Are Online Casinos Rigged?

13 min read

28 Jun 2024

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Let’s cut to the chase. Reputable online casinos are not rigged in any way.

In fact, there is a whole framework in place to ensure that online casinos conduct themselves to exceptionally high standards.

However, there are a growing number of unregulated online casinos that work outside of this framework which you should be aware of.

At one point or another, most online gamblers have probably wondered if casino games are rigged, usually only after losing though. I’ve certainly never pondered whether a casino is rigged after hitting a big win.

It’s an understandable question to ask when so much about online casinos is unknown. The remote nature of these sites leads to natural suspicion about whether they can be trusted and if they are being held accountable in any way.

To understand more about how online casinos work, what regulations are in place, how you can protect yourself, what to do if you have a dispute, and even how you can turn the casino odds in your favour, then read on.


Online Casino House Edge

When talking about casinos, there needs to be a distinction between whether the casino is ‘rigged’ in terms of unfair practices or whether this refers to the natural house edge that all casinos have.

We’ve all heard of the saying ‘the house always wins’ and it's true that if you take the total incomings and outgoings of any casino, online or not, they will show the casino making a profit.

It’s not a coincidence, it’s not a scam, it’s how they stay in business. House edge is essential for casinos to operate. Without it, they’d effectively be gambling themselves.

House edge is a mathematically calculated percentage that a casino expects to keep from each hand or spin, given normal patterns of play.

If we take European Roulette as an example, which has 36 numbers and a single zero making 37 outcomes in total. There is a house edge of 2.70% built into every bet on this game. It’s just maths.

Players betting on black or red don’t get a 50% chance of winning as there is also a green zero. Therefore the odds are more like 48.6% on either colour. Meanwhile, players who bet on the exact number might get a 35 to 1 return even though the actual odds are 37 to 1. The difference between these numbers is the house edge.

Because of house edge, the odds are always going to favour the casino if you play over a long period of time betting the same stake. It’s not rigged as such, it's programmed and is fully transparent. Of course, it's still possible to win big on games with a house edge, otherwise, why would you even play them at all?

The point is, though, that house edge is not a scam or a con, it’s a characteristic of all casino games and players should make themselves aware of the rules.

There are ways of improving your online casino returns though by playing low house edge games such as blackjack. You can also use strategies and potentially introduce some advantage casino play too, which we’ll go into later.


Online Casino RTP And RNG

When it comes to fairness in online games, RTP and RNG are two abbreviations that should help put your mind at rest. These ensure that online games are operated in a non-biased way and pay out the correct percentage of winnings.

RTP

All casino games have an RTP which is the Return to Player percentage. It is given as a figure out of 100 and most games will have an RTP of 90 - 97%.

In theory, if a game has an RTP of 96% then players can expect to get £96 back for every £100 spent on average. Of course, this data is taken over a huge sample and you could still be one of the unlucky ones that leave with nothing. However, it can be used as a guide for how well a game pays.

The good news for people who are reluctant to trust online casinos is that RTP regulates how much a game pays out. Online casino operators have no way of altering the RTP. It is built-in to the games’ software and cannot be rigged in any way.

So, if you’re one of those players who thinks someone somewhere is tweaking buttons and rigging payouts like an evil villain in a lair, laughing maniacally as they prevent that last bonus symbol from dropping, be assured that it’s just not the case. However, it is amusing.

Online slots are actually more trustworthy than physical slots in this way. Some land-based slots can be built with variable RTP’s which means the casino operator can amend the RTP (within a given range) to suit.

However, in online casinos, the game provider is the single authority for RTP, and it cannot be tampered with by the operator.

RNG

The second abbreviation is RNG, which stands for Random Number Generator. This is the system that all casinos use in most slot games, both online and offline.

RNG guarantees that each game round is not predetermined and is, in fact, independent.

When an online casino game is created, the software developer adds an RNG. It is then tested in an independent audit lab to ensure its effectiveness.

It means that every spin on an online casino slot machine is completely random and independent, and therefore cannot be altered or rigged.

Incidentally, it is the RNG algorithm that determines the game's RTP. When being tested, they run a programme that does hundreds of thousands of spins in a short period of time and therefore gives them the RTP figure for each game.


Licensed Online Casinos

The easiest way to tell if an online casino is legitimate and not rigged is to check that they are licensed. In the UK, this means that they are fully registered with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Licenced online casinos will usually display the UK Gambling Commission logo on their websites as proof of their trustworthiness and reliability. This is typically located on the footer of their website:

But if you want to be really thorough, you can go to the UK Gambling Commission website and click on ‘Search the Business Register’ to check them out for yourself. Just enter the casino name, press search, and it will confirm whether they are registered or not.

In order to get a licence from the UKGC you need to abide by the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP).

It’s far too long to go into in detail here, but as well as looking after player confidentiality, security and safety, the regulations state that online casinos have to provide gambling services and games that are fair. This is monitored in three key ways:

Testing

The UKGC website states:

Online casinos are required to have their software and gameplay tested in line with the UKGC testing strategy

All gambling products must have been tested by an approved test house before they are released to the market

Online gambling games cannot be made available to players located in Great Britain unless sufficient testing has been carried out

Once a game has gone live, gambling businesses are required to check the performance of the games they offer. This is to make sure that the products are fair and achieve the designed Return To Player (RTP)

Compliance

The UKGC has the power to carry out compliance checks, and audits of online casinos. If they feel there has been any wrongdoing, they can use enforcement powers to prosecute or fine for breach of licence.

This isn’t just lip service either, in the last year the UKGC have dealt out some heavy fines to very well-known gambling companies in the UK including Betfred and William Hill for anti-money laundering failures. Plus, they have suspended several gaming licences in the last year, so they mean business!

Regulatory Returns

All licensed online casinos must submit detailed annual regulatory returns showing their full financial position in the past year.

This includes its gross gambling yield (GGY) which includes not only the total income but also the outgoings in the form of winnings. Interestingly, casinos also have to indicate how much bonus offers, free bets and loyalty schemes have affected their GGY, so all activity is intrinsically evaluated.

To summarise, if the online casino you’re playing in is licensed with the UKGC, it's highly unlikely to be rigged in any way. But if you have suspicions, then there are options you can take which we’ll discuss below.


Unregulated Online Casinos

Now that we’ve covered the regulations surrounding UKGC licensed online casinos, let’s take a look at the others.

This is where you’ll find the majority of accusations about online casinos being rigged, and it’s understandable given there is very little framework in place.

Unregulated online casinos still need a licence to offer gambling services in theory. However, you will find some don’t have one, and are therefore illegal, while some have a kind of wishy washy one that isn’t really worth the paper it's written on.

Although we can’t say for certain whether these online casinos are rigged or not, the issue is there is no governing body to ensure they aren’t. All casinos should be using the same technology and controls to ensure games are fair. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing if this is the case.

The games aren’t the only issue either. There are also no regulations in terms of player confidentiality, payment security or responsible gambling tools, so they can pose a potential risk.

If you want to avoid the uncertainty of an unregulated casino, then do your research. Check the UKGC website, look for player reviews, or follow the advice of companies such as Outplayed, who will only ever recommend trusted online casinos.


Can You Trust Online Casinos?

Taking into account everything discussed above - RNG, RTP, House Edge and strict regulations by the UKCG, then yes, you can trust online casinos, as long as they are properly licensed.

As well as the fairness of the games, online casinos are also heavily regulated in terms of player safety and security, payment encryption and safer gambling tools. They are held accountable for it all and the UK Gambling Commission certainly aren’t afraid to act should they fall out of line.

Online casinos offer a full casino experience but with the convenience of playing from anywhere and at any time. If you stick to reputable online casinos, then you have just as much chance of winning as you would in a casino down the road.

In fact, in some cases, the RTP of online games is higher than offline, due to the lower overheads and costs associated with an online set up.

It is possible to win big in an online casino. I have had some decent wins personally, the biggest being over £800, and I know people who have won a lot more. After all, if online casinos only ever created losers, they’d be out of business pretty sharpish!

Obviously, though, you can lose too, just as you can with real life casinos. The only main difference between the two is whether you want to physically go to a casino or whether you prefer to play remotely.


What To Do If You Have A Dispute With An Online Casino?

If, at any point, you do suspect something fishy is going on with an online casino, or you have issues claiming your winnings, then there are a few paths you can take.

Follow the Complaints Procedure

Every online casino must display a complaints procedure on its website, so this is the first step. If it's not visible, contact them and ask them to send a copy of their complaints procedure and then follow the process.

When making the complaint, give them as much information as possible, dates, events, and amounts of money. Make sure you keep a record of everything you send them.

The casino has 8 weeks to resolve your complaint and give you an outcome. They will also advise you what to do if you’re not satisfied with the result.

ADR

If you are still unhappy with the outcome, then you may be able to escalate your complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider.

You cannot take your complaint to an ADR without first going through the casino’s complaint process.

ADR providers are independent adjudicators who will look at all of the facts and make a final ruling. The biggest ADR provider in the UK betting industry is IBAS ((Independent Betting Adjudication Service) although the specific casino you have an issue with may use a different regulator.

If you go through an ADR, the process is free but can take up to six weeks.

Small Claims Court

THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE

Another option you can take is to go through the Small Claims Court if you are confident you have a strong legal case.

This is the fastest way to resolve a dispute but you do have to pay fees upfront to start proceedings. If you win, the fees are then refunded.

For casinos with a registered office in England or Wales you can use Money Claim Online. Further information about the small claims process and fees can be found at Money Saving Expert.


How Can You Beat Online Casinos?

We have spent all of this time so far talking about how casinos could potentially take advantage of players. However, we haven’t yet discussed the possibility of players having the advantage themselves.

If you haven’t already heard of it, casino advantage play is a Matched Betting technique which looks to tip the odds in the favour of the player.

This is done by utilising the bonus offers and promotions that online casinos give to new and existing players such as welcome offers, matched deposits, or free spins.

Casino advantage play uses various techniques and strategies to see if the offer provides something referred to as "+EV", which is positive expected value for the player.

Say, for example, an online casino is offering a ‘Wager £10 and get 20 free spins’ promotion.

Of course, any player can take up this offer, wager £10 on a game and claim the free spins in the hope that it will end in a profit.

How Matched Betting works is that the offer is first assessed as to whether or not it can provide a positive EV and, if so, how best to play it to give the biggest possible return for the player.

Depending on the offer, some bonuses can result in guaranteed profits, while others give a high chance of a positive outcome in the long run for the player if played correctly.

Outplayed is one such company that provides guidance to online casino players on how Matched Betting works and gives access to all the necessary instructions and tools to do it.

If you want to find out more about casino advantage play then check out our guide.


Keep Online Casinos Fun

Playing in online casinos can be extremely entertaining and potentially profitable too. However, it can also be a drain on time and money, so it should always be done in moderation.

Along with all of the gaming regulations put in place by UKGC, there are a huge amount of guidelines and controls put in place to ensure that gambling remains fun and safe for everyone.

If you find yourself struggling to restrict or manage your gambling activity, then there is lots of help available, and you can self-exclude using GamStop.

Some indicators that you may need help are:

  • Thinking about gambling 24/7
  • Gambling with money that you need for bills or food
  • Sacrificing time from friends and family to gamble
  • Stealing or borrowing money to gamble
  • Feeling irritable when you can’t gamble
  • Feeling compelled to gamble even when you’re not enjoying it

Online casinos are more convenient and accessible than ever so it’s essential to keep casino play fun and within comfortable boundaries. That way it adds something to your life, not subtracts from it.

With the focus on fun, you can enjoy playing in online casinos knowing they aren’t rigged, (well the good ones aren’t anyway), while also potentially thinking about tipping the odds in your favour with Matched Betting.

Updated: 4 Jul 2024


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The Author

Lynsey has been writing in the iGaming and sports betting industry for almost a decade. She has three years of experience in Matched Betting and enjoys sharing her expertise and knowledge to help others.




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