For new players, one of the hardest things is identifying a safe online casino vs an online casino scam. With 100s of gambling sites online, finding a trusted site to gamble can become incredibly frustrating. There’s even a middle-ground of gambling sites and casinos that are legitimate operations, but have terms and conditions that are unfavorable for players.
Many things can land an online casino, poker room, or sportsbook on our scam list. While we list the specific reasons for each gambling site on their review page, here’s an overview of many common problems that scam gambling sites practice.
This page lists online gambling operators who we deem rogue (untrustworthy). We also cover notable scams throughout the online gambling industry in more detail.
Things to Watch Out For
The first area that lands gambling sites on the scams page deals with customer payout requests. This usually starts with long delays when players request a withdrawal and often ends with players simply not being paid.
Almost every online gambling site requires players to send them documentation proving they’re who they claim to be. This helps prevent fraud and helps the sites meet banking regulations from different parts of the world.
Most online casinos make this process smooth and easy. But the ones that start running scams start making you send in documents over and over. They keep saying that the documents aren’t readable so they never have to process your cash out request.
Another common procedure online casinos have is mandatory wait times before they start the payment processing. These times vary from casino to casino with the lowest ones being 24 hours or so and the longest ones being a week or longer.
You might think that the best casinos have shorter wait times, and for the most part, this is true, but some excellent sites have extended wait times.
All of these wait times are designed so that you hopefully decide to start playing again instead of continuing with your cash out. If you start playing you have a good chance of losing the money you planned to withdraw.
The best sites stick with the time they claim they will and the worst ones start extending the mandatory times beyond what they state on their site.
The next thing that scam casinos start doing is extending how long it takes to get a check, bank transfer, or e-wallet payment to you. E-wallet payments can be processed almost instantly once the waiting period is over, but poor online casinos sometimes take a week or longer to get around to sending your money.
We’ve seen some online casinos take a month or longer to get a check to their winning players. We understand that a check has to be shipped, but when the best online casinos only take a week to deliver a check it’s clear to see that some sites simply keep your money as long as possible.
Direct bank wires fall into the same category. Once they’re started you usually have your money in two or three days. But scam casinos like to claim problems with the bank or the bank wire to delay sending your money.
Limiting Cash Out Amounts
Most online casinos like to list big winners and the amounts they won. This is good advertising because every gambler dreams of hitting a big win. When you see a list of other players who have won it’s easier to see yourself winning so it entices you to gamble.
The problem comes when some casinos restrict how much you can cash out every week or month after you hit a big win.
Casinos limit withdrawals to protect their cash flow, and even some of the best ones have limits listed in their terms. But the difference is the best ones don’t randomly adjust limits and work with big winners to get them their money in a timely manner.
Scam casinos change the weekly or monthly limits, delay payments, and sometimes make it impossible for players to get all of their winnings.
The worst cases involve progressive jackpot winners who end up being limited to cash out requests as low as $500 a week.
Progressive jackpots are funded by a small percentage of the money wagered on the game. This money is always collected before a player eventually wins the jackpot so there’s no reason a player shouldn’t be paid in full in a timely manner.
So when an online casino keeps the money from a big progressive and only gives a small amount each week or month to the winning player it’s clearly a case of bad customer service and quickly gets the overall rating we give reduced.
Online casinos have bonus offers plastered all over their sites and banners. They range from a few dollars or free spins to thousands of dollars.
Of course, the idea of free money to gamble with seems great to most players.
But just like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
You can find all kinds of bonus offers, but they all have specific terms and conditions that govern how you use them and the process you’re required to meet in order to keep any of the money.
Both good and bad casinos offer bonuses, so what’s the difference between the good ones and the ones that run scams?
The main difference is the scam casinos have unreasonable requirements or don’t follow their own terms and conditions. Mostly the problem comes from play through requirements that never seem to get met or from the casino claiming bonus abuse and voiding winnings.
An area that creates many problems with bonuses is that you can only play certain games to clear most bonuses. For example, you might be able to play any slot machines but can’t play blackjack or other table games.
While there’s nothing wrong with a restriction like this as long as the players clearly know about it, some casinos hide it in their terms so it’s hard to find. If a player loses all of their money the casino doesn’t say anything, but if a player goes on a winning streak and has played a single hand or game that they aren’t allowed to the casino voids all of their winnings.
We generally don’t have a problem with a casino that follows their own terms and conditions, but the best ones make game restrictions and play through requirements clear before you start playing.
The best policy for players is to make sure you always read all of the rules before playing so you understand how the bonus works. You still might have trouble with a bad casino even if you follow all of the rules, but your chances of a bad experience will be reduced.
What it all comes down to is if an online casino or gambling site does what it says it will, they have a good chance to receive a decent rating. But when they start changing things on the fly, start stalling payouts, and resort to lying and outright theft they find themselves on the scam list.
Notable online casino scams
Internet casino scandals can involve a software provider, single casino, or parent company that operates multiple casinos. Here are some disgraceful incidents by game providers, casinos, and parent companies:
- Amigotechs offers faulty video poker games – Several casino watchdogs have reported issues with Amigotechs’ video poker games not paying according to their stated pay tables. In 2011, their 50-line Jacks or Better game didn’t make a single payout in 922 consecutive hands. Oddly enough, some casinos are still using the Amigotechs software.
- Betsoft refuses to pay full jackpot amount – In 2016, a player won a progressive jackpot on Betsoft’s Glam Life slot, only to be told that he didn’t qualify because the jackpot was hit during free spins. Glam Life’s paytable made no mention of this rule until Betsoft updated the table to support their claim afterward. The software provider later settled with the player for an undisclosed amount.
- Crystal Palace Group refuses to pay countless players – The Crystal Palace Group is one of the most notorious parent casino companies of all time. They’ve had numerous issues with slow payouts or simply refusing to pay at all. Their owner, Warren Cloud, died of a heart attack while sailing on his yacht in 2008. Ace Revenue has since taken over many of the old Crystal Palace-owned casinos.
- Rome VIP Casino features unfair slots – In 2009, Rome VIP Casino (formerly just Rome Casino) featured slots from Top Game (now Pragmatic Play) that excluded a crucial wild symbol needed to win the jackpot. The managers failed to remove the games even after being contacted several times. Rome VIP Casino has also received various negative reviews for low withdrawal limits, slow payouts, and unprofessional customer service.
- SkillOnNet offers misleading gamble feature – Industry watchdogs found that SkillOnNet offered a misleading slots gamble feature. Gamble options usually involve choosing the result of a coin flip (heads/tails) with a close to 50% chance of winning. The gamble feature in SkillOnNet slots, however, only offered around a 35% chance of winning.
Notable online sportsbook scams
The biggest internet sports betting scandals revolve around sites either confiscating winnings under murky terms or shutting down without returning player funds. Here are some of the biggest black marks on internet sports gambling history:
- BetOnSports closes with $16 million in bettor funds – BetOnSports became one of the world’s largest betting sites, handling $1.8 billion worth of annual bets in 2006. However, the founder, Gary Kaplan, was arrested the same year and later sentenced to four years in prison for racketeering. BetOnSports shut down shortly after while owing customers $16 million.
- Oddsmaker confiscates $250,000 from alleged sharps – In 2012, industry watchdogs downgraded Oddsmaker for seizing $250,000 in winnings from gamblers. Oddsmaker took the money under their policy of banning professional play. However, they never presented any compelling evidence that the gamblers were indeed sharps.
- WSEX shuts down while owing $1 million to customers – The World Sports Exchange (WSEX) became a pioneer of online sports betting after launching in 1995. However, the company ran into severe financial troubles in 2013. They shut down on April 19, 2013 while owing bettors over $1 million. Co-founder Steve Schillinger was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on the same day.
Notable online poker scams
The biggest internet poker scandals stem from sites failing to ring-fence player deposits before Black Friday. However, there were also two major incidents involving faulty software that gave Absolute Poker and UB Poker insiders an advantage over opponents. Find out more on these scandals and the ring-fencing debacles below:
- Absolute Poker (CEREUS Network) employee uses “superuser” account – In 2007, several Absolute Poker players complained that the handle “POTRIPPER” was using a superuser account, which allows one to see their opponents’ hole cards. A Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) report confirmed the allegations and fined Absolute Poker $500,000. The now-defunct Absolute finally admitted that an employee-owned a superuser account and refunded $1.6 million to affected players.
- UB Poker (CEREUS Network) superuser wins millions off opponents – In 2008, multiple UB high-stakes players alleged that “NioNio” exhibited playing patterns similar to a superuser. The KGC’s investigation found that 1994 WSOP champ Russ Hamilton, who served as a high-level consultant for UB, used a superuser account from 2004 to 2008. The KGC report estimates that Hamilton illegitimately won as much as $22.1 million.
- CEREUS Network goes down with $50 million in player funds – The CEREUS Network had difficulty surviving following Black Friday as US residents were their primary customer base. They shut down in May 2012 while owing players an estimated $50 million.
- Full Tilt Poker folds with $350 million in player funds – Full Tilt was the biggest culprit in failing to ring-fence player deposits before Black Friday. They too struggled with remaining solvent after exiting the US and losing their main customer base. Full Tilt eventually closed while owing over $350 million to players. It was later revealed that the founding board members paid themselves exorbitant salaries.
- Lock Poker (Revolution Gaming network) goes offline with $15 million in customer funds – The US-friendly Lock Poker initially experienced success after CEREUS, Full Tilt, and PokerStars were forced to vacate the market. The company then ran into financial problems and began processing withdrawals very slowly. Lock went offline in 2015 and owed an estimated $15 million to customers.