How we test and review online casinos
Here at Xfire, we certainly have plenty of opinions about casinos and casino games. However, we know that our readers aren’t just interested in opinions, they want real objective facts to help them pick the best online casinos. Because of this, we provide high-quality, unbiased reviews that let you make your mind up.
Our reviewers are made up of casino enthusiasts who know their way around online casinos. We have a pretty rigorous process when it comes to writing casino reviews, and no small detail is left unturned by our reviewers.
Here’s a look at how we judge online casinos and determine our site ratings:
- First of all, we know there are thousands of online casinos out there, and it can be hard to get to the good stuff. Because of that, we only feature the best sites that are guaranteed to be safe and fair to use. Our casino top lists don’t contain every casino around, but they do include quality sites that offer the best promotions, great selections of games and most importantly, are fair to use.
- Our reviewing team is made up of casino experts who have decades of collective experience testing and writing about online casinos. These guys know casinos and casino bonuses inside out and know exactly what makes a great online casino experience. On top of this, they’re never afraid to speak their mind. They’re completely unbiased, and if they find something about a site they don’t like, it will always be included in the review.
- Every aspect of the site is extensively scrutinised. We don’t just base our review on the bonus and top games. We look at all the features that make up the site, testing the usability of the casino on multiple devices and making sure that customer support is helpful. We’ll also look into payment methods, whether you can easily make withdrawals and if the site has a history of user complaints.
- Once the review is complete, you can find the full casino rating on our top online casino list. If you like what you see in the review, you can easily visit the site from the provided link and take full advantage of everything the casino has to offer.
What makes a good online casino?
The online casino industry is highly competitive, so it might surprise you to learn that are still some awful sites out there. While bad casinos are rare, the quality of sites can vary. Some sites out there are unfortunately more focused on swindling players than providing a fun experience. Because we’ve seen our share of both bad and brilliant casinos, we know exactly what goes into making a great online casino.
We assess every casino featured on our site using several key criteria to make sure we only deliver the best. Here are some of the main points we look into when writing our reviews:
- The welcome bonus – Pretty much every top online casino you’ll come across will offer a bonus for new players. These can be great offers, but not all welcome bonuses were created equally. When we review a welcome bonus, we don’t just look at the bonus itself, we also thoroughly evaluate its terms and conditions. Some sites offer big welcome bonuses but have them locked behind lots of restrictions. We make sure that the welcome bonus is generous, fair and easy to unlock.
- Registration process – We’ve registered with loads of different online casinos and know that the process doesn’t have to be difficult. When judging a site, we make sure to look at how easy it is to sign up and whether you need to provide any more detailed information. Most casinos will ask for some basic details, but if you have to jump through hoops and give over all your personal data, it’s probably not a good site.
- Safety and trustworthiness – Something that often gets overlooked by players is how safe and reliable a site is to use. We closely look into who the casino is licenced and regulated by. We also take the time to make sure that there are no user complaints about the site withholding funds or featuring unfair games.
- Promotions – Having a good welcome bonus is one thing, but the best online casinos make sure to take care of their current players too. We judge sites on the quality of the regular promotions they offer and look at how easy it is for players to receive free bets, cashback bonuses, and other offers.
- Payment methods – We know that being able to move your cash in and out of your account with minimum fuss is a big selling point. There are so many great casinos out there that are let down by slow and limited cashier options. Because of this, we’re always sure to take payment methods into account when writing our reviews.
- Game selection – Not all casinos will offer the same games, and some definitely have much bigger and better collections than others. We look at all different types of games on offer, including video and progressive slot games, table games and live casino games. The best sites have an extensive range of great games in every type and genre.
- Game developers – Of course, simply having a lot of games isn’t enough to make a good casino. The games have to be quality, and usually, the best way to check this is to look at the developers featured on the site. Good casinos will feature games from the top casino software developers. We also judge sites on the variety of different developers that they feature.
- Mobile accessibility – Mobile play has quickly become one of the most popular ways to enjoy casino games. These days, everyone has a mobile phone and technology has advanced enough that mobile games look great and run smoothly every time. We judge online casinos on whether they provide support for mobile players and whether there’s a dedicated app for you to download. We test the site to make sure it works properly on a variety of devices.
- Customer support – While you hopefully shouldn’t need to get in touch with customer support too often, it’s always good for a site to have. Modern online casinos should all feature some kind of regular customer support option that gives quick and helpful responses to player questions. The best sites offer a 24/7 live chat that can instantly respond to any issues you might have.
- VIP options – Many top casinos offer some kind of VIP or loyalty rewards program to their regular players. These programs can give you special discounts, offers, tournaments, and other exciting prizes. We always make sure to look into the VIP situation on a site and report anything we find about the program and its benefits.
Types of online casinos
If you’re new to the world of online casinos, it can seem a bit confusing when viewed from the outside. There are lots of different types of casinos, games software and terms that make it difficult for someone just getting started.
Luckily for you, at Xfire, we’ve put together this guide to explain everything you need to jump into the exciting world of casino gaming. We’ll explain each of the types of casinos you’ll come across and the main differences between them. We’ll also give you the rundown on what to expect when signing up, how to make your first deposit and everything else you’ll need to know to be successful when playing at online casinos.
Some of what we explain might seem confusing at first, but with this guide, you’ll be able to get the hang of everything in no time. Of course, you can always get started on your own, but ideally, you should be spending more time playing rather than searching for different guides. We’ve made it much easier for you by bringing all the information you need in one place.
Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at the different types of casinos you can expect to find online:
No download online casinos
No download casinos are also known as instant play casinos. These sites are probably one of the most accessible and easiest to use, especially for new players. As the name suggests, you won’t need to download anything when playing at these casinos and can instantly load up all of the games in your browser.
In some cases, you might need to make sure your computer or mobile device has Flash installed, but this free software just takes a minute to download. To play at a no download casino, simply load up the site, register an account and get started. It’s really that easy!
Download online casinos
As you can probably assume from the name, these are the opposite of instant play casinos. With download casinos, you’ll need to download the software on your computer. These are much rarer to find these days thanks to advances in technology.
While in most cases, download casinos are often a sign of a site behind the times, some of the games on offer do load and run better at these casinos. The downside is that you’ll need to wait a while to download and install the software first.
If you sometimes feel that online casinos aren’t realistic enough and that computer-generated games could never replace the thrill of a real casino, you might want to check out live casinos. These games allow you to play against a real dealer who is being live-streamed from a studio. The addition of other players and a live chat feature makes these games even more immersive and helps to bring the authentic casino experience to your home. Most live casinos will offer classic table games like Blackjack and Roulette, but you’ll also often find more unique games thrown into the mix too.
Live casino games have become massively popular as high definition streaming has become more viable for online casinos. Now you’ll often find these brilliant games on many sites. Even though live-streaming can be data-intensive, you won’t need to download any additional software to play and can enjoy them on mobile devices too.
Smartphones are everywhere these days, and it’s no surprise to see online casinos capitalising on the improvements in technology to bring us mobile casino gaming. Most major sites now allow you to load up their games on your mobile or tablet. Modern games are now developed to run smoothly and without issues on mobile devices.
Some sites even now offer a dedicated mobile app for you to download. While apps aren’t necessary to enjoy your favourite casino game, they certainly make things easier to play on the go. Often, you’ll also find mobile app specific offers and bonuses.
Virtual reality casinos
Virtual reality may seem like something out of a science fiction film, but these days it’s more real than ever. With massive improvements in VR technology over the last few years, we’re starting to see casino developers create their own virtual reality casino games.
As technology gets better, more and more casinos will start to offer these virtual reality games. You’ll be treated to a completely new and immersive experience that will leave you feeling like you’re really at the casino. For now, the availability of these games is limited, and you’ll also need your own VR headset.
How to choose the best online casino
So now you know about the different options on offer, how to choose between them all? It’s true there is a lot of variety out there, but we’ve broken things down to make choosing the perfect online casino a straightforward process.
Decide what kind of site you’re looking for
Think about what features and options are most important to you at a casino.
- What kind of games do you like to play? Are you mad about video slots or do you prefer table games? Do you enjoy the thrill of big progressive jackpots or would you prefer to try out the latest live games?
- Are you interested in picking up a welcome bonus when you first sign up and if so, does it matter how big it is? Are you willing to deposit and bet a lot of money to unlock a big bonus or would you prefer a smaller reward that’s easier to obtain?
- How important to you is mobile play and the usability of a site? Is finding a game quickly a big plus for you, or are you more content to search around for a while?
These three main areas can help you decide exactly what kind of site would suit you best. Once you’re clearer about what you’re looking for, you’ll find picking the perfect online casino is much easier.
Read our casino reviews
The final step of picking the best online casino is to check out reviews of the sites. You can use the reviews of online casinos found on our site to build up a clear picture of each site and determine whether it has the features you’re looking for.
Be sure to refer back to the questions you asked yourself earlier about what kind of options you’d prefer your casino to have. Our reviews are unbiased and objective, taking note of key criteria to give players like you the best chance at picking a perfect casino.
If you’re still unsure, you can also load up the site and test it out yourself. You don’t have to set up an account straight away, just visit the site and take a look around. Look at the selection of games that are on offer and whether you think any of them look like something you’d enjoy. You can also check out the current offers and promotions on offer at the site as most casinos will feature this information on their main page.
The new player process
Once you’ve chosen which is the best casino based on our advice, you’ll be ready to get started. As a new player, there are a few things you should be aware of before signing up for an account with your first online casino.
Online casinos have to abide by strict rules to ensure that underage gambling, problem gambling, and money laundering aren’t taking place on their platform. Because of this, many sites now need to know some key facts and information about you when you first sign up.
None of it is particularly invasive, and generally, you’ll just need to fill in a quick form and supply some documents. Here’s a short guide on what to expect when signing up with an online casino:
- Opening your account – This is the easy part. You’ll just need to fill out your personal details like your name, address and contact information. You’ll also be required to provide a username and password. To help keep your account secure, make sure it’s unique to the site and not one you use elsewhere.
- Identifying documents – In most cases, your online casino will also ask you to prove your identity. This is done pretty simply just by supplying the site with some scans or photos of ID and documents. You’ll need to have a recent bill or bank statement that shows your full name and address. A scan or photo of your ID such as driver’s licence or passport is also needed. Finally, you may also be asked to show proof that you own the credit card linked to your account.
- KYC (Know Your Customer) – This process is normally something specifically for UK customers due to UK laws. You’ll sometimes be asked by your online casino to show proof of funds for the cash in your account. This can be done easily by showing your recent payslips or bank statements. In most cases, casinos ask you to show this when you request to make your first withdrawal. It’s usually a one-time thing unless your account is showing suspicious activity.
- Age requirements – Just like you’d find at a real casino, age restrictions apply. The exact age requirement will be based on your location and often the location of the online casino itself. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll need to be at least 18 to sign up and create an online casino account. If you’ve not reached that age yet, you’ll have to wait a bit. Don’t try and trick the system because they’ll ask for your proof of age and you’ll be banned if you’re unable to prove it.
- Responsible gambling – Encouraging responsible gambling is a big responsibility for online casinos. Almost every site will have a specially trained team to safeguard players and give advice if they suspect problem gambling. If your gambling habits change at all, they might check in with you to check that you’re doing ok. Don’t worry. You’re not in any trouble, they’re just there to ensure that everything’s going well and if you need advice they can talk to you.
Why you should play at online casinos
We’ve spoken a lot about what kind of casinos you should be playing at, but perhaps one question we haven’t answered is why you should play online at all? The truth is that there are plenty of reasons and some will be a lot more important for some people than others. Here are a few of the main reasons why people love to play at online casinos:
- Convenience – One of the biggest reasons for the growth in popularity of online casinos in recent years is how easy they are to access. You can play all of the latest and best casino games without leaving the comfort of your home.
- Progressive Jackpots – These are special prizes that accumulate over time and across multiple games and casinos. Because of the sheer number of players adding to them, progressive jackpots can become huge, and games like Mega Moolah regularly pay out more than $1 million to lucky players across the world.
- Welcome Bonuses – One of the big selling points for signing up to a new casino is the welcome bonus on offer. These can range from small free bets to massive matched deposit bonuses. If you’re a new player you’ll be able to claim these generous bonuses, just be aware that they only apply to first-time accounts.
- Promotions – If you’ve signed up to receive promotional material, your online casino will regularly email you with new offers and prizes to collect. Most sites offer regular bonuses to their players to encourage them to try out new games.
- VIP Programmes – If you play regularly enough, you’ll have a good chance to be welcomed into the casino’s VIP programme. This means you can enter special tournaments, win unique prizes and access special rewards and features. VIP programmes differ between sites, but some can be extremely beneficial.
- Anytime Play – At a real, land-based casino, you might have to wait for space at a table to open up. Lots of casinos also have opening times, meaning you can’t just play whatever you want, whenever you want. At online casinos, the opposite is true. You can play any game you like for as long as you like.
- All in One Place – Lots of online casinos provide a one-stop shop for all your gambling needs. Fancy playing Poker, Bingo or placing some sports bets? There’s a good chance the casino will offer all of this and more.
Are online casinos safe?
While there are undoubtedly some dodgy sites out there, the vast majority of online casinos are legitimate. Best of all, here at Xfire, we test all of the sites out there to provide you with the very best and safest online casinos. We only feature casinos on our site that we’ve tried out ourselves and part of our review process means checking the licence and trustworthiness of a site.
Here are a couple of things we take into consideration when looking into the legitimacy of a site:
In some countries, online casinos and gambling are against the law, and there may be some restrictions in place for players from certain countries. Some casinos also won’t be able to allow players from certain countries due to licencing. To make sure you’re using an online casino that’s not restricted in your country, check out our country-specific casino lists. Here you’ll find a list of the best online casinos for each country.
For an online casino to operate legally, it must hold a licence from at least one gambling authority. These are government agencies that impose rules and regulations on casinos and their games to ensure that players are protected.
Depending on what country you live in, you might only be able to access casinos that hold a licence from a certain gambling authority. These are a few of the most common gambling licences you’ll come across online:
- The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – This is one of the strictest gambling authorities, and if you’re in the UK, any casino you play at will need to hold a licence from this organisation.
- Alderney Gaming Control Commission (AGCC) – This is probably one of the more common authorities you’ll see.
- Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) – Again, a very common gambling authority that lots of online casinos hold a licence from.
- Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) – Probably one of the biggest and most important gambling authorities in the USA. Nevada Gaming Commission controls sports betting, casinos and poker within the state of Nevada.
- New Jersey Casino Control Commission (NJCCC) – This is probably the second most important gambling authority in the USA. As New Jersey has recently lifted restrictions on online gambling, many new sites will be licenced by the NJCCC.
The best sites go to great lengths to ensure that their players are protected. While fraud is rare online, it can happen, and it’s especially important to be careful when entering your payment details online. Online casinos should all make use of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption which keeps your information out of the hands of criminals. You’ll know that a site is SSL secured by checking for a padlock sign in the address bar of your browser when using the site.
Software and game providers
All of the best online casinos feature games and software from the top iGaming developers. Developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, Evolution Gaming and EGT Interactive are all considered some of the best companies for producing quality casino software.
These companies have all built up solid reputations after many years of being in the industry and are licenced to operate in many countries. Finding games from these developers at an online casino is often a seal of approval of the site. You can be sure that a casino that features games from the likes of NetEnt and others will have a quality and trustworthy site.
With an increase in competition between online casinos, sites and developers are focusing more on producing quality and innovative games. These days, players aren’t just content to play the same boring styles of slots and games. Developers are taking more risks in producing better and more exciting titles, something that can only ever be a good thing for us players.
As well as an increase in high definition graphics, 3D animations and better than ever music and sounds, games are becoming more exciting to play. New special features and bonus modes add new ways to play and enjoy classic games and increase the action.
Alongside all this, games are increasingly being developed to be enjoyed on a variety of devices. Almost everyone owns a smartphone these days and playing casino games on your mobile is a great way to pass the time while you’re out and about. Casino game developers make sure that all of their games run properly and look fantastic on devices of all shapes and sizes, including iOS and Android systems.
When you’re playing with real money at the casino, it’s important to be able to deposit and withdraw your funds quickly. Depending on which casino you use, there can be a variety of different payment options on offer. It’s important to know which is the most convenient for you and understand that some services may be faster, but often they charge higher fees for transfers.
Some payment methods are a lot more popular than others, often because they’re faster or more convenient. In some cases, you might have a favourite payment type but find that it’s unfortunately not supported by many sites. Here are a few of the biggest and most popular online casino payment methods:
Visa/Mastercard – Paying using your debit or credit card is still one of the most popular ways to add funds to your account. In most cases, it’s as simple as adding your card details to your account and hitting send. You’ll find that pretty much every online casino accepts both Mastercard and Visa for withdrawals and deposits, on top of that, your card usually has built-in fraud protection which makes one of the safest payment options.
PayPal – One of the biggest and most popular online service providers in the world. PayPal is an example of an eWallet service. That is, it allows you to load up an account with funds before spending them online. Using a service like PayPal gives you an extra layer of security as you don’t need to enter your card details online, you just need to log into your PayPal account.
Neteller – This is another eWallet service and is particularly popular with online casino players. The main reason for the popularity of Neteller is the speed at which it can credit your account with cash. You can quickly make deposits and withdrawals to and from your casino account without much hassle. Bear in mind that if you’re in the US, you won’t be able to use Neteller unfortunately.
Paysafecard – This is one of the best ways to protect yourself from online fraud. Paysafecards are available to buy as a prepaid card from thousands of different shops around the world. As well as being able to buy a physical card, you can even buy a virtual card online. Because you’re only using a disposable card, you’re well protected from fraud unlike if you were to use your real credit or debit card.
Of course, these aren’t the only payment options available to you in most cases. Plenty of online casinos also accept payments from services like EcoPayz, Skrill, EntroPay and other eWallets. You can also often use a bank transfer, and some online casinos also accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The accepted payment methods are usually always provided on the casino’s website, and you’ll also be able to read about any charges or limits on some methods. Make sure to check that you can make withdrawals as well as deposits with your preferred payment type.
Online casinos vs land-based casinos
The internet has changed the way we enjoy casinos forever. When looking at the benefits of online casinos over their land-based counterparts, it’s easy to see why online casinos are now the most popular way to play casino games.
Here are some of the main benefits of using online casinos over regular casinos:
- Play anytime and anywhere – With online casinos, you don’t need to wait for your local casino to open its doors. There’s also no need to go outside or travel anywhere. Online casinos are always open, and you can play anytime you want. You also don’t need to leave your house and can even play from your mobile device. With online casinos, you’re in complete control of how and where you play.
- Play on the go – Most if not all online casinos now cater to mobile players. Whether you have a smartphone or tablet, iOS or Android, you can instantly load and play your favourite casino games. That means that no matter where you go, you can say goodbye to boredom and hello to action-packed entertainment.
- Play within your means – When out at a land-based casino, you might feel pressured into betting more than you’re comfortable with. Being around other players can make you more competitive, leading to you betting outside your means and getting carried away. At an online casino, it’s just you and you can bet as much or as little as you want.
- Play for free – Playing for free is something that’s unheard of at real casinos. At online casinos though, there’s always the option to test out any games, totally risk-free. You can play these free games as long as you like, just remember that in order to win real money, you’ll need to switch to the real money version. This is a great way to get a feel for the game and decide whether you want to play or not.
- Pick up bonuses and other promotions – One of the best parts of playing at online casinos is that there are loads of sites out there all offering brilliant bonuses. Whenever you sign up for an online casino for the first time, you’ll be eligible to receive a welcome bonus. These can range from free spins to matched deposits and even no deposit bonuses. As well as welcome bonuses, most casinos offer special offers and prizes for their regular players. These kinds of rewards aren’t given out at regular casinos, but the online world is absolutely full of them.
- Play with more games – When you think of casinos, you probably think of the same old table games and standard slots. With online casinos, there’s much more variety on offer. Not only will you not need to queue up to play your favourite game, but there’s also so much to play. If you prefer playing something fresh, new games are added every week. At online casinos, you’ll find the latest technology used to give you games with stunning graphics, unique features, and big prizes.
Latest online casino news
At Xfire, we bring you the latest developments from the world of online casinos and iGaming. Our news section updates you with the most recent stories. You’ll find everything from the latest games and new casino sites to information about new offers and tournaments.
We’ll also keep you updated on any changes to the industry including new laws, rules or restrictions that may affect you and how you play. You can use the news section to stay up to date on the latest iGaming industry developments.
You can also find news relating to bonuses and tournaments and we’ll let you know how long you have to unlock them. Seasonal offers are often available at online casinos and the new section will also keep you updated on these.