If you’re new to online gaming and casinos, it can be a bit daunting at first. However, finding your way around a casino site is in fact very simple, as is downloading software, setting up an account, depositing funds and starting to play. Our online casino beginner’s guide tells you all you need to know.
Signing up for an online casino account
Setting up an online casino account is quick and straightforward — after all, the casino wants you to join up and start playing straight away, so it’s in their interests to make this as easy as possible!
At all of the sites we list here, players can choose either to play using a free casino software download (read more below) or in Instant Play; however, in either case the process for signing up and the information required is generally the same.
At some sites, when you register for your account or make a first deposit, you may be asked to enter a code or to confirm that you want to accept a Welcome Bonus. At Betway where you have to tick the box ‘I wish to receive the Welcome Bonus and accept the Terms and Conditions’, or Casino Land, where you also have to tick the promotion box if you want to claim your bonus.
Aside from this, opening your account is very easy. The actual steps required will vary a little from site to site, but generally it will run like this:
- you’ll be asked to create a username and password
- you have to provide a valid email address (which you’ll be asked to confirm)
- you have to accept the casino’s T&Cs
- you’ll need to give your full name, address and a mobile phone number
It’s compulsory to provide this information under anti-money laundering legislation, and you won’t be able to open an account without doing so. You may also be asked to provide further proof of identity when you make your first withdrawal (and sometimes for subsequent ones as well).
How to download casino software
Although a growing number of sites only offer web-based games, the majority still provide a further option for PC users — playing games via software that you download directly from the casino site (this option isn’t available for those playing on iOS laptops or desktops).
This is a pretty straightforward process (again, the casino wants to make it as easy for you as possible), and the steps in the process will generally run as follows:
- at the majority of sites, you need to register for an account before you can start the download process, although at some signing up is part of the installation
- prominent on the Home page, menu bar or Welcome Bonus page , you’ll find a button usually marked “Download” or “Play Now”
- clicking this button will open a set-up wizard, and your download should begin straight away (it’s simple to follow the steps in the wizard, and it runs along the same line as any application installation)
- you’ll be asked to read the T&Cs and to agree to them by checking a box
- the suite of games will then be accessible from a shortcut icon located on your desktop or wherever else you’ve decided to install it
- the whole process should take between 5-15 minutes, depending on your processing power and the speed of your internet connection
The casinos that we recommend are all powered by leading international developers like NetEnt, Microgaming and Playtech, whose software is certified to be virus free and which receives accreditation from third-party independent testing agencies that it’s safe to install on your machine, and that it’s being operated securely (see this article for more information on online casino security).
Therefore, you can download the software from our recommended sites confident that you’re not compromising the security of either your operating system or your private and personal data.
Instant play casinos
Instant Play games (sometimes known as Flash games) are web-based and so you don’t need to download software to play them. Instead, you can play directly in the browser of any sort of device — desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Playing in this way also means that you can often play games for free in practice mode, even at sites where you don’t have an account. Read this article to learn more about Flash v Download casinos.
In order to enjoy games in this mode, look for an Instant Play button on the Home page, menu bar or Welcome Bonus Page. Alternatively, click on a game’s icon and you will usually be presented with Play Now and Practice Play buttons (or something similar). Click on Play Now and the game will open and begin to load, a process which usually only takes a matter of seconds.
As long as you have Adobe Flash installed on your device and an up-to-date browser, you can enjoy high quality games with first-rate graphics and sound effects in this mode, without having to download or store any software. (If you don’t have Flash installed, you can download it from most online casino sites.)
Online casino deposit methods
All of the casinos that we recommend here will offer you a range of options when it comes to depositing funds into your casino account — you can read more on payment methods in this article.
Although it will vary a little from site to site, and between the different payment methods, making a deposit at an online casino is a pretty straightforward business, and anyone who has done any sort of transaction online — from shopping, to internet banking, to paying a bill — will have no problems at all. The steps usually run as follows:
- log into your casino account
- go to ‘Banking’
- click the ‘Deposit’ tab
- select the payment method you want to use from the menu
- you will then be prompted to enter your log in/security details attached to the payment method you want to use
- enter the amount you want deposit
- click the ‘Deposit’ button
Using e-wallets and electronic payment systems like PayPal to make a deposit using the method described above, as well as most credit/debit cards, should mean that your cash is in your casino account and available to play with instantly. If you opt for a direct bank transfer, it can take longer (sometimes up to 3 working days). At the casinos we feature, there are no fees for making a deposit.
How to find online casino slots and games
The design of online casinos has been evolving, partly as a result of technological change and the introduction of more web-based games, partly because of operators’ desire to attract and retain a younger crowd with different expectations about how online gaming should look.
The majority of sites now will have Featured Games as part of their Home Page, so that you come across them as soon as you access the site, and these will probably be a combination of new and very popular games, and you select the game you want simply by clicking on its logo.
In addition, you’ll find top and sidebar menus that direct you to the various types of games e.g., slots, table games, video poker, live casino, etc. I particularly like it when sites that have a large number of slots divide these into categories e.g., classic 3-reel, video slots, progressive jackpot, etc., and the best-organised sites will go further, dividing them into sub-categories based on theme (this is something we’d like to see more sites do!). Casinos that feature games by multiple developers might also enable you to sort games by producers, so you can get all of a site’s NetEnt slots, for instance, to display on one page.
Online casino customer support
You’ll usually find that there are a variety of ways to get in touch with an online casino if you need support or encounter a problem. We discuss these in more detail in this article, but as a general rule, the sites we list here will offer live chat and telephone support (usually 24/7), as well as email, while some can be contacted via Skype as well. Some sites are also utilising messaging apps, like What’sApp, and most will have social media pages like Facebook and Twitter that you can use to connect.
Free slots and casino games
If you’re new to online casinos, want to sample a new game, or you’re simply keen to put your new blackjack or video poker strategy to the test without it costing you anything, you can take advantage of free online slots and other casino games at most of our featured sites. However, playing practice games in free money online casinos doesn’t mean the experience is compromised in any way — you still enjoy the same features, graphics and sound effects as when you’re playing for real money, and you also get a demo bankroll to play with.
Nevertheless, as enjoyable as that might be, nothing of course matches the excitement of playing real slots and table games for real cash!