Casino Guru's Fair Gambling Codex
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Common problematic areas in online gambling and how casinos should handle them

We believe online gambling should be fair. While this also requires players to act fairly and without malicious intent, it is mostly the casino's responsibility to make sure gambling remains fair and safe for players.

We have witnessed pretty much all types of conflicts between casinos and players when dealing with casino reviews and player complaints, and this experience has helped us form a strong opinion about what casinos should and shouldn't do in situations that arise frequently.

We will deal with the specific situations and our recommendations for each of them later on in this article, but it's important to define two terms – 'fair casino' and 'fair and safe casino' – first.

Note: These terms might mean something else in a different context, but the definitions below apply for the purpose of this article.

Definition of fair casinos

A 'fair casino' is an online casino that:

  • Pays out all legitimate winnings
  • Doesn't have any unfair clauses in their Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) (more on this later in the article)
  • Doesn't use any deceitful practices to trick players
  • Enforces restricted countries (doesn’t allow players from them to create an account or play from a restricted country) and restricted bonuses (only gives bonuses to eligible players)

Even casinos with fair rules and good approaches to gambling can sometimes be tricky for players. In some cases, players might not be aware of certain rules and break them accidentally despite the rules themselves being fair in our opinion. This is why we believe all rules should be technologically enforced by the casinos to stop players getting into trouble on accident.

EXAMPLE:

What does the term "technologically enforced rules" mean? It means that if a casino has, for example, a maximum bet limitation of $5 when playing with bonus money, it shouldn't allow players to place bets higher than $5. The casino's system shouldn't accept any bets higher than that, which would mean players wouldn't be able to accidentally break a rule that they might not be aware of.

As one of our goals is to actively contribute to the improvement of the overall quality of online casinos, we have decided to start using the term 'fair and safe casino' to describe online casinos that go further than those that are "just" fair. This can be done mostly by enforcing their rules, as mentioned above.

Not many casinos can be called 'fair and safe casinos' according to our criteria at the current moment in time, but we are hoping their number will increase in the future and that one day this might become the standard for all high-quality online casinos.

Definition of fair and safe casinos

'Fair and safe casinos' are those that meet all criteria for 'fair casinos' and have also implemented measures that prevent players from accidentally doing something against the rules or their own best interests.


'Fair and safe casinos' should therefore prevent players from accidentally breaking the T&Cs, Bonus T&Cs, or doing anything else that might jeopardize the money in their player accounts. Specifically, 'fair and safe casinos' should:

  • Enforce maximum bet sizes, restricted games and other bonus conditions.
  • Warn players when they are about to do something against their best interests (for example taking another bonus that would void winnings from the previous one).
  • Check for multiple accounts at account creation (we suggest checking the combination of a new player's name and birth date in the database and displaying a warning if a match is found. More on this below).

It is also important to keep in mind that this doesn't mean casinos that we consider to be "just" fair are not good. There are many fair casinos that offer great services and are honest towards players. The casinos we consider 'fair and safe casinos' are just taking an extra step towards protection of players.

Note: The term 'safe casinos' is also often used in relation to responsible gambling and problem gamblers. Certain things in this article are also related to these areas, but the term 'safe' in our fair gambling codex might mean something else than when talking strictly about responsible gambling.

What casinos should and shouldn't do

Let's take a look at what casinos should and shouldn't do. This is a complex topic as we believe most of the responsibilities should be on the side of casinos in online gambling, and players shouldn't have to painstakingly watch everything they do just so that they don't make a mistake on accident.

Below, you can find multiple problematic areas we have decided to include in this article. Based on our experience in dealing with player complaints, these are the areas that cause most of the friction between casinos and their players:

  1. Hidden and predatory rules
  2. Win limits
  3. Maximum bet rules
  4. Withdrawal limits
  5. Restricted countries
  6. Restricted bonuses
  7. Dormant accounts
  8. Betting patterns
  9. Bonus hunting
  10. Self-exclusions
  11. Player verification and duplicate accounts
  12. Enforcing rules
  13. Transparency

Note: If everything in this section was handled perfectly by the casinos, we believe there would be no more justified gambling-related complaints on the internet, perhaps apart from a very small number of them related to more marginal issues.

1. Hidden and predatory rules

Each casino has its own terms and conditions (T&Cs) that specify the relationship between a player and the casino, as well as the rights and responsibilities of both parties. However, some casinos also apply rules that are not listed in their T&Cs (hidden rules) or include rules that go against the idea of fair gambling and are used to exploit players (predatory rules).

The casino's point of view

There are couple of possible reasons for the existence of hidden and predatory rules:

  • Some casinos apply predatory rules or make some of their rules hidden by accident. This is not very common, but some gambling sites might do something like this without even knowing about it, not realizing that their rules are unfair towards players or that they are hiding something that should be made public.
  • Some casinos apply hidden rules or create predatory rules to protect themselves against certain situations and players. They care about their own protection and don't care too much about how their rules influence players.
  • Some casinos hide rules on purpose and/or include predatory rules in their T&Cs to rip off players and increase their profits.

The player's point of view

There are a few players that read the T&Cs before creating a casino account, but the vast majority of them don't. And even players who do pay attention to the T&Cs, mostly only check certain parts of the conditions such as restricted countries, for example.

Players expect casinos to follow certain best practices and therefore don't find it necessary to read everything. They don't expect to find predatory rules in the T&Cs. And because some players might not be experienced in online gambling, they may not notice that some rules are predatory even if they fully read the T&Cs.

Note: Not many players read the T&Cs in full, apart from bonus hunters who usually read everything to check whether they can abuse the casino's bonuses or not.

Additionally, if a casino tries to enforce a rule that is not stated in their T&Cs (hidden rule), there is no way a player could have known about the rule beforehand. Players cannot be expected to follow rules that they don't know about because they are hidden.

Our position

We do not tolerate any hidden or predatory rules because they are unfair towards players and put them at a disadvantage. If we notice them during our review process or if they are brought to our attention through a player complaint, we decrease the reputation rating and also try to get the casino to start behaving fairly if it's within our capabilities.

When it comes to deciding whether some clauses are predatory or not, we rely on our judgement and experience, as well online gambling best practices we are very familiar with.

The T&Cs should be written clearly so that they are easily and exactly understood by players. The entire system should be set up in a way that doesn't allow players to break the T&Cs unknowingly. All rules should be listed in one place (in the T&Cs), and they should not be unfair and/or predatory (see examples of hidden and predatory rules below).

Our recommendations for casinos

Every single rule that players are required to follow should be stated in the casino's general T&Cs or in the Bonus T&Cs of each bonus. The casino should never try to apply rules that are not stated publicly, as players have no way of knowing about them.

What's more, all rules should be in line with fair play. Most players don't read the Terms and Conditions before creating an account, so they will not notice a predatory rule by themselves. Help them gamble safely by only implementing fair rules. Make sure the T&Cs are simple and easy to follow, and don't try to make up rules that can be misused against players who haven't done anything wrong.

Remember that a fair environment is good for casino business too. It is in the casino's interests to retain players and keep them active. If players experience an unfair approach towards them, they will no longer play on the casino website. And if the word about bad player experience spreads, players could register in other casinos instead.

Examples of hidden and predatory rules

To better illustrate hidden and predatory rules and to help you understand them, you can find some examples of these unfair practices below, together with our comments about them.

Example #1: Max win based on deposited amount.

"If a player's accumulated deposit amount does not exceed €200, player will be entitled only up to X10 last deposit. This maximum payout will be enforced also in cases where the player made additional deposits which were deemed at the sole discretion of the Casino to have been made in order to exceed the €200 accumulated deposit amount."

Example #2: Max win based on deposited amount.

"In case where the Withdrawal exceeds 10 x the amount of the initial Deposit, the rest of the amount will be canceled and the balance will drop to 0."

These two examples are clearly unfair towards players. It doesn't make sense to limit the amount that players can withdraw if they aren't playing with a bonus. We accept bonus T&Cs that restrict the maximum cash out from a bonus play, but because the examples above are not related to bonuses, they are clearly unfair and predatory.

Example #3: Hiding rules in FAQs or other places.

"By using and/or visiting any section of the website (casino hidden); or by opening an account on the website You agree to be bound by: Terms and Conditions; Privacy Policy; Responsible Gaming, FAQ, Any game rules; Bonus Terms and Conditions, special campaigns and tournaments ran on the website."

As already mentioned, all rules that players need to follow should be grouped together in the T&Cs. Some exceptions are understandable, such as bonus T&Cs, the privacy policy, etc., but hiding rules in FAQs where nobody expects to find them is clearly unfair and deceptive.

Example #4: Canceling winnings exceeding the withdrawal limit.

"Maximum Withdrawal Approved per Month: 3000€/£
In the event that the withdrawal exceeds this amount, the rest of the amount will be canceled, and the balance will drop to 0."

Ignoring the fact that the withdrawal limit in this example is too low, the second statement is much more outraging. It's one thing to only pay out a certain amount to the player per month, but it's something completely different (and extremely predatory) to withhold all money over this limit if a player asks for a higher withdrawal.

Requirements for both 'fair casinos' and 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified as a 'fair casino' or a 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, it can't have any predatory rules in its T&Cs, and all of its rules must be clearly listed in the T&Cs (or in bonus T&Cs for rules related to specific bonuses). To put it simply, no hidden or predatory rules are allowed.

2. Win limits

Some casinos enforce win limits that only allow players to win a limited amount of money in one game round or within a predefined period of time. Win limits can be calculated and applied in various ways:

  • Win in a game round: A limited win in a game round allows players to only win a certain amount in one slot machine spin, one roulette spin or in one game round on any other type of game.
  • Total sum of wins within a time period: This type of win limit is applied to the total sum of individual wins over a certain period of time (most commonly one day). Losses are not taken into account.
  • Net win within a time period: These limit the total amount players can win in a certain period of time (most commonly one day). Loses are also considered.

Apart from the various types of win limits, each casino approaches the entire issue differently. Some casinos might apply a win limit right after a win, while others might start dealing with the issue only after a player asks for a withdrawal.

Example:

A casino has a win limit of €100,000 in a single game round. If a player manages to win €150,000 in a very successful slot machine bonus round, they are only entitled to keep €100,000, whereas the rest (€50,000) will be kept by the casino.

Note: In some jurisdictions, win limits are required by local laws and regulations. In these cases, casinos cannot do anything about it if they wish to keep their license and operate legally.

Win limits and progressive jackpots

The connection between win limits and progressive jackpots needs to be brought up too. Progressive jackpots work differently than regular casino wins. They are generally paid out by the game provider who has created the game on which the jackpot has been won, not by the casino in which a player has managed to win it.

After a progressive win, the game provider transfers the money to the lucky player, with the casino functioning as an intermediary. Therefore, it makes no sense (in most cases) for the casino to apply the win limit to these winnings. If they do this, they only send a portion of the money to the winner, and basically keep the rest. That's why some game providers sign agreements with casinos, based on which, the casino cannot withhold legitimate progressive winnings from the player but have to pay them out in full.

Note: There are some exceptions in which large groups of casinos have their own progressive jackpots. These cases are different, of course.

The casino's point of view

If casinos apply win limits because of laws and regulations that require them, there is nothing they can do about this, so we can't hold this against the casinos. However, many casinos limit player wins at their own discretion without being told to do so by a regulator.

Casinos use win limits to protect themselves against big wins that could pose a danger to their cashflow and profitability. An unexpectedly big win could be an existential threat for smaller casinos with limited cashflow, so win limits make sense in this context if they are big enough. This being said, we still don't approve of them because they disadvantage players.

Very small win limits (let's say smaller than €10,000) are clearly designed to cheat players and increase the casino's profits.

The player's point of view

Most players don't know about win limits. They expect to be able to keep their winnings in full, regardless of their size. It is devastating when a casino wants to take a big part of a player's winnings because of a win limit that they might not be aware of.

It is true that most players won't be affected by win limits if they aren't too low. This is why some players who know about win limits might not even care about them, provided that they are much higher than the amounts they are used to winning. This being said, their stance will obviously change very quickly if they manage to win a higher amount than the limit.

However, the indifference of some players doesn't change the fact that win limits are restrictive for players and effectively decrease the RTP of some games (at least for some bet sizes), as the highest of wins cannot be achieved because of them.

Our position

If win limits are required by laws or regulations, we tolerate them. We accept them as a necessary evil. We would like to see them gone, but we understand that casinos need to follow regulations.

If a casino applies a win limit that is not required by law, we approach it differently. If the casino's voluntary (i.e., not required by law) win limit is very high (€500,000 for example), we still don't approve of it, but we are able to tolerate it as long as it doesn't apply to progressive jackpot wins.

If a casino voluntarily applies a lower win limit, we decrease its reputation rating and warn players against the casino's restrictive win limit.

Note: Applying win limits to progressive jackpots wins is never acceptable. If a casino does this, it is basically stealing money from the player and/or the game provider that created the game on which the jackpot has been won. We take this very seriously when reviewing and evaluating casinos.

Our recommendations for casinos

Instead of implementing arbitrary win limits, we recommend decreasing the maximum allowed bets. This effectively decreases the amounts won by players (and therefore acts as a win limit), while also keeping the game mathematics intact; therefore, not being unfair towards players. The casino shouldn't let players place bets that can theoretically yield winnings that the casino can't afford to pay out.

The casino shouldn't limit wins from progressive jackpots at all. These are not paid out by the casino, so it doesn't make sense for the casino to restrict their size unless it is required by the regulator.

3. Maximum bet rule for bonus play

Most casinos restrict the maximum bet size for players who play with bonus money. This rule was most likely introduced to make bonus abuse more difficult. Without the max bet rule, bonus abusers could get a bonus from a casino and try to quickly multiply it by placing big bets. If they succeed, the multiplied balance would allow them to easily meet the original wagering requirements and cash out their earnings. The max bet rule is therefore a valid rule used to prevent most extreme cases of high-volatility bonus hunting.

Example:

A player who is playing with a bonus with a maximum bet of €5 is not allowed to place a bet higher than that. If the player breaks this rule, their bonus and/or winnings may get taken away by the casino.

The casino's point of view

The maximum bet rule is an industry standard in online gambling used by casinos to protect themselves against bonus abusers. Therefore, casinos feel confident about using this rule and checking the betting history of players who have played with a bonus and asked for a withdrawal.

Most casinos don't technologically enforce their max bet rules. This means that the players are able to place bets higher than they are allowed to according to the Bonus T&Cs, so they have to carefully watch their bet sizes themselves.

The player's point of view

Many online casino players know about this rule and are careful not to break it when playing with bonus money.

However, there are still a lot of players who are not aware of the maximum bet rule. These players might unintentionally break it. This often happens after a big win, when a player might naturally increase the bet sizes because of the increased bankroll. In these situations, players feel cheated if their wins are taken from them later on because they weren't aware that they'd done anything wrong.

Players don't want to painstakingly read all T&Cs and also watch their bet sizes to not mistakenly place a higher than allowed bet. Most of them will follow the rule if it is visibly stated to them in the casino lobby, in the game itself or in a prominent part of the page or advertisement informing them about the bonus.

Our position

The max bet rule is, in fact, an industry standard, just as the fact that a casino has the right to seize the player's winnings from bonus play after breaking this rule. We prefer not to go against industry standards by penalizing casinos that use the maximum bet rule against players from time to time.

On the other hand, we think that this rule should be enforced at software level, i.e., that the casino's software or website shouldn't let players place higher bets than the limit. This is one of our requirements for 'fair and safe casinos'.

If software enforcement is not possible, each case should be judged separately, so that only players who have broken the rule knowingly and systematically to gain an advantage are punished.

Additionally, the max bet sizes should be clearly displayed, ideally in the casino lobby or directly in the games (if possible) or on a prominent part of the page or advertisement informing them about the bonus, and not just "hidden" in the rules for bonus play. It is a common practice to only list the max bet in Bonus T&Cs, but we appreciate when casinos make them more visible and easier to follow.

Our recommendations for casinos

In an ideal case scenario, casinos should enforce their maximum bet rules at software level and therefore not allow players to place higher than allowed bets. This effectively removes all player complaints related to the max bet rule, as players simply can't break the rule.

If enforcing max bets is not possible because the casino runs on third-party software that doesn't support them (or for any other reason), the casino should carefully judge each case separately. Some players may break the rule on accident, e.g., by clicking the 'Max Bet' button on a slot machine by mistake. It is unfair to punish them for this, especially if they didn't win anything in the game rounds with over-the-top bet sizes.

Requirements for 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified 'fair and safe' by our review team, it must enforce the maximum bet rule for bonus play. This means that the casino's system must prevent players from placing any bet higher than the limit.

4. Withdrawal limits

Withdrawal limits restrict how much players can withdraw in a certain period of time. They can be different for various payment methods, but there is always some limit on how much a player can withdraw in a certain time frame (e.g., one day, one week or one month).

Withdrawal limits can create situations in which a large win is paid out to a player, not at once, but in a number of smaller payments across a longer period of time.

Note: Sometimes, low withdrawal limits (or slower withdrawals) are not in force just because the casinos want to have them, but because of external factors such as legislation, available payment methods, etc. We view these factors as extenuating circumstances when reviewing casino withdrawal limits.

The casino's point of view

Casinos generally use withdrawal limits to protect their cashflow, i.e., to avoid having to pay out a big win at once and to avoid causing issues to the company's finances.

The player's point of view

Players generally want to withdraw their winnings all at once, regardless of their size. Deposits are often unlimited and instant, so players don't understand why they should wait for their winnings to be paid out to them, which can take months in case of a big win and low withdrawal limits.

Our position

In the best-case scenario, there shouldn't be any withdrawal limits. However, we know that they are not going away, so we accept them as a part of the online gambling ecosystem if they are big enough. If they are too limiting, we decrease our reputation rating of the casino in question.

Our recommendations for casinos

Players should be able to withdraw their winnings, even if big, in a reasonable amount of time. In our opinion, withdrawal limits should be at least $10,000 per month, but the higher the better. Anything lower than that can be very restrictive for players.

Withdrawal limits should not be applied to progressive jackpot winsbecause they are not paid out by the casino.

Note: If a player cannot withdraw their winnings all at once because of a limit related to the utilized payment method, we recommend discussing the issue with the player and trying to find another option that would allow for a faster withdrawal.

5. Restricted countries

All casinos accept players from certain countries only, with the rest of the countries being 'restricted'. This means that players from these restricted countries are not allowed to open an account and play in the casino. This is the same for all gambling sites, but what differs is how casinos deal with players from restricted countries.

The casino's point of view

Many casinos only state the restricted countries in their T&Cs, so it's the responsibility of players to check whether they are allowed to play at them or not.

Whenever someone from a restricted country registers, these casinos allow them to create an account, but only let them know about the restriction when they want to make a withdrawal. As long as a player is losing, the casino is OK with it, but as soon as the player wins and wants to withdraw money, they use the 'restricted countries' rule to decline the withdrawal and block the player's account.

This is, of course, extremely unfair, as players might register without knowing about the restrictions, and casinos are taking advantage of their mistake, often knowingly and intentionally.

The player's point of view

If a player is able to access the casino's website, open the registration form, create an account, deposit and play, it's understandable that they assume that they are allowed to play at this casino.

Some experienced or careful players might read the T&Cs and find out that their country is restricted, but these players are definitely in the minority.

Our position

It is not acceptable to let players gamble if a casino knows that they are from a restricted country and if the casino plans to refer to the rule about restricted countries whenever a player requests their first withdrawal. This is completely against the rules of fair play, as the casino is knowingly letting a player wager money without a chance to actually win something in return.

Many casinos claim that this is difficult or impossible to implement into their systems, but it is simply about comparing the player's country of residence with the list of restricted or allowed countries; therefore, we do not consider it to be that difficult on a technological level.

Our recommendations for casinos

The right thing to do is to check for restricted countries during the account creation process, and to not allow players from restricted countries to register and play. If the casino knows about restricted countries and also knows the player's country of residence, it's not a big issue to enforce this rule.

If the casino allows a player from a restricted country to play because it hasn't implemented this check, it should accept that it was the casino's mistake and pay out all winnings to the player despite the fact that they shouldn't have been allowed to play in the first place, provided that the player hasn't done anything else that's against the rules.

Requirements for both 'fair casinos' and 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified as a 'fair casino' or a 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, it must not allow players from restricted countries to create an account and play. The check for restricted countries must be done during the account-creation process.

6. Restricted bonuses

Casino bonuses are only generally offered to players from certain countries. This means that only some players can get a certain bonus. However, the same issue as with restricted countries applies here as well.

The casino's point of view

Some casinos only list the restricted countries in the Bonus T&Cs for each specific bonus, claiming that their system is not able to ensure that only players from eligible countries get the bonus.

This is extremely unfair towards players for reasons similar to those listed in the previous situation (restricted countries), as detailed below.

The player's point of view

If these bonus restrictions are not technologically enforced by the casino, players can get a bonus that they shouldn't receive, only to find out about the restrictions when the casino declines their subsequent withdrawal. This means that a player can play with bonus money, only to find out about the restriction if they win and want to withdraw their winnings. Just as before, players are essentially gambling with no chance to win.

If a player can claim a casino bonus, they assume it's theirs to play with. They have no reason to think that they shouldn't have received the bonus in the first place. This is why it is often very startling when they run into withdrawal issues because of this rule and its improper implementation.

Our position and recommendations for casinos

We believe that casinos should be equipped to only give out bonuses to eligible players. If the casino is not equipped, it should let players withdraw their winnings even if they are from a country that is restricted for bonuses. In other words, once a player gets a bonus, a casino shouldn't take it away from them or confiscate any winnings that originated from that bonus (unless some other rules have been broken).

This issue often starts with advertising communication. Casinos or their affiliates often send out emails about new bonus offers, sometimes to players who are not eligible to get them. Players then have every reason to believe that the bonuses are available to them, which might not be the case according to the Bonus T&Cs. Information about bonuses should only be sent to players who are eligible to get them.

To summarize: Casinos should only give bonuses to players who are allowed to get them according to the Bonus T&Cs. And if the casino makes the mistake of granting a bonus to a player who shouldn't have received it, the casino shouldn't take it away from them. Instead, the casino should accept that it was their mistake and pay out the winnings to the player.

Requirement for 'fair casinos' and 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified as a 'fair casino' or a 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, it should not allow players to receive a bonus that is not meant to be received by them because of country restrictions.

7. Deducting money from dormant accounts

Dormant accounts are accounts that haven't been used by players for a certain period of time. After a certain number of days (e.g. 180 days) of inactivity, some casinos gradually confiscate the money left in the accounts of inactive players.

The casino's point of view

Casinos are not banking institutions and have certain costs associated with keeping money in player accounts for prolonged periods of time. They deduct money from dormant accounts to cover these costs.

However, there are also casinos that knowingly use the 'dormant accounts' clause to earn extra money at the expense of players who might have forgotten that they left some money in their casino account.

Note: While most casinos have a 'dormant accounts' clause, not all of them act on it. Some casinos that value their players and want to keep them happy will return all money to players even after years of inactivity.

The player's point of view

While casino accounts are very different to bank accounts, some players may think of them in a similar way. If they leave money in their player account, they expect to find it there later on, even if they haven't played for a long period of time. This is why they may be very surprised and dissatisfied to hear that a casino wants to deduct money from their remaining balance or has already done so.

Our position

Deducting money from player accounts is a standard practice in online gambling. We understand that casinos are not obliged to hold account balances that are not being used to gamble on a long-term basis.

However, we think that casinos should wait for at least 360 days (180 is the bare minimum that we tolerate without decreasing the casino's reputation rating) before taking anything and use all possible means and tools available to them to let players know about this in advance. If they do not, it's simply unfair.

Of course, casinos usually claim to make a 'reasonable effort' to contact inactive players and let them know about it before confiscating any money. This is done to get them back to play or withdraw their money from the casino.

The issue is defining what 'reasonable effort' means. When judging complaints, we have no way of knowing what type of communication a casino used to try and contact the player or how much effort was made in the process. Either way, we think that using emails alone is not sufficient to be classified as 'reasonable effort, but the bare minimum that casinos should make.

The amount of money deducted from the player's account should also be reasonable. Money should never be taken all at once unless the player only has a couple of cents in their account. We consider 5% of the remaining balance the maximum that should be taken each month, but we would like to see even lower percentages. If the casinos deduct a fixed amount of money each month instead of a percentage of the remaining balance, this amount should be reasonably low, not higher than €/£/$20.

Our recommendations for casinos

Whenever a player has been inactive for a long period of time, the first thing to do is to contact them. Whenever possible, we suggest returning the remaining balance (minus the processing fees) to the player by a withdrawal. If the remaining balance is lower than the minimum withdrawal limit, it is acceptable to confiscate it, but the rules mentioned in the following paragraph should be applied to this amount too.

If the casino still decides to deduct some money from the player's account after a certain period of inactivity, these rules should be followed:

  • Wait for at least 180 days before deducting anything.
  • Do everything possible to contact the player beforehand. Use methods like email, text messaging, phone calls and physical mail. Start from the "easiest" one (email) and then move to other methods if the previous ones are unsuccessful.
  • Never take more than 5% or €/£/$20 of the remaining balance per month from the player's account (lower value applies).

Requirement for 'fair casinos' and 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified as a 'fair casino' or 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, casinos must follow the recommendations listed above.

8. Betting patterns

Some casinos forbid using betting patterns in their T&Cs. If a player is discovered to be using forbidden betting patterns, casinos often decline their withdrawals and confiscate their winnings.

The casino's point of view

Casinos use this rule to protect themselves against bonus abusers, who can often be identified by their betting patterns. However, some casinos also apply this rule to regular players and use it as an excuse to decline withdrawals of legitimate winnings.

Note: Bonus abusing can even work with a constant bet size, as described in our bonus hunting article. Using betting patterns as a way to stop people from abusing bonuses doesn't really hold up.

The player's point of view

Players want to play the way they prefer. Because all casino games have a certain house edge, they see no reason why they should avoid certain types or sequences of bets.

Our position

We consider cases in which casinos use the 'betting patterns' rule to confiscate player's winnings to be unfair.

Note: In some cases, betting patterns can theoretically be used to identify fraudulent behavior. We have nothing against this if betting patterns are used to uncover what can really be considered fraudulent, and not just used as an excuse not to pay out winnings to players.

Our recommendations for casinos

Our recommendation is quite simple: Don't use betting patterns as an excuse not to pay out winnings to players. These betting patterns can indeed be a sign that a player is doing something against the rules, but they shouldn't be the sole reason to penalize players.

Another issue is the way betting patterns are defined. Theoretically, any sequence of bets can be called a betting pattern. If the casino wishes to go against our recommendation and forbid the use of certain betting patterns, these should at least be specified in detail so that players know exactly what they can and cannot do. Otherwise, the 'betting patterns' rule could be used against everybody. We don't like this approach, nor will players if the casino uses it against them.

This being said, we still believe that forbidding betting patterns is unacceptable.

9. Bonus hunting (bonus abusing)

Bonus hunting (or bonus abusing) is a term used to describe the activity of actively and systematically trying to use online casino bonuses to make money. Casinos often include clauses about bonus abusers in their T&Cs, allowing them to withhold the winnings of players suspected of being bonus abusers.

The casino's point of view

Bonus abusers can be costly for online casinos. They try to use casino bonuses and play in specific ways to gain a statistical advantage over the casino. And because casinos base their entire business strategy on the statistical advantage they have over players (the house edge), it's understandable that they want to protect themselves.

Casinos often use anti-bonus abuse clauses in their T&Cs retroactively, confiscating winnings after the wagering requirements have been cleared and the player has asked for a withdrawal.

The player's point of view

If a player has received a bonus, they don't expect it to be taken away from them. They expect to be able to play with this bonus and withdraw money if they manage to win.

If a player is not a bonus abuser, they probably don't even know that something like bonus abuse exists. If a player is a bonus abuser, the situation is a bit different, but if they do receive a bonus, they still expect to be able to use it and possibly win some money.

Our position

If a player uses their own personal information to create a casino account, doesn't have duplicate accounts and follows all of the rules in the T&Cs, they should be able to use a casino bonus that has been given to them in any way they want.

Note: We don't condone bonus hunting that involves using other people's personal information to create more accounts in casinos, even if the people in question are fully aware of it.

We don't support taking winnings from players after they have fully cleared the wagering requirements without breaking additional rules for bonus play, even if the casino suspects that the player is a bonus abuser. If a player has received a bonus and has played with it, they deserve to keep the winnings.

Our recommendations for casinos

To battle bonus abusers, we recommend implementing additional rules in Bonus T&Cs to limit the ability to abuse casino bonuses. This makes bonuses unexploitable, meaning that the casino doesn't have to worry about bonus abusers.

If the casino doesn't want to do this, it should identify bonus hunters when they create their account. If some bonus abusers still get through this procedure and the casino identifies them based on their style of play, display an internal message and stop offering bonuses to these players.

10. Self-exclusions

Players have the ability to self-exclude themselves from playing at a certain casino as a part of responsible gambling practices. By using this feature, the players let the casino know that they don't want to be allowed to play during a certain period of time.

This generally cannot be cancelled; the player has to wait until the period is fully over before they can play again. Some casinos allow players to cancel their self-exclusion after a cooling-off period, giving them time to think about whether they really want to do it or not. Some casinos also let players cancel their self-exclusion instantly, but that's strictly against responsible gambling principles.

Self-exclusions and related casinos

Some casinos that operate as part of a bigger group, state in their T&Cs that after self-excluding in one casino, players shouldn't be able play in other casinos in that group either.

This is understandable, but enforcing this rule is problematic. We have seen cases in which a player that has self-excluded from one casino, started playing in another casino from the same group. The casino didn't stop this player from playing; however, when the player later requested a withdrawal, it was declined because the player wasn't supposed to be playing in the first place.

There is an issue with this because it is very likely that the casino would have kept the player's money if they didn't manage to win. But the player did win, so the casino took advantage of the self-exclusion clause in the T&Cs to decline the player's withdrawal.

This is clearly unfair towards players. Rules like these should be enforced proactively. If players are not supposed to play at a casino, they shouldn't be allowed to do so. This might not be the easiest thing to implement, but casinos should have their own software under control and be able to protect players this way.

The casino's point of view

Casinos generally want to make sure that their players can gamble safely, which also includes giving them an opportunity to fully exclude themselves from playing. They don't want to make money from problem gamblers, which is exactly who the self-exclusion feature is made for.

However, some casinos claim that they can't fully implement self-exclusion, and there are still some gambling sites that don't have this option.

The player's point of view

Players who are experiencing problem gambling issues need the option to self-exclude themselves because their gambling habits have gotten out of control. If a player wants to gamble during their self-exclusion period, it's likely that this could be against their best interests due to their lack of self control.

Our position

All casinos should have well-executed responsible gambling options that involve self-exclusion. Whenever a player self-excludes, they shouldn't be allowed to play until the predefined period of time is over.

Although there may be cases in which the casino really wants to implement self-exclusion but cannot, we believe that most casinos without self-exclusion (or with poorly implemented self-exclusion) deliberately exploit addicted players, which we are strictly against.

Our recommendations for casinos

The self-exclusion process should be as user-friendly as possible. The tools designed to help players who experience gambling problems should be easy to use so that players are not discouraged from using them when needed.

The self-exclusion policy should be strict. If a player asks to be excluded, don't let them play until the predetermined period is over. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to cancel their self-exclusion without a cooling-off period. Ideally, they shouldn't be able to cancel it at all.

If the casino belongs to a bigger group of casinos, players should be made aware of this when self-excluding. Ideally, players should be given the option to self-exclude from one casino only or self-exclude from all of them. All casinos should be listed, otherwise players will not know which casinos are related.

Regardless of what players do, if a casino let's someone play despite having a self-exclusion in a related casino, not being supposed to play should not be used as a reason to withhold their winnings.

Requirement for 'fair casinos' and 'fair and safe casinos'

For a casino to be classified as a 'fair casino' or 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, it must allow players to self-exclude themselves from playing. If casinos allow players to cancel their self-exclusions, they need to wait through a cooling-off period of at least seven days.

11. Player verification and duplicate accounts

In a vast majority of casinos, players are only allowed to have one player account per casino. Opening more than one account is against the T&Cs, and duplicate accounts are generally closed after being discovered.

Most casinos only check for duplicate accounts as a part of the verification process, which is generally done when a player asks for a withdrawal. If a player wins something on one of their duplicate accounts, the winnings are generally annulled. In some cases, the initial deposits might be returned to the player if the casino believes the duplicate account was created by accident.

The casino's point of view

Casinos only allow players to create one account to protect themselves against bonus abusers. Opening multiple accounts and trying to claim the welcome bonus more than once is one of a small number of ways that players can use to gain an advantage over the casino, or at least make the casino's advantage smaller. This is why it makes sense that casinos protect themselves by closing duplicate accounts.

The player's point of view

Some players create multiple accounts on purpose (to abuse the welcome bonus), but it's sometimes the case that players simply forget they've already registered an account at a casino, and unknowingly create a new account.

Sometimes, players want to log in to their old account but don't remember their password. Instead of going through the 'forgotten password' procedure, they create a new account, perhaps not knowing that they are doing something that's against the rules.

Either way, we think that players shouldn't have to worry about accidentally creating duplicate accounts at the same casino.

Our position

We accept that it is the responsibility of players to make sure that they don't create multiple accounts at the same casino. Not because we think it's the right way to do it, but because it's the industry standard, and we cannot penalize all casinos that don't enforce the 'one account per player' rule the way we consider best. However, we believe and hope that checking for duplicate accounts during account creation will become the industry standard in the future and players will be better protected.

In the meantime, each case should be considered separately. If the casino finds out that a player has created five separate accounts and claimed the full bonus amount on each of them, it is likely that this is a bonus abuser, and the casino has every right to penalize them. On the other hand, if a casual player mistakenly creates two accounts and doesn't even claim the bonus, the casino shouldn't penalize them just because it has a rule that can be used against them.

Our recommendations for casinos

To prevent duplicate accounts, it is feasible and effective to check for duplicate accounts during the account creation process. We don't mean a full know your customer (KYC) procedure that would involve ID verification, but a quick check of personal detail combinations that would only be shared by two separate people in very rare exceptions, such as first name, surname and date of birth. If the casino doesn't require this information during the registration process, it should start doing so.

In most cases there will not be a match and the casino can let the player play, only triggering a full KYC procedure when the player submits their withdrawal request. However, if the casino does get a match, it is likely that the player already has an account. In these cases, notify the player and/or ask them to complete a KYC procedure to make sure that they don't already have an account.

If this is not technologically feasible, the casino shouldn't punish players who created a second account unknowingly and didn't intend to abuse the welcome bonus. If the player hasn’t caused you any harm, it's best to contact them and find an acceptable solution for both involved parties, such as keeping one account opened and closing the other one(s).

Requirements for 'fair and safe casinos'

To be classified as a 'fair and safe casino' by our review team, the casino needs to check for duplicate accounts during the account-creation process, not when a player asks for a withdrawal. This doesn't necessarily mean doing a full KYC procedure, but just a quick check of sufficient personal details to detect duplicate accounts.

12. Enforcing rules

Whenever a casino finds out that a player has broken rules described in the T&Cs, there are different approaches that can be used to handle the situation.

We have witnessed many cases of casinos informing players that they have breached the T&Cs, account being closed and winnings voided, without providing any further information about what the players have actually done wrong. At this point, the casinos often stop communicating with players, leaving them clueless, confused and angry.

The casino's point of view

When casinos find out that a player has done something against the rules, they generally don't care about how they deliver this information. They just want to make sure that the player knows they've done something wrong, as well as informing the player about any losses (in the form of withheld winnings, canceled bonuses, etc.) that they are about to suffer.

The player's point of view

Whenever a player is accused of doing something against the rules, the chances are that they have no idea what the casino is talking about. If they are not given a definitive answer, it's understandable that they will want to investigate the issue further and get more specific answers.

Our position and recommendations for casinos

If the casino decides to punish a player for doing something wrong, the least it can do is to let the player know how they specifically broker the rules and which rules were broken. The casino should at least include this information in the message informing the player about the issue:

  • Which rules they specifically broke (don't just quote the entire T&Cs)
  • When and how the player has broken the rules
  • How the player will be penalized, and whether there is something they can do

13. Transparency

In this section we will talk about what information casinos should share with players. Specifically, we will discuss:

  • The return to player (RTP) of available games: The RTP of the game is arguably the most important mathematical characteristic of each casino game. It tells players which games are better and which are worse for them from a mathematical point of view.
  • Game and account history logs: Giving players the possibility to look into their game history and find out how much money they have won or lost over time is a very welcome tool, but, unfortunately, not many casinos do this the right way.

The casino's point of view

Not all casinos want to make information such as RTP and account history easily available to players because it lets players know how much money they can expect to lose (RTP) and how much money they've already lost or won (history logs). If a player realizes how much money they've lost over time, this could be harmful to the casino's business; therefore, it's better for the casino to keep this information hidden.

Casinos often claim that implementing this is difficult from a technological point of view, which can be true to a certain extent, but we don't see it as a valid reason for not implementing these 'transparency' features.

When it comes to RTP, it's true that some game providers don't publish the RTP of their games, so casinos might not have this information for all titles, but we're sure that they know the RTP of the vast majority of the games that they offer to players. It's just a matter of sharing it with players.

The player's point of view

Not all players care about their account history or the RTP of the games that they play, but we know that many of them do. Making this information readily available enables them to make good decisions regarding which games to play and whether they should be playing at all.

Note: Some games are available in multiple versions with different RTPs; therefore, players should know which of these games they are playing. This is part of the reason why we consider publishing the game RTP to be important.

The history log is important as a responsible gambling tool as well because it lets players know how much money they have lost or won over time. It's very likely for frequent players to have lost more money than they've won since opening their account, but they generally don't remember this clearly and may underestimate their overall losses. This is why it's important for them to be able to get the actual numbers.

Our position and recommendations for casinos

All players should know the RTP of the games that they are playing. This information should be available as easily as possible and should (ideally, but not necessarily) be written directly in the browser window when playing the game.

Similarly, players should be able to access their account history and see how much money they've lost or won since opening their account.

We would like to see all casinos meet these criteria, although they are not part of industry standards at the moment. This being said, we hope that more and more casinos improve in this matter and make more and more information readily available to players in the future.

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