Reviews of online casinos are one of the main pillars of the Casino Guru website. We aim to give online casino players the best possible information so that they can make good informed decisions when it comes to online gambling, and we think that choosing a good casino to play at is one of the most important decisions each player makes.
In this article, we'll explain our casino review process in detail, so that you can understand it better and see the reasons why some casinos are rated differently than others.
We'll start with a short summary and then get into a detailed explanation and description of our casino review process. Brief overview should be enough to get the basic idea, but feel free to read about our reviews in detail if you wish to know how specifically we review and rate casinos.
Table of contents:
This section covers our casino reviews without going into specific details, so that you can get an overview without reading the more complicated specifics below. We'll focus on what makes our reviews special, factors that we consider in them, as well as the people who are responsible for them – our independent casino review team.
Why our reviews are different than others you can find on the internet
Our casino reviews are a bit different than the majority of reviews available on the internet. We don't focus on website usability, game selection and other subjective factors in the overall reputation rating. Instead, our ratings are based on what we consider to be the most important – the casino's reputation. That's why our global casino rating is called 'reputation rating'.
Our reputation rating basically describes how casinos treat their players, and how likely players are to be able to withdraw their winnings without running into issues, which are quite common at dishonest casinos (applying unfair rules, making up reasons for not paying out players, etc.). Casinos with an honest approach to gambling generally have a high reputation rating from our review team, while those with bad intentions are rated badly.
Note: Apart from the reputation rating, another very important sign of a casino's quality is the order in which casinos appear in our list of best online casinos. It is based on the reputation rating, but also considers local factors like the support of local payment methods, language support, and other features important for players from each specific country. Casinos that we consider to be the best fit for players from a specific country then appear at the top of the list for visitors from that country.
Although some players might not be aware of it, there are actually many, many casinos which don't see fairness as one of their priorities. We witness it first-hand every day when dealing with player complaints. That's why we focus on these factors in our reviews and also why we've created our fair gambling codex. We want players to be able to gamble safely, and helping them choose an honest casino is crucial for that.
Factors considered in our reviews
Our casino review process takes into account a huge amount of information about each casino, which is collected by members of our review team. This information can be grouped into five main categories:
- Size of the casino
- Player complaints
- Deductions for restrictive or unfair practices
- Points added for positive qualities
- Related casinos
Size of the casino is important for safe play, because small casinos may run into issues if one of their players manages to hit a really big win. Because small casinos don't have large revenues, a substantial win can be an existential threat to them. If a player wins more than the casino can realistically afford to pay out, it's likely that the casino will go bankrupt unless they find a way to NOT pay out the winner. And that's a problem.
On the other hand, a big casino with thousands of players can rely on their statistical advantage and will be able to pay out big wins thanks to the losses of other players. That's why the size of each casino is one of the two main factors influencing the reputation rating.
Note: Additionally, smaller casinos are often quite new, so they haven't had enough time to prove their qualities. And because it is better to be safe than sorry in this regard, we opt for giving them a lower reputation rating until they grow, and/or their qualities become clear.
The other foundation of our reputation rating are player complaints. These tell us how each casino treats its players. If there are many justified complaints about a casino, it's a clear indication that there are some issues which cause players to be dissatisfied.
Note: The mere presence of complaints doesn't mean the casino is bad. Sometimes, player complaints are not justified, meaning that the casino actually hasn't done anything unfair towards the player. That's why we consider each complaint we find on the internet or get through our complaint resolution center separately and decide how much it influences (or doesn't influence) our rating based on our best judgement of the case.
Based on the casino's size and its player complaints (their number, disputed amounts and justification), we get the base of our reputation rating. These factors are considered relatively to one another, because it's expected that big casinos will have more complaints than smaller ones because of their larger player base. This means that a large casino can (but doesn't have to) have a better rating than a smaller one, even if players complain about it more.
Then, we take the base of the reputation rating and start deducting or adding points for various factors. Most of them are negative and result in a lower reputation rating (low withdrawal or win limits, blacklists, unfair rules, etc.), but there are also some positive factors which can increase the rating.
Lastly, if a casino is a part of a group of related casino sites, other members of that group influence its ratings as well. We'll explain why and how we do this later on in this article.
Our independent casino review team
All information about online casinos is collected and entered into our system by members of our independent review team, which currently has 15 members and will grow even further in the near future.
Note: You can find all members of the review team on our 'About us' page.
The members of the casino review team used to focus solely on collecting information about online casinos, but many of them now also help players resolve their complaints directly in our complaint resolution center.
Before we opened the complaint resolution center, they were already very familiar with player complaints, as they have already worked with them in the casino review process, in which complaints are one of the most important factors. They already became experts in evaluating player complaints and determining which side is in the right, as well as with casinos' T&Cs and how they are often being used against players. That's why they are the ones who are helping players resolve conflicts with casinos on our website.
But apart from reviewing online casinos and helping players with their complaints, the members of this team don't do anything else, which enables them to stay focused and independent. Their goal is to find and collect accurate information about online casinos (which is then displayed in the reviews and used to calculate the ratings), and to help players and casinos resolve their conflicts, without having to consider other aspects of running the Casino Guru website.
We have already covered the basics, but if you really wish to know how exactly we review and rate online casinos, keep reading.
Detailed look at the considered factors and how they influence our ratings
Let's take a much closer look at the main factors considered in our casino reviews to see how specifically they influence the rating of each casino:
- Size of the casino
- Player complaints
- Deductions for restrictive or unfair practices
- Points added for positive qualities
- Related casinos
1. Size of the casino (revenues and player base)
One of the main factors influencing our Reputation rating of each casino is its size, which we judge by its revenues. The idea behind this factor is that big casinos are generally safer for players, because their high revenues allow them to pay out even very big wins without any issues.
On the other hand, there are many small online casinos on the market, which might not be the best choice for everyone, especially players wagering higher amounts of money. Although small casinos (i.e. casinos with small revenues) may have good intentions, their cashflow might not be able to cover big wins by the profit generated by other players, because it's not as high as that of big gambling sites. To put it simply, small casinos sometimes may not be able to pay out big wins, which is why they generally get a lower Reputation rating from us.
Now, let's talk about how we get the data about casinos' revenues. For some of them, it's easy, as they make their financial information public. However, for most casinos, this information is just not available. For these, we use our fine-tuned internal formula to estimate the revenues using the number of visitors (estimated using multiple methods) and the locations from which these visitors come (as players from different countries have different spending and wagering habits). This allows us to get an estimate of each casino's revenues, which is not exact, but should be good enough to make a pretty good picture about the casino's financial situation.
For each casino, we calculate the estimated revenues for the last four years, which advantages established brands that have been around for a while over new casinos. We designed it in this way, because we think that established casinos are generally safer for players than new ones, and we want our rating to take that into account. New casinos also get a 'Fresh' rating from us, as it's just too early to tell how they'll treat their players.
Note: Some online sports betting sites also operate online casinos. These can be found on Casino Guru, too, but we calculate their revenues differently. For most of these, bookmaking is the main business and casino games are just an additional product. That's why we consider only a certain part of the overall revenues in our rating, as we want it to reflect the size of the casino and not the website as a whole.
2. Player complaints
We want our reputation rating to be a good indicator of how each casino treats its players and how likely their winnings are to be paid out to them without any complications. That's why player complaints are another main factor entering our algorithm used to calculate the reputation rating.
Our casino review team browses the internet to find all relevant complaints, which give us a good idea of how casinos treat their players. We enter all complaints into our database and assign them a classification based on our perception of the complaint (whether we think that the casino has actually done something wrong or not) and other factors (such as whether the player played with real money or bonus money, etc.). Taking into account the disputed amount in each complaint and the aforementioned classification, we get a number of black points for each complaint, which are then used in the reputation rating calculation.
That said, there are also some other factors which influence the final number of black points:
- Casino's license. We treat some complaints differently depending on the casino's license and regulator. If a complaint is unclear, casinos with a good license get fewer black points for it. The logic is that a good regulator increases the chances of successfully getting disputes resolved if the casino does not respond to complaints directly or through a complaint resolution system like the one on Casino Guru.
- Age of the complaint. Complaints "age" over time and their effect on the casino's reputation rating weakens. We assume that casinos can evolve and get better over time, so we don't want to be too strict about very old complaints. A fresh, relevant, and justified complaint is a clear sign that the casino is not handling some issues well, while a several-years-old complaint can be from back when the same casino was under different management, for example.
Taking into account each casino's revenues and the total number of black points we get by evaluating each of its complaints separately, we get a so-called 'base reputation rating' which is only influenced by these two factors (revenues and complaints). We evaluate revenues and complaints in relation to each other, as it can be expected that big casinos will have more complaints because of a higher number of players.
The rating we get from revenues and complaints is not final, however. The final reputation rating gets calculated by adding and subtracting points for certain positive and negative factors, which we know influence player safety, overall satisfaction, gambling fairness and other important qualities.
3. Deducting points for restrictive or unfair practices
Because there are casinos which use unfair, hidden, deceitful or restrictive practices, we take a close look at each casino and decrease its reputation rating for things that can potentially harm players or decrease their user experience. These include:
- Low withdrawal limits. Some casinos have extremely low withdrawal limits, which can lead to players having to wait months or even years before receiving their winnings in full. We decrease the casino's reputation rating if it uses withdrawal limits lower than what we consider to be fair.
- Low win limits. All win limits are unfair towards players, but we are willing to tolerate them if they are sufficiently high not to be restrictive for most players and don't get applied to progressive jackpot wins, or if they are required by a regulator. If the limits are too low and not required by the regulator, we decrease the casino's reputation rating.
- Blacklists. There are a number of websites that publish casino blacklists. If a casino appears on a blacklist, we take a detailed look at it and consider its relevance. The seriousness and relevance of each blacklist determines whether we deduct some points from our reputation rating and how many points we deduct. Age of each blacklist also influences how much we decrease our rating. Older blacklists result in smaller deductions.
- Unfair rules. Each rule described in the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) of each casino should be in line with fair play. If that's not the case and we discover some unfair rules, we warn our visitors about them and decrease the reputation rating of the casino which uses them.
- Hidden rules. Additionally, all rules should be mentioned in the General T&Cs or Bonus T&Cs of each bonus. If the casino enforces rules which are not listed in the T&Cs, it's clearly unfair towards players and we decrease the reputation rating because of it. We cover both unfair and hidden rules in our fair gambling codex.
- Bad support quality. Customer support is an important factor influencing player satisfaction and overall level of user experience. We don't expect it to be perfect at each casino, but if a casino's support is extremely bad, we decrease its reputation rating.
- Fake games. Honest casinos operate original games from casino game providers. However, some casinos also run fake copies of known games, which can be altered to pay out less than the original they are based on. This is seriously unfair towards players and we decrease the reputation rating of casinos that operate fake games.
- Fake license or no license at all. Licenses are important in the online gambling ecosystem. They let players know that they can trust a casino and that some regulations are in place. If a casino doesn't have a license or it has a fake license (which is arguably even worse), we decrease its reputation rating.
These are the most common reasons for decreasing the reputation rating, however, they are not the only ones. From time to time, we encounter some unfair practices which may differ. Dishonest casinos are creative with the ways to scam players, which is why we take a very close look at each casino, its website, and T&Cs to make sure we don't miss anything that can be used against players.
Also, it's important to note that each case is considered separately. Sometimes, the casino has a valid reason for doing something we usually find unfair (e.g. having win limits because of regulations, operating without a license because of running anonymously, etc.). In these cases, we communicate with the casino to make sure we are being fair not only to players, but also to casinos.
4. Adding points for positive qualities
Apart from deducting points, sometimes we also add bonus points to casinos which are doing something well or have some qualities which are good for players, their enjoyment or user experience. This is not very common, but it does happen from time to time.
Here are two examples of bonus points we add for something positive:
- Generous casinos. When we are dealing with player complaints, we sometimes come by a case, in which the casino decided to pay out the player despite not having to. For example, when a player does something against the rules by accident, the casino has every right to confiscate the player's winnings (provided that the rule is in line with fair play). If a casino decides to pay out the winnings in spite of that, it's a clear sign that they do not intend to rip off players without bad intentions, so we increase its rating a bit.
- Chain of land-based offices. If a casino is a well-known brand that operates a chain of brick-and-mortar offices, we increase its ratings. The presence of local offices is an undeniable benefit to user experience, which can help out local brands to get a slightly better rating from us. However, this only applies to casinos which have a questionable or worse reputation rating from us, as these bonus points are only supposed to help out local casinos which aren't doing very well without them.
These increases of the reputation rating are not very common; however, we wanted to inform you about them nevertheless, so that you have the complete picture about our casino ratings.
5. Taking into account related casinos
Some casinos operate independently, but many online gambling sites are related to each other in some of multiple possible ways. Here are some examples of the most common relationships between two or more casinos:
- The same owner
- The same management
- The same affiliate program
For casinos that operate as a part of a bigger group, our rating takes into account not only the qualities of the casino we're reviewing, but also all casinos it is related to. The most important factors related casinos share are:
- Revenues. We consider revenues in our ratings, because high revenues can be used to pay out a big one-time win. And casinos with the same owner, for example, can use revenues from one casino to pay out a big win in another one. This makes it possible for a relatively small casino (by itself) to gain a better rating thanks to being a part of a bigger group.
- Complaints. Related casinos can also decrease the casino's rating, because complaints are shared, too. The reasoning here is similar. If we see a casino treating its players unfairly, it's generally fair to assume that another casino with same owner or management will act similarly, even though it hasn't manifested itself yet.
Of course, not all relationships between casinos are the same. The transferred qualities (both positive and negative) are weighted based on the relationships between the casinos. This means that two casinos who share the same owner will influence each other's ratings more than two casinos who only share the same affiliate program, for example.
Let's say there are two casinos – casino A and casino B – that share the same management, which is the strongest relationship in our methodology. For the purposes of this example, let's say that these casinos share 40% of their revenues and black points. (The real percentage may be different, let's call it our "trade secret".)
This means that if casino A has yearly revenues of $10M and 1000 black points, and casino B has yearly revenues of $5M and 3000 black points, we calculate the reputation rating of casino A as if it had revenues of $12M ($10M plus 40% of $5M) and 2200 black points (1000 plus 40% of 3000). Similarly, casino B is rated as if it had revenues of $9M and 3400 black points.
The effect of related casinos can be both positive and negative. Strong and fair casinos can increase the reputation rating of casinos related to them, but unfair casinos with a lot of complaints can also result in a reputation rating decrease of other casinos in their group.
How we collect data about casinos and keep our reviews up to date
Our casino review process is very much data-oriented. The members of the review team work mostly by collecting information about casinos and entering it into our database. Then, a fine-tuned algorithm takes this data and calculates a fair casino rating. We designed the process like this to make sure our reviews are not biased; however, it also means that the reviewers have to collect a lot of data. Here is how they do it:
- Data about revenues is either provided by the casinos themselves, taken from its annual report, or approximated based on the estimated number of visitors of their website, as described in more detail earlier on in this article.
- Complaints are collected from other complaint resolution websites, forums, and our own complaint resolution center in which players complain to us directly.
- Information about blacklists is collected from respected online casino blacklists.
- Information about win limits, withdrawal limits, fairness of T&Cs, licenses, game genuineness, customer support quality, and a number of other factors is collected directly from the casino's website and by contacting the customer support.
- Last but not least, our testers from all around the world help us make sure that the information we present is truthful and relevant for visitors from individual countries, prioritizing countries in which casinos appear on high positions in our casino list.
Periodical updates of casino reviews
Of course, once we collect data about a casino, we can't assume it will stay relevant and correct forever. We have to periodically return to reviewed casinos and basically do the entire procedure all over again to make sure our reviews remain up to date. This is all done to ensure that our online casino database remains the best and most accurate, as we claim on the homepage.
Speaking of our database… It's not an easy task to keep highly detailed information about thousands of online casinos fresh. And we definitely can't check each casino every day or even every week. Luckily, not all casinos are equally important:
- Some of them are really good and appear in top positions of our list of best casinos. As these are the most visible and we recommend them to our visitors, we need to keep information about them as up to date as possible. We re-review these most frequently.
- Others are truly atrocious and have extremely low ratings on Casino Guru. We don't have to update these as frequently. They never appear in our lists of recommended casinos, as we never recommend bad casino sites. Additionally, it's very unlikely that a casino that has received a very low rating from us will suddenly become good. We return to these and review them again least frequently.
- And lastly, many casinos are somewhere between the first two groups. Even if a casino is not perfect, it can still be a good match for some players, which is why we want to keep its review up to date. However, they don't have to be updated as regularly as the very best casinos, so the frequency of revisiting these casinos is also somewhere between the first two groups.
The information above was referring to the regular updates we perform based on the ratings of individual casinos. However, that's not the only form of updates. Luckily, casinos also want the information on the Casino Guru website to remain fresh. That's why they let us know when something important changes, and we incorporate these changes into our reviews as soon as we hear about them (after making sure they are truthful, of course).
Additionally, our visitors also sometimes inform us that something on our website should be changed. This also helps us keep our database as up to date as possible. In other words, our visitors also help us make Casino Guru better.