How Do Online Casinos Work?

Legal Requirements and Licensing for Online Casinos

Changes in legislation in 2011 allowed states to set their own gambling laws, with a 2018 act adding the ability to allow online sports betting. Many sites combine the two, such as BetRivers. 

The US online casino industry was initially surprisingly slow to grow, especially considering the huge boost New Jersey’s economy received after the state created its own online casino industry in 2013. 

Things have sped up in recent years, however, and some states, such as Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have followed the Garden State’s lead and now allow online casino play. The industry is growing, for sure, and international operators like Betfair have started making waves in US markets. 

Any casino site operating in a state in the US where gambling online is legalized must be licensed by the Gaming Control Board (GCB) of that particular state. These boards have carte blanche to accept or reject licensing applications. If a site is not regulated by the GCB of your state, do not play at it. Licenses from global regulators such as the UK Gambling Commission and Malta Gaming Authority are also good indicators of a trustworthy casino. 

Be sure to check the individual rules for your state to ensure online casino play is legal where you are. 

Types of Casinos Online

In the modern iGaming world, most casino sites are instant play. There was a time when downloading software to your desktop computer was common – if not a necessity – in order to enjoy the best gaming options. These days, almost all big-name casinos allow you to sign up and immediately start playing top-quality slots, table games, and more without having to download anything. 

Mobile Casinos

The one place instant play doesn’t take precedent is in the mobile casino world. While most sites will offer an instant play casino accessible from your device’s web browser, the best casinos provide their players with dedicated mobile apps. Native casino apps have several advantages including instant play, mobile friendly options like fingerprint login, and push notifications that will keep you up to date with the newest games and promotions on offer. 

Casino Software

Casino software comes in a few shapes and sizes, but there are certain things to look out for. For example, a random number generator (RNG) is vital for all casino games. An RNG ensures randomness for every spin of a slot game or every deal in each round of video poker. There is one exception here, and that’s live dealer gaming. The software here is different, allowing for live streaming combined with online casino play so you can enter a live environment from your computer. 

Mobile gaming is increasingly important, and the switch from Flash to HTML5 software has made a significant difference to usability. Games now offer seamless playing experiences, with designs that alter to suit the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets. While native apps for Android and IOS work best, many casinos also offer an excellent mobile browser site. 

Providers of casino software

Some sites offer games from tens or even hundreds of different software developers, so how do you know which is best? 

Some providers stand out, Microgaming and NetEnt, for example, are amongst the true giants of the industry. It’s difficult for new names to break through, but it’s not impossible – as Yggdrasil proved in just a couple of years from its 2013 inception. Evolution Gaming made a huge impact thanks to its live dealer option, to such an extent that the developer acquired NetEnt for $2.1 billion in 2020. 

We’re waiting to see who will be the next to make a splash, and we suggest keeping an eye on the impact of upstart software providers NoLimit City and Relax Gaming over the coming years.

Understanding the Variety of Games 

Live dealers

Live dealer games are one of the newest additions to the online casino world. Bridging the gap between virtual and land-based gaming, these games are streamed from brick-and-mortar casinos or state-of-the-art studios around the world. Hosted by skilled and experienced croupiers, there are no random number generators here. Blackjack cards are dealt and roulette wheels are spun by real people, giving that more immersive experience. 

The most well-known provider of live dealer games is Evolution Gaming, and the developer offers classic casino options as well as game show style titles like Dream Catcher and Monopoly Live. You’ll also find top-quality live casino options from NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, and others at the best online casinos. 


Video casino games usually come in one of two forms, video slots and video poker. Video poker is an RNG offering that works differently from the conventional table game. You’re looking to get a five-card poker hand that’s good enough to land you on the paytable. In the Jacks or Better variant, for example, you need a pair of jacks or higher to win a cash payout. 

Video slots are a variety of slots (see below) created using 3D graphics and animations. These slots usually look better and come with a wider array of features like free spins and pick and click rounds. 


The rise of online bingo created a whole new dimension to the immensely popular land-based game. From traditional variants like 90-ball and 75-ball bingo to Speed Bingo and Blackout Bingo, there’s a lot of choices here. The idea is always the same, match called numbers to those on your card faster than your opponents or before a clock runs out. Wins are gained for filling a full card or getting different patterns, depending on the variant you’re playing. 


The most popular online casino game type, and also the one with the most choice, there are thousands upon thousands of slots to choose from at the best betting sites. The idea is always the same, you need to match symbols on a payline – or sometimes in a cluster – to win payouts. However, there can be huge differences in the execution of the concept. 

Look out for bonus features that offer different ways to pick up cash prizes. Some slots have progressive jackpots, too, with the likes of Mega Moolah (Microgaming) and Age of the Gods (Playtech) offering top prizes that regularly reach into the millions. 

Table games

The table game category at an online casino usually has the most sub-categories within it. While there are numerous RNG table game options – not to mention live dealer titles – the most common are blackjack, roulette, poker, and baccarat. The top online casinos offer several variants of all the classic table games. 

Understanding Casino Bonuses

Sign up offers

Sign up offers are bonuses you’ll receive when you register and make your first deposit at an online casino. These promotions usually consist of a matched deposit bonus. For example, a site might offer a 100% match up to $200. The best welcome bonuses at USA online casinos offer matches for the first few deposits as opposed to just the initial one. 

Free spins

Available as part of a welcome offer or as a promotion for existing players, free spins give you the chance to have a set number of plays on selected slots as a bonus. 

This bonus allows the opportunity to pick up a little win without risking your own funds and also lets you get to know how a slot works before gambling with real money. 

No deposit required

No deposit required bonuses are sought after promotions for online casino players. This promotion will offer you a small amount of bonus cash – or a set number of bonus spins – just for signing up to an online casino, without having to make a deposit. 

Terms and conditions

Most online casino bonus offers will come with T&Cs attached. One of the most common is a wagering requirement – which means you have to bet the bonus money a certain number of times before withdrawing winnings. 

Other caveats include caps on the amount you can win and time limits on how long you have to play through your bonus funds and meet any wagering requirements. 

Casino Banking Methods

Debit and credit cards such as Maestro, Mastercard, and VISA are the traditional banking options at online casinos. A safe and secure way to deposit and withdraw, many players are most comfortable paying this way. However, this option involves sharing your banking information directly with the casino site, and withdrawals can take several days. Another issue is that some US banks will also not allow direct payments to casino sites. 


One of the most popular alternatives to credit card payments, PayPal is a globally trusted e-wallet. This method allows players to keep their banking information private, as payments are made directly from your PayPal wallet. 

You can either deposit into your wallet directly, or allow PayPal to act as a middle man for payments directly from your bank account. PayPal is an effective way to sidestep any potential issues with your bank not allowing casino payments, and withdrawals are usually much faster. There may be fees associated with payments to PayPal itself, but an American online casino should never charge you for depositing or withdrawing this way. 


There are numerous other payment methods available for deposits and withdrawals at your favorite online casino sites. Alongside PayPal, other e-wallets like MuchBetter, NETELLER, and Skrill are also hugely popular with players. Acting in a similar way to PayPal, these are safe ways to deposit and ensure speedy, if not instant withdrawal times. Be aware that NETELLER and Skrill deposits are often ineligible for casino bonuses. 

Another popular method is Paysafecard. These vouchers can be bought over the counter at a retailer, you then enter the attached PIN at an online casino to make a deposit. While you can’t usually withdraw using this banking option, Paysafecard now offers online accounts, so it is sometimes possible – although still rare. 

Some casinos also accept a Play+ card, another prepaid card that can be used for deposits, and very occasionally for withdrawals. Always check an online casino’s cashier section to ensure your chosen payment method is available. 

Casino Returns and Payments

Payout speeds

Payout speeds vary depending on your chosen casino and payment method. Some US online casinos will process and release withdrawals in a matter of hours, while others can take three days or longer. The processing time should be stated in the site’s terms and conditions and, of course, we’ll bring you that information, too. 

As for payment methods, as mentioned above, credit card withdrawals can take a few days, while e-wallet transactions should arrive in your online account as soon as they are released by the casino site – or at the least, very soon after. 


Online casinos shouldn’t charge fees for depositing money into your account. While withdrawals are often free, too, it’s always worth checking. Some casinos will charge for withdrawals using certain methods, while others may attach a blanket fee to all payouts.