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A Beginner’s Guide to Online Gambling
 
by Ted Loh

Types of Online Casinos
There are a number of types of online casinos at which you can play. Many of them are Java-based and load directly in your browser. Some of them use Flash or Shockwave, which also runs in your browser but may require the Flash (or Shockwave) plug-ins available from Macromedia.

Both of these types are usually referred to as no-download casinos, even though you have to download graphics and sounds every time you play. The biggest advantage of a no-download casino is that it can be played on most computers and operating systems, and many of these will also work on WebTV.

Then there are the downloadable software casinos, which will only run on Windows-based platforms. File sizes generally range from 5-15 megabytes, so you should make sure you are definitely planning to play at this casino before investing the time to download. If you run Windows, I recommend that you stick to these download casinos. They are generally more stable and secure, and once downloaded minimize communications between your computer and the casino game server, making them ideal for those of you with dial-up connections.

Bonuses
One of the biggest advantages to online gambling is the wide availability of bonuses that online casinos offer. Some casinos give you money right off the bat for you to test out their games. Others require you to make a deposit in order to receive a bonus, which is either a percentage of your deposit added to your account, or a fixed amount received for an exact deposit of X dollars.

For example, Casino A might give you $10 free just for downloading, and $40 additional when you make your first deposit of $100 within seventy-two hours.

Casino B may offer you a bonus of 25% of the amount you deposit up to a certain limit.

The reason that online casinos can offer bonuses like this is simply because they have a much lower overhead cost. Less staff, less equipment, no construction required, etc. And on top of that, they make you wager your deposit (and usually your bonus) at least three times over before you can collect your winnings.

It is very important that you read the terms and conditions which are either posted on the web site or included in your email offer—how many times you must wager the deposit and the bonus, the validity period of the bonus offer, and which games you can or cannot play in order to ensure your winnings are valid.

Making a Deposit
So you’re ready to make your first real money bet? There are usually a number of methods by which you can send the casino money.

Firstly, there’s your credit card: Visa and Mastercard are commonly accepted by nearly every online casino. However, many of you in North America may find that your credit card purchase will be rejected.

This is not because the casino doesn’t want your money; it’s because of a regulation at credit card companies, which forces the merchant (the casino) to identify the transaction as 7995: the purchase of tokens for the purpose of Internet Gambling. Most banks in the US are afraid to accept these high-risk transactions and automatically reject the purchase.

If this is the case, you have two alternative methods of using your credit card—by opening up an account at either PayPal or FirePay. You can tie your credit card to these accounts and the purchase will be identified as a pseudo-cash transaction instead of Internet Gambling transaction. These two methods are now the most common ways by which North American residents deposit money into online casinos—and in some cases casinos will offer an additional bonus if you make a deposit by one of these methods.

Many casinos also offer incentives for making a purchase by Western Union—you can use your credit card to send funds by Western Union online, or you can always go to your nearest Western Union agent and hand over cash. Some casinos will even allow you to deposit money by other methods such as ACH (which is basically an electronic check), or by wire transfer, Neteller or Layeway.

Playing the Games
Most casinos offer a pretty good selection of table games. At the very least, you should be able to find blackjack, baccarat and roulette online; many casinos offer additional table games like Caribbean Stud, Craps, Red Dog, even Casino War and Three Card Poker—but sometimes the names are slightly changed.

Video poker is one of the more popular gambling games—while a few casinos only offer one or two types of video poker, the best casinos may offer as many as 10–15 different games, and some even offer multi-hand video poker.

And then there are slots: hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of different slot machines. Whether it’s single-line, three-line, 9-line, 3- or 5-reel, progressives, bonus games, you name it, they’ve got it somewhere on the Net. The best are the progressive slots, which often pay more—and hit more frequently—than the progressives you’ll see in Vegas. The two largest portals that feature these games are Jackpot Madness and Jackpot Mania.

All of these games are simple to learn—usually just a click or two—and they play as fast as, or faster than, land-based casinos. Some are multi-player, some are single-player; but after you take a break for dinner, or perhaps take the dog out for a walk, there will always be a seat waiting for you when you come back.

Is Online Gambling Safe?
That depends. There are still rogue casino operators out there that are looking for a quick kill but they are in the minority. Most online casinos today are honest, reputable and make payments in a timely manner.

Online Gambling is Fun!
Online casino gambling is here to stay—it’s fun, always available, and you have more of a chance of winning than you do at a land-based casino. So get your snacks and a few beers ready, turn on your computer, log on to the Internet and start up your favorite casino software—pretty soon you’ll need to travel to Vegas to get away from your computer, perhaps paid for with your online winnings!

Macromedia -- www.macromedia.com
PayPal -- www.paypal.com
FirePay -- www.firepay.com
Western Union -- www.westernunion.com
Neteller -- www.neteller.com
Layeway -- www.layeway.com
Jackpot Madness -- www.jackpotmadness.com

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