Online casinos can be divided into two groups based on their interface: web-based and download-only casinos. Some casinos offer both interfaces.
Web-based online casinos
Web-based online casinos (also known as flash casinos) are websites where users may play casino games without downloading software to their local computer. Games are mainly represented in the browser plugins Macromedia Flash,Macromedia Shockwave, or Java and require browser support for these plugins. Also, bandwidth is needed since all graphics, sounds and animations are loaded through the web via the plugin. Some online casinos also allow gameplay through a HTML interface. Apple devices such as iPod, iPad and iPhone cannot play Flash games as the technology is not supported.
Download-based online casinos
Download-based online casinos require the download of the software client in order to play and wager on the casino games offered. The online casino software connects to the casino service provider and handles contact without browser support. Download-based online casinos generally run faster than web-based online casinos since the graphics and sound programs are cached by the software client, rather than having to be loaded from the Internet. On the other hand, the initial download and installation of a download-based online casino client does take time. As with any download from the Internet, the risk of the program containing malware exists.
Virtual casino games
In a virtual casino game, the outcome of each game is dependent on the data produced by a pseudorandom number generator (PRNG). This determines the order of the cards in card games, the outcome of a dice throw, or the results produced by the spinning of a slot machine or roulette wheel. PRNGs use a set of mathematical instructions known as an algorithm to generate a long stream of numbers that give the impression of true randomness. While this is not the same as true random number generation (computers are incapable of this without an external input source), it provides results that satisfy all but the most stringent requirements for true randomness.
When implemented correctly, a PRNG algorithm such as the Mersenne Twister will ensure that the games are both fair and unpredictable. However, the player ultimately has to trust that the software has not been rigged to increase the house edge, as its inner workings are invisible to the user. Properly regulated online casinos are audited externally by independent regulators such as eCOGRA to ensure that their win percentages are in line with the stated odds, and this can provide a degree of assurance to the player that the games are fair, assuming the player trusts the regulator.
Live dealer casino games
In a live casino game, a human dealer runs the game in real time from a casino gaming table, which can be seen via a live streaming video link. Players can make betting decisions via a console on their computer screen, and can communicate with the dealer using a text chat function.
The results of the physical transactions by the dealer, such as the outcome of the roulette wheel spin or the dealing of cards, are translated into data that can be utilized by the software by means of optical character recognition (OCR) technology. This enables the player to interact with the game in much the same way as they would with a virtual casino game, except for the fact that the results are determined by real-life actions rather than automated processes.
These games are a lot more expensive for websites to host than virtual games, as they involve a heavier investment in technology and staffing. A live casino studio typically employs one or more cameramen, several croupiers running the various games, an IT manager to ensure that any technical hitches are dealt with swiftly, and a pit boss that acts as an adjudicator in case of disputes between players and croupiers.
In most cases, this requires at least a three room setup, comprising a live studio, a server/software room, and an analyst’s room. The configuration of these rooms varies from casino to casino, with some having several gaming tables in one room, and some having a single table in each room.
The high running costs involved with operating live dealer games is the reason why online casinos only tend to offer a handful of the most popular games in this format, such as roulette, blackjack, sic bo, and baccarat. In comparison, the running costs associated with virtual games are very low, and it is not uncommon for online casinos to offer hundreds of different virtual casino games to players on their site.
Online casinos vary in their approach to the hosting of live games, with some providing live games via their own television channel, and others offering the games exclusively via their website. In the case of televised games, players can often use their mobile phone or television remote controls to place bets instead of doing so via a computer connected to the internet.
A typical selection of gambling games offered at an online casino might include:
Many online casinos offer sign-up bonuses to new players making their first deposit, and often on subsequent play as well. These bonuses are a form of marketing that may incur a cost (potentially justifiable in order to attract a new player who may return and deposit many more times), since the casino is essentially giving away money in return for a commitment from the player to wager a certain minimum amount before they are allowed to withdraw. Since all casino games have a house edge, the wagering requirements ensure that the player cannot simply walk away with the casino’s money immediately after claiming the bonus. These wagering requirements are commonly set to be sufficiently high that the player has a negative expectation, exactly as if they had deposited and not claimed a bonus.
Casinos may choose to restrict certain games from fulfilling the wagering requirements, either to restrict players from playing low-edge games or to restrict ‚risk-free‘ play (betting for instance both red and black on roulette), thereby completing the wagering requirement with a guaranteed profit after the bonus is taken into account.
No deposit bonuses
The most popular form of bonus is one that can be claimed without the need to deposit any of the player’s own money – known as a no deposit bonus. These bonuses are used as acquisition tools by casinos wishing to attract new players. No deposit bonuses don’t always take the form of real cash, as exemplified below.
Non-cashable bonuses may be called „sticky“ or „phantom“ bonuses. In both cases, the bonus forms a part of the player’s balance, but cannot be cashed out. The difference comes at cashout time. A phantom bonus disappears when the player cashes out, while the sticky bonus ’sticks‘ to the player’s account until it is lost.
Comps are commonly available at land-based casinos, but also exist online. Comp points can usually be exchanged for cash, prizes, or other comps. The amount of cash given per wager is usually very small and often varies with game selection. A casino might offer three comp points for each $10 wagered on slots and one comp point for each $10 wagered on blackjack. The casino might give $1 for each 100 comp points. This example is equivalent to returning 0.3% of wagers on slots and 0.1% of wagers on blackjack. In addition online casinos may offer comps such as free tickets to online tournaments, tickets to other special events, extra bonuses, souvenirs and pay back.
Bonus hunting (also known as bonus bagging or bonus whoring) is a type of advantage gambling where turning a profit from casino, sportsbook and poker room bonus situations is mathematically possible. For example, the house edge in blackjack is roughly 0.5%. If a player is offered a $100 cashable bonus requiring $5000 in wagering on blackjack with a house edge of 0.5%, the expected loss is $25. Therefore the player has an expected gain of $75 after claiming the $100 bonus.
A large portion of online casino disputes relate to bonuses. Casinos may label players who win using bonuses as „bonus abusers.“ Both players and casinos may commit fraud. An example of player fraud is creating multiple accounts and using the accounts to claim a sign-up bonus several times. An example of casino fraud is changing terms of a bonus after a player has completed the wagering requirements, then requiring the player to meet the new bonus terms.