It’s unfortunate but true – some Web-based casinos don’t know how to play fair. The existence of casino blacklists is a good thing. Too often, those of us that write and obsess about the online gaming industry overlook the fact that we’re in the entertainment business.
I am an active customer at two different gaming websites, and I regularly write about games and gaming providers for a small network of reviewers. That gives me a certain responsibility – if I positively review a site that I know isn’t acting above-board, I’m somewhat responsible for what happens to anyone who signs up based on what I wrote.
I’m not ready to maintain my own blacklist, but I do have a pretty good understanding of the major names in the industry and plenty of experience dealing with rogue gambling sites. In this article, I’ll talk about what leads to placement on a rogue list and then describe how you can identify a casino that may try to rip you off before you get involved.
Sources for Blacklisted Casino Lists
Stop and think about it for a second – maintaining a list of casinos and their bad behavior is a ton of work. As far as I’m concerned, the best-such list is available at Casinomeister.com. Brain Bailey and the other folks behind that site have put years into their accredited and rogue casino lists, and Casinomeister is proof. I consider Casinomeister.com’s blacklist to be the most complete and authoritative one online – even though I have some issues with the way they run things. (More on this later.)
But I don’t just look for Brian Bailey’s opinion on these matters. I also check out CasinoListings.com and (to a lesser degree) AskGamblers.com for authentic (and sometimes straight-from-the-source) information on Web-based casinos and their business operations.
Another frequent source of data on this topic – forums and message boards. I’m a member of a half-dozen gaming-related forums and boards where it’s easy to find complaints about Web-based gambling. I recommend that anyone who’s serious about avoiding fraudulent casinos join a few of these boards and forums to get information from real casino customers rather than trust penny-per-word review content found on Google.
Common Reasons for Blacklist Status
What causes an online casino to end up on a rogue list?
Association with another blacklisted site – This one makes sense on a lot of levels. Imagine you want to sign up at AwesomeSlots.com. Everything looks good until you notice that they’re owned by Giant Company A, the same company that’s had three sites blacklisted this year. Wouldn’t you be more reticent to join?
Bad customer service – We’re not just talking about poor English or long hold times. It’s common for sites to end up blacklisted because they threatened or harassed customers, sometimes in lengthy email diatribes that customers are all-too-happy to repost online. It’s not always that dramatic – some sites earn rogue status for failing to respond to customer complaints for too long of a period. I’m 100% in favor of proper customer service, especially in the entertainment business, so I’m always happy when one of my review sites complains about a site’s customer service problems.
Fake licensure – Because licensure is so important to the industry, pretending to hold a license you don’t hold is straight-up black hat. Not only do fake licenses confuse customers, they bring down the reputation of the industry as a whole, and of that licensing body in particular. I have no problem considering a site operating on a fake license as “rogue.”
Misleading T&C’s – Casinomeister.com’s writers seem particularly sensitive to this one – usually, this has to do with the site’s cashier and promotional terms and conditions in particular. The inclusion of a single “FU clause” (a catch-all phrase that doesn’t mean nearly as much as you think it does) is enough to put some sites on Brain Bailey’s rogue list. I’m not sure I agree with this line of thinking.
Payment issues – This refers to two things – slow-pay and no-pay. Online casinos often post information about their payout times, so “slow pay” literally means that the site is paying slower than their posted times. I don’t mind “slow pay” that much – you have to expect that in this industry, especially if you live in the US, as a good chunk of Casinomeister’s readers appear to be. What bothers me more is “no-pay,” any situation in which a casino customer isn’t given access to his winnings, or (in extreme cases) his account.
My Problem with Casino Blacklists
I’ll go ahead and say it – I depend on Casinomeister.com for a lot of this kind of information, but I’m not convinced that all the data on their casino blacklist is unbiased. I take issue with some of their “rogue” judgments. I’m also not totally convinced that there isn’t some kind of pay-for-play situation going on, whereby sites that pay Casinomeister.com don’t end up listed as rogues. That last bit is pure speculation, but it’s unsettling, isn’t it?
That being said, Bryan Bailey’s site is the best source we have for this kind of stuff, right now. So I go to his site frequently, especially when I’m writing about the gambling industry. I’m pretty familiar with it. Here’s one situation in particular that really aggravates me – this one regarding Thebes Casino.
3rd Party Opinions From So-Called “Experts”
I don’t know Thebes Casino from a hole in the ground, and CasinoListings.com has them blacklisted for extremely slow payment and the old standby “association with a rogue casino.” Still, I don’t like what Casinomeister.com had to say about Thebes Casino on its blacklist. In the “Reason” column on his blacklist, Bailey says that Thebes was blacklisted because their “casino rep [is on] on crack.” Okay, so that’s kind of funny, but I had to know what the story behind it was.
According to the Casinomeister website, the reason the site was added to the rogue list is the behavior of one of its representatives. While the behavior in question (leaving foul-mouthed and threatening comments on YouTube) was reprehensible, I just don’t think its reason enough to identify a casino as “rogue.” It certainly doesn’t justify insulting someone on a very public forum (“on crack”). From the way he worded it, it sounds to me like Bailey got really upset because the rep left some nasty comments in a place where his kids can see them. But does that justify a blacklist?
Thebes Casino may (as Casinolistings.com and other say) be a rogue site, but it’s not because they have a rep with a bad attitude. This is a symptom of my larger problem with blacklist sites – too often, the opinion of the guy who writes or maintains the list leaks into it. It’s almost unavoidable, right? What’s the old saying about how observing a thing makes you part of the thing?
This is just one example of why I always recommend people take the information they find on any list (be it a list of accredited or rogue sites) with a king-sized grain of salt. Don’t forget that you’re reading one person’s interpretation of the facts, or that some people will pay handsomely for positive review material on a popular website.
How to Avoid Rogue Casinos
Blacklists are important, as are lists of good or accredited casinos. I think it’s even more important for people who plan on spending real cash at Web-based gaming venues to learn how to identify and avoid scam sites without the use of a list. You can’t always trust a review or a list you find online – instead of depending on these lists for your bankroll security, learn to look into the following details. Take all three factors into account when considering whether or not a site has rogue policies.
Licensure – Once you figure out what jurisdiction issued a site’s gaming license, you know whether to be concerned about their legitimacy or not. The best licensing bodies have high standards for their licensees, and holding a gaming license from one of these bodies is pretty much a sign of above-board operation all on its own. Any site licensed by Alderney, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, or the United Kingdom immediately passes the legitimacy test. But the opposite side of that coin is also true – the world’s worst licensing bodies have few or even no standards, handing out licenses to anyone who can afford them. I’d automatically be concerned about sites licensed by what CasinoListings.com calls the “rubber stamp gambling jurisdictions” of Anjouan / Comoros, Belize, Costa Rica, or Panama. Do some good casinos operate on licenses from these places? Yes – that’s why you can’t automatically blacklist a site based on bad licensure.
Reputation – This is where your own research skills can make or break you. If you don’t know where to look, you won’t have an accurate representation of a casino’s operations. Don’t trust generic reviews posted on ad-heavy sites – they were probably written by someone who was paid to promote the site. I’d focus instead on the message boards and forums discussed earlier, as well as data at Casinomeister.com and CasinoListings.com, along with any other source you’re familiar with. A bad reputation isn’t necessarily reason to avoid a site, but coupled with a poor licensing body from step one (or poor terms and conditions from the next step) it’s probably a site you should avoid.
Terms & Conditions – This may be a little tricky for some casino customers at first, since it requires a little digging into the fine print. Rather than suggest you read a site’s entire terms and conditions pages (which is what I do but is understandably not a popular method), I point people towards the T&C’s for any of the site’s promotions. I use the Welcome Bonus, since it’s so ubiquitous these days. You’re not worried about the specific terms of the bonus, here – instead, look for any clause that seems unusual or out of place. The most common is what Brian Bailey calls the FU Clause – something like “withdrawal limit determined by player class.” Looking into T&C’s takes some getting used to, but once you’re familiar with the common phrases used to screw customers, it’s easy to avoid a rogue site with just a few clicks.