5 best online casinos of 2014
You’re spoilt for choice like never before when it comes to online gambling.
There are literally hundreds of online casinos promoting the same things: bankroll-boosting bonuses, virtuous VIP schemes, and grin-inducing games.
It’s easy, as a player, to get lost with all that’s out there, and it’s confusing as to which operators are the real deal, and which are just interested in bleeding your accounts dry.
Here to help you out, we bring you what we think are the five best online casinos of 2014 (not necessarily the best rated of all time – but the casinos who have come to the fore and made their mark THIS year). We’ve evaluated promotions, customer support and company developments among other factors.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, in reverse order…
5 – Big Dollar Casino
The sad thing about the online casino party is that not everyone is welcome. Some countries such as the United States have cracked down on online gambling almost completely, while nations like France and Spain operate corralled markets which restrict access to casinos without a domestic license. This means that players from these countries face real difficulties in finding places to play and ways to fund their accounts.
The US is slowly warming to the idea of allowing legalised online gambling, but still most sites refuse to deal with US-based players for fear of violating the UIGEA (2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act).
A few sites have started to become more willing to accept US-based players, and players from other restricted counties. One site that seems to be leading the way in brotherly wagering love is Big Dollar Casino. Only players from Poland and South Africa are prohibited from playing there!
The casino is licensed in the small south Caribbean island of Curaçao, and such falls out of the jurisdiction of the US and other restricted countries.
Big Dollar has been open since 2009, but over the past year or so has made huge strides in expanding its player base. The site also maximises its audience with a mobile version of its casino software, and a download version that’s suitable for Mac, plus Mac OSX users enjoy the cool offer of a 100 percent matched first deposit bonus of up to $200. This does leave them slightly short-changed though, as Windows users can grab a 100 percent first deposit bonus of up to $500.
The Big Dollar Casino adopts a no-nonsense approach to the discipline of online gambling, and its open-arms policy (aside from Poles and South Africans) is surely going to see the casino continue to flourish into 2015 and beyond.
2014 has been another great year for the impish Irish bookmaker – who hold the coveted number one spot for ‘online casino’ in Google.
As ever, it has not been a year without controversy for Paddy Power, with the bookies being condemned for offering odds on the outcome of the trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius for the alleged murder of his girlfriend (for which they were forced by the Advertising Standards Authority to issue an apology), and for circulating a fake twit-pic of an aerial shot of the Brazilian rainforest with the phase “C’MON ENGLAND PP” spelled out in downed trees during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In September 2014 Paddy Power courted yet more controversy when it filmed an advert with right-wing politician Nigel Farage, leader of the UK’s equally controversial UK Independence Party. The advert was for golf’s Ryder Cup and featured noted Euro-sceptic Farage announcing that he was cheering on “Team Europe” for the tournament.
Despite their apparent love of controversy, Paddy Power still provides an excellent online casino and one of the best welcome bonuses going – a 100 percent matched deposit bonus up to £/€300 and £/€5 free. It also offers an exceptional poker room complete with the free download of a hold’em odds calculator, and a mobile version of its site for smartphone and tablet users.
The only problem for Paddy Power is that by now, most people with an interest in online gambling already probably have a Paddy Power account. If you haven’t opened an account at Paddy Power, then why on earth not?
3 – Casino Room
You probably know the score when it comes to online casino sites. Pop along to a casino’s home page and you’ll see a menu with your gaming options, a few illustrations of the top slots games, and an all-important banner ad promising you plenty of riches if you’d only be so good as to hand over your credit card number.
Kudos then for Casino Room for trying to at least do something a little different. Casino Room has taken the principles of gamification and social networking to see how such ideas would apply to an online casino. The answer seems to be – very well indeed!
At Casino Room, you’re not just competing against the house – you’re competing against your fellow Casino Room occupants. There’s an overall leaderboard for the amount of cash that’s been won, per day, per week and per month. You even have your own profile at the site where your big wins are championed and your big losses – we assume – are swept neatly under the carpet.
There are also badges you can be awarded and achievements to unlock, just as with the kind of games you’ve probably played at one time on Facebook. Achieve something really significant and you just might find yourself and your achievement making front page news at the site.
All this effort by Casino Room really helps to build a decent sense of community, which is far better than toiling away in a darkened room playing blackjack on your own. It’s also reassuring to see the big wins others have landed, as it brings confidence that with a bit of luck, you’ll be able to achieve the same.
The site has an excellent range of table games, slots and instant win games, plus a live casino featuring blackjack and roulette. There’s also the tasty treat of the site’s “out of this world” welcome bonus of 100 percent up to £350, although it does come with a side order of a x45 play-through requirement.
Casino Room really needs to be applauded for attempting something new, in deference to the rather tired, standard template used by most online casinos. If social gaming is your thing, and you fancy a responsible flutter where real money is involved, then a trip to the Casino Room may be well worth your while.
2 – Guts Casino
Just being pipped to the post and having to settle for the silver medal is Guts Casino, who are mere babes in the world of online casinos, having been founded in June, 2013. So what makes Guts so great?
The internet is full of reports of even prominent casino brands conveniently forgetting the combination to their safe when the time comes to paying out winnings. For big wins, some casinos ask for passport scans, certified copies of a birth certificate sent by post – as well adopting a number of other spoiling tactics (allegedly) designed to make withdrawing winnings unnecessarily troublesome.
The attitude of Guts is completely different. Backed by their slogan “Why Wait?”, the site boasts that it’s capable of making payments within two hours – and there’s plenty of independent evidence on the web that Guts are definitely not “greedy” Guts.
Guts is engineered by EveryMatrix, an iGaming software supplier who are partnered with the likes of BetSoft, Evolution Gaming, IGT, Microgaming and NetEnt to provide all those company’s best games in one super-neat package. This allows Guts gamers to enjoy all that the best wagering software can offer.
Guts was created by a group of talented iGaming pros who wanted to create the kind of casino they themselves would most want to play at, with the emphasis on speedy payouts, exceptional customer support and a varied selection of convenient funding options. They obtained a licence from the Lottery and Gaming Authority of Malta, and Guts was born. The site is home to all the best table games, slots and video poker, plus live blackjack, roulette, baccarat and three card poker.
If you want to spend time in a casino that’s unlikely to leave you feeling queasy, then Guts Casino is where you should be heading.
And the winner is…
1 – BGO Casino
BGO has made massive strides this year, and jumps in at top of the pops as the best online casino of 2014.
Launched as recently as 2011, BGO initially chose to concentrate on bingo, but in 2013 decided that the world of online casinos seemed far more attractive, and began the switch with three distinct brands – BGO Vegas, BGO Casino and BGO Macau – fuelled by WagerWorks and NetEnt software.
BGO’s first master-stroke was to obtain a small amount of celebrity endorsement, and from a small amount of celebrity! They snapped up Verne “Mini Me” Troyer of Austin Powers fame to be their diminutive spokesperson. Verne starred as “The Boss” in a TV ad where he infiltrated roulette wheels and slot machines in an attempt to prevent BGO casino customers from winning jackpots.
BGO followed up Vern with another flagship signing: Dan Bilzerian. The Instagram king and poker playboy has penned a $15 million marketing deal as BGO’s ambassador.
BGO’s next big win was the colourful re-branding of their attractive and extremely functional web-site, which features their Vegas, Casino and Macau brands, along with Bingo, Sports and Mobile.
The BGO Vegas brand concentrates purely on slots, with access to such favourites as Starburst, Da Vinci Diamonds and Jack & the Beanstalk. BGO Casino adds table games to the mix, and BGO Macau is for live play, with baccarat, blackjack and roulette available.
More brownie points have been won by BGO for their entertaining “Beat the Boss” promotion. Each month every player is given the chance of beating “The Boss” who announces a different challenge every month. For example in one month, to receive a 50 percent reload bonus up to £25, casino players needed to complete four mini challenges. These ranged from completing 10 spins on roulette to wagering more than £1,000 in total across all slot games. There are usually four challenges in total each month, with each containing four mini challenges.
Additionally, all players at BGO can win free slots spins on a daily basis. There’s also neat wall of “Wanted Players” in The Boss’s office which lists the punters who have infuriated BGO’s pint-sized patriarch by winning a sizeable jackpot. Naturally, all these bonuses come with conditions attached, but for once they are not too onerous. For example the 200 percent welcome bonus up to £200 (with 20 free spins a day on Starburst for nine days) has a tiny play-through of 5x, although only bingo counts 100 percent to the wagering requirements. Most slots and scratch cards contribute 25 percent, and table games such as blackjack and baccarat, 2.5 percent.
BGO has taken the gambling scene by storm in 2014 with a well-rounded product and excellent branding strategy. But how long can it keep its crown? With the new UK Gambling Tax Reforms due to become law on December 1, there’s bound to be industry upheavel.
For now though, there’s a good chance BGO could be your right casino.