How to Spot a Safe Online Casino

Safe Online Casino Jurisdictions
Definitions and Assistance

This part of the AZOC online casino guide is all about identifying trust factors. When I refer to a "safe online casino" in this guide, I mean a casino who you can trust to pay out in a timely manner when you win and one that has fair games that can't be tampered with. Most of the safety indicators below can be found in the online casino lists, designed to be used as a reference point.

Safety Indicators: Licensing Jurisdiction
The first thing I look for when I visit the website of an online casino I am unfamiliar with is where it is licenced. Some jurisdictions, most notably those associated with the UK and her colonies are stricter and in general are a very good indicator of a safe online casino. Examples of jurisdictions I trust implicitly are Alderney and the Isle Of Man - and the UK itself for that matter. Gibraltar - as far as I am aware - has never really had to prove itself but has a generally decent reputation thus far while the Kahnawake jurisdiction has made improvements to it's player support procedures recently and in general is also pretty reasonable.

Beyond those, I wouldn't take any other jurisdictions as an indicator of safety for the player, but it doesn't mean they are bad, just cheaper and easier to obtain a licence from and with less restrictions on operators. The odd one out in all this is Malta who should in theory have been a good, safe jurisdiction but have twice been challenged (the first time citing that "gambling debts are not enforceable by law" in Malta and most recently with liability management following the demise of Purple Lounge in April 2012) and very disappointingly seem to have washed their hands of any responsibility badly tarnishing their reputation in the process. From a player's persepctive, a Maltese licence clearly means very little so just be aware that they may well be reluctant to get involved when/if a problem arises.
Safety Factors - Software
Safety Indicators: Software Provider

Casinos that use one of the Big 4 software providers will normally display their logo on their site. If you see a logo for Wagerworks or Microgaming, I regard that as a good sign for 2 reasons. Firstly, their games are fair and I am informed by a previously reliable source that the casinos are not given the facility to alter payout percentages on any game (see the article on Casino Game Fairness for more information). Additionally, both these providers are comparitively expensive to licence software from and strict about who they licence too. This means their licencees are serious operations and also that the software provider will be likely to share responsibility for ensuring players are paid should an operator ever hit trouble.

Although not widely used, Wagerlogic software is also operated in a similar fashion and I would regard that as very safe and trustworthy. Two more software providers you will see regularly are Playtech and Realtime Gaming (RTG). I am convinced that their games are 100% fair, but they are less strict about who they licence to and I would not take the presence of their logo as a safety indicator on it's own. I do play at Playtech and RTG casinos, but woukd suggest you restrict your choices to those on my list of Playtech's and RTG's in the Online Casinos Grid App that I have tried and tested.
Trust Factors - The eCOGRA Seal
Player Protection Bodies

The online casino market is regulated in some countries, but not in others. As a result, there are one or two independent bodies that are able to assist players. The foremost of those is eCOGRA. Although some people believe that eCOGRA isn't as independent as it should be, they do offer a fair player disputes channel in my opinion. In addition, the Player Advocate site at Casinomeister offers a Pith-a-Bitch service for most online casinos along with an accreditation service which once again is independent. As a moderator on the forum there, clearly I believe that this is a useful service when a potential dispute arises, although it does not cover every online casino, so use the information above as your initial trust indicator and either eCOGRA or Casinomeister will offer you a backup if you require it.
 
A Note about Disputes

The majority of disputes that occur at safe online casinos revolve around bonuses or in some cases, getting cashouts processed (see my article on casino cashouts for help in avoiding issues). Players often fail to understand the implications and restrictions placed on signup bonuses and I would urge you to read my Casino Bonuses article before you decide to accept one. Players that don't choose an honest online casino stand a higher chance of running into other difficulties, mainly with getting paid out, so be sure to pick a safe casino. The majority of online casinos are safe, but to be sure, use my list of online casinos that I have personal knowledge of and you are far less likely to encounter a problem.