so you have to spend all your cash before even getting started
- Charges for depositing and/or withdrawing e.g. charges for Boku, charges for withdrawing less than £30
- Low transaction limits for withdrawals so that large withdrawals have to be done in multiple transactions
- Excessively long pending period for withdrawals
- Unusually short bonus expiry periods (e.g. 24 hours)
- Long lists of games excluded from bonus play
- Caps on what can be won from free or bonus spins
- Limits on what can be cashed out from bonus play
- Stake size restrictions during bonus play – £5 is usual but we have seen 50p in connection with some payment methods
- Exclusion of some payment methods from bonus offers – very common with Skrill and Neteller and sometimes on other payment methods too
With 50 of the best UK slot and casino sites to choose from, we hope everyone will find something they like in our list.