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 which slot sites you play at?
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. Also, in the case of some games the RTP falls within a range which can be configured by the operator. 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. Indeed, fake NetEnt games are still enough of a problem for the NetEnt FAQ to include advice on how to spot them! The moral? Make sure you play at a licensed site where the games are guaranteed to be legit!
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?
- Welcome Offer
- Range of Games
- Up To Date Games
- Player Promotions
- Deposit & Withdrawal Arrangements
- Gamification & Level Progression
- Safer Gambling Tools
- Is Your Money Safe?
- The Small Print
Standalone or Skin?
While there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of slot sites open to UK players in 2022, 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 and here 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 (and no doubt more will do so in 2021) 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 players properly (ordinary players as well as VIPs)
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 2022, 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 at all 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, Village People Macho Moves
- Playtech – Gladiator, Age of the Gods, Jackpot Giant, Sporting Legends, Kingdoms Rise
- NetEnt – Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, Dead Or Alive II, Mega Fortune, Butterfly Staxx, Finn & The Swirly Spin
- (SG) WMS – Zeus, Raging Rhino, Super MONOPOLY Money, Spartacus Gladiator of Rome, OMG Kittens
- (SG) Barcrest – Rainbow Riches, Ooh Aah Dracula, Money Mad Martians
- Nextgen – Medusa, Merlin’s Millions, 300 Shields, Foxin’ Wins, Gorilla Go Wild
- Blueprint – Fishin’ Frenzy, TED, The Goonies, Rick & Morty, many Megaways slots, Jackpot King progressives
- Play N Go – Gemix, Viking Runecraft, Book Of Dead, Tome of Madness, Reactoonz 2
- Red Tiger – Pirates Plenty, Dragons Luck, Gonzo’s Quest Megaways, Piggy Riches Megaways, The Wild Hatter
- Thunderkick – Esqueleto Explosivo, Arcader, 1429 Uncharted Seas
- Quickspin – Big Bad Wolf, Eastern Emeralds, Durian Dynamite, Golden Glyph
- Eyecon – Temple of Iris, Shaman’s Dream, Fluffy Favourites, 99 Time, Sugar Train, Beat the Bobbies
- IGT – Cleopatra, Kitty Glitter, Da Vinci Diamonds, Pixies of the Forest
- Gamesys – Double Bubble, Secrets of the Phoenix, Around the Reels in 80 Wilds, Tiki Island, Wonderland
- Pragmatic Play – Wolf Gold, Leprechaun Song, Sweet Bonanza, Mysterious Egypt
- Yggdrasil – Vikings Go To Hell, Holmes & The Stolen Stones, Brazil Bomba, Elemental Gems Megaways
- Big Time Gaming – Bonanza, Danger High Voltage, Extra Chilli, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Megaways
- ELK Studios – Taco Brothers, Wild Toro, Hong Kong Tower, Micro Knights
- Novomatic – Book of Ra, Dolphin’s Pearl, Lucky Lady’s Charm
- Realistic – Super Graphics Upside Down, Game Changer, Super Bar-X
Up To Date Games
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 hotly anticipated game like Dead Or Alive II just doesn’t cut the mustard.
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.
Deposit & Withdrawal Arrangements
Slot sites vary widely in the range of different payment methods that are accepted, the length of time it takes to process withdrawals and whether they charge any fees for deposits or withdrawals. All UK slot sites accept debit cards, and none accept credit cards (they are not allowed to), but players often prefer to have the option of using other deposit methods such as voucher payment systems, e-wallets and apps. At many sites withdrawals to e-wallets are processed much faster than withdrawals to debit cards and this is one reason why they are popular; another is that using an e-wallet to deposit means there is no need to give your card details to the operator. Unfortunately many operators have taken steps to prevent the problem of bonus abuse via e-wallets so it is essential to check, before using an e-wallet to deposit, that this won’t exclude you from the welcome offer or place you under any other restrictive conditions. You will normally have to withdraw to the same method you used to deposit; if you use a deposit method such as mobile phone billing that doesn’t accept withdrawals the money may have to be sent via wire transfer which can incur further delays and fees. The best slot sites process all withdrawals quickly and are safe and secure so there’s no real need to use anything other than a straighforward debit card.
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 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.
Safer 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), the ability to block yourself from a specified game only (as seen at Tombola Arcade) or the option to restrict deposits on certain days of the week or at certain times (as seen at Coral Casino)? 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.
Is Your Money Safe?
If you decided to make a substantial deposit in order to claim the maximum bonus possible, or had a big win, you might have several hundred or even thousands of pounds in your slots account. So what happens to that money if the operator goes out of business? You might think it would simply be returned, but actually for most slot sites there is absolutely no guarantee of that as although player funds are required to be kept in a separate account, in the event of insolvency players would not have priority over other creditors. The Gambling Commission does not help players recover their funds if an operator goes bust, but they do require operators to rate their own insolvency arrangements using what is effectively a traffic light system:
Not Protected – player funds are kept in a segregated account but the operator has not put any other arrangements in place to protect them. If the operator goes bust players will probably lose their money.
Medium Protection – the operator has taken steps to protect player funds (for example, taking out insurance that would pay out in case of insolvency) but there is no watertight guarantee.
High Protection – player funds are held in a legally separate trust fund which means they are ring-fenced from other creditors.
To be 100% sure your money is safe, you’d need to ensure you only played at sites with High Protection. You can find this information in the terms and conditions and we also include it in all our slot site reviews to help players make an informed choice.
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 – often the best RTP slots – which can’t be played with bonus or don’t count towards wagering requirements
- 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 common 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 more than 200 UK slot and casino sites to choose from, we hope everyone will find something they like in our list.
Wikipedia – slot machines
UK Gambling Commission – Technical standards
UK Gambling Commission – how to complain
European Casino Association
Betting & Gaming Council
Advertising Standards Authority – news and rulings about gambling advertising
UK Gambling Commission Licences
UK Slot Sites - FAQ
At slot sites the focus is very much on slot games (although they may also offer other types of game). Online casinos have just as many slot games as slot sites, but they also have more of an emphasis on and/or a bigger selection of table games (such as blackjack and roulette) and live dealer games than slot sites do.
The Return To Player and variance of a slot game is the same wherever you play it, and with a high variance slot your wins are potentially bigger but less frequent than with a low variance slot. What does vary from slot site to slot site is the size of some of the progressive jackpots including must-drop jackpots; at Paddy Power, for instance, the Red Tiger daily jackpots and the Jackpot King typically get much bigger than at many other sites.
The most popular slot game of all time is NetEnt’s Starburst, but is it really the best slot game of all time? Its simplicity makes it arguably the best slot game for beginners, but once players become more knowledgable about the world of online slots there are many much more complex and entertaining games to enjoy.
The best online slot site for you depends on which slot games you like to play, and whether or not you’re interested in extra entertainment like gamification, slot tournaments, chat and player promotions or just want a big welcome offer. With more than 150 UK slots sites on our list, we’re confident that we’ve included something for everyone.
Online slot games have to go through rigorous testing to be approved by the UK Gambling Commission, so as long as you play at a properly licensed UK slot site you need have no fears about the games being rigged. Fake games and rigged payouts have been a problem at unregulated casinos in the past.
Online slot rules can be very complicated indeed when games have several different bonus features and/or large numbers of ways to win and many players find this adds to the entertainment value. If you don’t like your games to be over complicated there are plenty of simple and easy to understand slot games at UK slot sites. Starburst, for example, has just 10 paylines, no bonus round and just one simple bonus feature.
The vast majority of modern online slots can be played on mobile devices and indeed, some slot games are specially designed for mobile phone play.
Online casinos are just like offline casinos. If you play slots with cash, you can win money, but you can also lose it.
Many UK slot sites have free demo versions of their games but you will need to undergo age and ID verification before you can play. Most UK slot sites give out free spins from time to time; these cost nothing to play and pay out as a slot bonus (occasionally cash).
There is no trick to winning online slots as they are 100% chance with no skill involved or allowed to be involved. However, there are many strategies around maximising your entertainment value and making your money go further while playing online slots. Gaining an understanding of Return To Player and volatility is a good start!