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Gambling has undergone a remarkable transformation in the last few decades. In the past you had to leave the front door of your house to partake in gambling activities. You perhaps might had to walk to the local bookmakers office in town, or even had to drive several hundreds of miles towards the nearest casino building.

With the advance of online gambling, all of this has changed. You can now gamble from the comfort of your own home using your computer or laptop. It is nowadays of course even possible to play your favourite casino game on your mobile phone! Needless to say, all of these developments have contributed to the great shift in the way how casino games are created.

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The advance of the internet

Obviously, there is a stark difference between creating a game for a land-based casino and creating one for an online casino. This development can be best seen when you look at table games. If you want to play roulette at a land-based casino, you need a croupier and a table with the roulette playing field printed on it, as well as a spinning wheel in which the croupier can launch the little ball. The online version of roulette works vastly different if you purely look at it from a technical perspective. For this you need a virtual simulation of the roulette game, for which you need specialised software to not only replicate the functioning of the game, but also to graphically show it on a screen.

When the internet rose to prominence in the 1990s it was a matter of time before also gaming and gambling providers would see the benefit of the worldwide web. If you have your software to create a casino game, and you can let people login into your virtual gaming world, they can use the game to bet online for money. In these years the first ever online casinos and online bookmakers were founded, using software specially created by software developers to allow players to gamble from their homes instead of having to go to a land-based casino.

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The creation of the first casino software

The biggest changes in the gambling industry appeared in the year 1994 in a rather unlikely place. The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda introduced a free trade bill that year which opened up the island for the gambling industry. Specifically, the new law allowed the local authorities to hand out gambling licences to companies wishing to open online casinos. This groundbreaking (and rather prophetic view of the future!) of the Caribbean islanders was soon followed by American bookmakers who started to offer their services online as well.

In these years the first specialised casino software was created allowing people to gamble online. It was the company Microgaming – which is still among the biggest and most reputable software companies – which created the package. With its headquarters on the Isle of Man, a well-known tax haven situated between England and the Republic of Ireland in the Irish Sea, has since only further developed the basic software of the 1990s into the modern software we can see nowadays with beautiful graphics and smooth interfaces. Another major feat in the advance of online gambling and casino software came on the name of the online security and encryption company Cryptologic, which was founded in 1995 to develop special software to allow for safe online monetary transaction.

The first real online casino

The year of 1995 was also the first year when online casinos opened shop on the internet using dedicated, freshly created casino software. There is however a bit of a debate to which casino was actually the first one to go online for the public. Some point at the Gibraltar-based Gaming Club Casino being the first to offer its services online. This casino was opened in October 1995 and is actually still in existence. Back then it used the newly developed Microgaming software which had just entered the market. Nowadays, it still uses Microgaming software, although needless to say we are talking here about the latest Microgaming games and programmes and not the old system from the 1990s.

Some other historians and gambling fanatics however point at another casino of being the first one ever. They say that although Gaming Club Casino might have gone online a bit earlier, another casino called InterCasino  was actually the first one on which a real monetary bet was placed by a player. We guess it all depends on whatever definition one would use for ‘the first online casino’ as it seems that both casinos have a valid claim! Another casino called Intertops was in 1996 however the first one where punters could wage on sport matches using the internet. Intertops was already active before as a bookmaker, although in those years gamblers had to use the phone to call in their bets. Using an Antigua licence, Intertops slowly developed into a reputable online bookies which still is a big player in the world of sports betting.

The amazing growth of online gambling

In the years which followed more companies set up online casinos. This had the effect that the demand for specialised casino software hugely increased. Many new software companies solely focussing on online gambling and casino games were set up in the late 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium. Betsoft, which was founded in the year 1999, and Amatic Industries, which was founded in 1993, are two examples of major casino software developers which started business in these years and who are still around creating state-of-the-art games.

The increase can easily be seen when looking at the sheer numbers. In 1995 there were just 15 online casinos to be found on the internet. In the year 1997 the number had already grown to about 200 online casinos. Needless to say the same growth could be observed when looking at casino profits. In the year 1997, companies involved in different kinds of online gambling had a total profit of 1 billion USD. This went up to a staggering 10.9 billion dollar in 2006!

The rise of online poker

Poker has always been one of the most important games for casino software providers. The game made its online debut in 1998 when a website called Planet Poker launched the first ever online poker room. The website is still in existence, although those passionate about poker can now only play here using virtual tokens instead of real money, as the website stopped offering monetary gambling transactions in 2007.

There were however other poker providers which managed to break through with a poker platform where people could bet with real money. In the year 1999 the website Paradise Poker was created, followed by Poker Stars and Party Poker in 2001. These famous websites have in common that they all used an online software platform by the name of ‘Proprietary’. This allowed for a huge growth in the popularity of poker. Arguably, without Proprietary, online poker would certainly not be as big as it currently is. The software platform made for a huge increase in gaming quality and smooth-running games without any hiccups despite the often slow and unreliable internet connections which were still common in those days. Poker Stars and Party Poker even grew to become the biggest poker websites in the world. Party Poker’s parent company Party Gaming was even the first online gambling company which entered the stock exchange, debuting on the London Stock Exchange in June 2005.

Software restrictions

Unfortunately, not every software platform is freely accessible all over the world. Due to the enormous growth of the online gambling industry, some governments decided to intervene, either out of protectionism to defend the interest of national companies and casinos, or out of reasons of public welfare in order to curb gambling addictions. The United States was one of the first countries to do so, coming with the so-called Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in 1999 which forbade many foreign companies to offer their services online to American citizens residing in the country. The winners of the law? Land-based casinos such as the ones in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, as well as American companies which could legally operate in the country (and thus could be taxed).

France also decided to regulate online gambling, but rather went the other direction. Instead of banning foreign companies offering their casino platforms to the French market, it started to regulate and tax them, with French government officials saying that its a more prudent step to take than to ban “several tens of thousands of gambling websites”. The European Union (EU) has even recently declared that European treaties and trade laws should allow every European company to offer its services in the entire single market area. This means for example that a casino based on Malta, a tax haven which is one of the biggest online casino hubs in the world, should be allowed to offer all their games to gamers in every EU country.

Unfortunately, many EU countries (as well as countries outside of the block) still have protective laws in place forbidding online casinos to offer their services to citizens living in a certain country. This means that a certain casino might be allowed to offer its games to players in Germany and France, but might see its platform blocked by the authorities in Romania or simply refuse players from the UK to sign up for an account in order to comply with British laws. There is unfortunately no golden rule when it comes to the accessibility of online casino websites and platforms. Casino A might be accessible in the UK, while at the same time Casino B might be closed for British players – all under the same laws! You would need to check with every casino in question whether or not you will be accepted as a player.

The main software providers

Nowadays there are literally dozens of software developers active in the online gaming market. Together, these software providers launch several hundred new releases each year. These can be games like slots or virtual table games like roulette or blackjack, but also entire gaming platforms and interfaces on which such games can run. These companies also develop live casino games, which allows you to connect through specialised software via a live video feed to a real-time blackjack, baccarat or roulette table. Arguably, the most important software companies nowadays are Amatic, Amaya, Bally, Betsoft, BigTimeGaming, Evolution Gaming, International Game Technology (IGT), Microgaming, NetEnt, Play’n Go, Playtech and Pragmatic Play. Games from these developers can be found back at most of the reputable online casinos on the web.

That said, there are dozens of other game designers making software packages and games which can be as great as those of the best-known companies. You might want to look out for games made by 1X2 Gaming, 2By2 Gaming, AdoptIt, AG Software, All41Studios, Amanet, Arrow’s Edge, Asylum Labs, Bally Wulff, Barcrest, Bet Digital, Blablabla Studios, Blueprint Gaming, Booming Games, Bulletproof Gaming, bwin.party, Cadillac Jack, Cayetano, Chance Interactive, Colossus Bet, Core Gaming, Electric Elephant, ELK Studios, Endemol Games, Extreme Live Gaming, Eyecon, Felt, Fortune Factory, Foxium, Fuga Gaming, GameArt, Games Lab, Gameswarehouse, Gamevy, Gamomat, Ganapati, Genesis, Genii, GiG, Grand Vision Gaming, Hacksaw Gaming. High Games, HoGaming, Inspired, iSoftbet. IWG, JFTW, Kalamba Games, Leander Games, Lightning Box Games, Live 5 Gaming, Magic Dreams, Merkur. MetaGU, Multi Commerce, Nextgen Gaming. Nolimit, Novomatic, Nyx Interactive, Old Skool Studios, Oryx Gaming, PariPlay, PearFiction Studios, Plain Gaming, Playko, Playson, Probability Jones, ProGaming, Push Gaming, Quickfire

Quickspin, Rabcat, Realistic, Realtime Gaming, Red Tiger, Red7, Reel NRG, Reflex Gaming, Relax Gaming, Seven Deuce Gaming, SG interactive, SG Scientific Games, Shuffle Master, Side City, Sigma Gaming, Skillzz Gaming, Sling Shot, Slingo, SpielDev, Spike Games, Stakelogic, STHLMGaming, Storm Gaming, Stormcraft Studios, SunFox Games, Thunderkick, TopEdge, Touchstone Games, Triple Edge, Triple Edge Studios, Wazdan, Williams Interactive, Wivis, Yggdrasil and YoloPlay.

Yes, that is a big list! It shows quite how big online gaming has become nowadays. If you encounter a casino game made by any of these software developers, you can rest assured that it is made by a highly professional company and that the casino game itself is of the highest quality and completely legit.

Why software providers matter

At Gambling City, we fully understand that for many players this whole story about casino software might sound a bit too technical or perhaps uninteresting. Of course, we all prefer to read about gaming tactics, exciting casino bonus offers and reviews of the newest online casinos and their games! We do however feel the need to emphasise that the actual software platform being used by an online casino, as well as the games which run on it, form an integral part of each and every casino. There is a reason why some online casinos are highly popular with the people, while others see a decrease in visitors or are perhaps even know to be among the less reputable of casinos. While there are many, many factors at play when it comes to what sets a great casino apart from an average casino, the software used is perhaps one of the most important ones.

If you play your favourite casino game, whether that is a certain slot machine, blackjack, poker or roulette, you do want to be assured that the outcome of the game is fair and honest. Sure, we all play for the fun of the game as well, but we do like those moments to see some bit of profit being returned! Equally important is the entire gaming experience. First of all, we want a highly reactive and smooth-running casino platform, making it easy to perform all functions needed at an online casino. Think for example about registering and updating your account, depositing money or withdrawing your casino winnings, searching for a certain game or browsing through the game library, a responsive live chat function of the help desk. There is so much more to it than just the games in question!

Of course, the games itself have to be good too. We do certainly not want to see games which crash halfway into your hand of cards or spinning of the wheel! We want games to work as smoothly on a mobile platform with a weak mobile connection as on your computer at home or work with fast cable internet, we want an uninterrupted video feed and high definition camera images if we play at a live casino. And last but not least, we want games that are visually stunning and well-designed. It is really not all about how much profit you make while gambling online! For those like us who like to gamble as a hobby, it is equally important how much fun you have while playing online. Only when you play at a casino using the games and platforms of the best of software developers, you can be sure to have such a gaming experience!

Random Number Generator

All casino games are games of chance. Of course, some casino games require some additional skills, tactics, experience or knowledge if you want to be successful, but the most important factor will always remain sheer luck, especially at games such as slots and roulette. This is because the result of each game being played is always completely random and never pre-determined. Each time when you spin the wheel of a slot machine or throw a dice the outcome will be completely random. Of course, this seems rather obvious when you throw a pair of dice in real, or if you visit a land-based casino and see a croupier launch a roulette ball into the wheel. But the exact same case happens in an online casino game, but the virtually!

Online casinos use something called the RNG (Random Number Generator) to determine the outcome of a game. This is a kind of software which ensures that the result of each game is completely random and cannot be predicted using formulas, mathematics and logic. It ensures that each game being played is fair and honest, that cheating (of both player and casino!) is impossible and that you have a honest shot at winning. Let’s explain the RNG by the example of a single dice being thrown in a virtual game. The RNG determines that you have an exact 1 out of 6 chance of throwing number six, just as you have again an exact 1 out of 6 chance to throw number 2.

RNG software explained by an example

Of course, on a short term it can still be possible that you might throw more times number two than number six. If you might throw the dice 10 times, the outcome could  be 6-2-4-5-3-1-2-4-1-3. Do note that the RNG only determines each single throw what the possibility is of a certain outcome, namely that on a single throw each number has a one out of six shot. Beginning gamblers (or those without mathematical knowledge) often make the mistake by assuming that this can be extrapolated. If you (or the computer using a RNG) will throw a dice 60 times, you will of course not always come to the situation where all numbers on the dice will be throw exactly ten times. While this can happen, it is far more likely that the spread will be different. It can even happen that out of 60 throws, you might throw the number 6 a total of 25 times, much higher than you would initially expect.

Only when using a much, much greater spread (for example, simulating a game of dice in which a single dice is thrown a million times) will you see that most probably all thrown numbers will be much closer together, having an average result which will not be much different than the 1 out of 6 chance! The RNG is simply there to make sure that on each individual throw there is a 1 out of 6 chance that one certain number will fall. So even if you throw the first time a six, you will again have a one out of six chance to throw another six the second turn.

No artificial intelligence or pre-programmed streaks

A common misconception is that casinos use software to tweak games or to keep track which numbers have fallen and which not. Take for example the game of roulette. Let’s say that we will do a test by spinning a ball a total of ten times in the roulette wheel and keep track on the colour of which it will fall. On the first, second and third spin, the ball happens to drop on the colour red. A lot of inexperienced gamblers (or those playing purely on intuition) might think that the chance of the ball now falling on black is much greater, having already hit red so many times and that the ball should drop an equal amount of times on red as well as on black. A number of gamblers might be equally mistaken that this game of roulette is tweaked towards red as they would say the odds are actually greater for the ball again falling on red, as the wheel somehow favours this colour. In reality, both are completely mistaken and are just basing themselves on intuition and not on facts.

Simply put: each spin counts as an entirely new bet, and the RNG (or the croupier in a land-based casino or live casino game) have no influence on which colour will come up next. It solely determines the standard possibilities of something to happen, namely that on each spin (on French roulette) there is an 18 out of 37 possibility that the ball will drop on a red number, an 18 out of 37 possibility that it will be black, and a one out of 37 possibility that it will fall on the green number 0. Whether the first spin is black or red has absolutely zero influence on what the next spin will show!

Return to Player

Another interesting aspect of casino software which is important for a player to note is the Return to Player factor, often abbreviated as RTP. This is mostly shown as a percentage and tells you how much of the money which is bet on a certain game is expected to be returned to the players as winnings. RTP percentages can vary depending on the casino where you play. A certain game might have a slightly different RTP at casino A compared to casino B. The RTP is also dependent on the exact game inside a single casino, as for example casino A might offer ten different slot machines, all with a different RTP.

These RTPs are pre-determined by the casino in cooperation with the software provider. They both do have to comply with national laws however. For example, a casino will not allowed to offer a slot machine with a worthless RTP of 1 percent in which out of each 100 dollars spent by gamblers it would on average only pay out a single dollar back to the players as winnings. Local gambling authorities would never allow for such unfairly tweaked games to operate on the market. Many casinos do nowadays publish the RTP rates on their slots.

RTP rates

On average, you will find the following games to have these kinds of RTP rates.

  • Slot machines highly depend on the exact type and game, but most of them have the RTP set between 92 en 98 percent.
  • European Roulette: 97.3 percent
  • American Roulette: 94.7 percent
  • Baccarat: 98.94 percent
  • Blackjack: 99.56 percent
  • Video Poker: 99.54 percent
  • Caribbean Stud Poker: 94.78 percent
  • Pai Gow Poker: 97.3 percent

Examples of RTP

Let’s take for example a player who plays on a slot machine with a RTP rate of 90 percent. This does not mean that for every 100 euro which the player puts in the slot he will only see back 90 euro. It does however say that there is a house edge of the casino of ten percent on the long run. On a short run, a player could as easily spend all his 100 euro on the slot without winning a single penny, but he could as easily win the one million euro jackpot! The RTP should never be seen as a number which tells you anything about the amount of money or chances of winning. It only says that on average on a long term, the casino can expect to keep ten percent of all money waged on the slot as profit, while the other 90 percent of all coins being put in the slot machine will go back to the players.

If for example players put a combined total of one million euro in this slot, it means that 900,000 euro is expected to be returned to the player. As some players might only win a handful of euros, while another person might win an enormously high prize of 500,000 euro, you still cannot know in advance what the results will be for you! You might as well get lucky, but you could also squander all your pocket change. That said, you do of course in general want to look for a slot with a high RTP rather than a low one, as more money will be made available on these slots as potential casino winnings for the player. Just remember that the RTP does not say anything about what you can expect as a single player, but rather what the collective of all gamblers combined can expect to win back on all money spent.

House advantage

On average, the RTP of an online casino as a whole will be in between 93 and 98 percent. If a casino has a RTP of 93 percent, it means that of a combined 10 million dollar which gamblers are betting, a total of 9,300,000 will be returned to the players as profit. Never forget rule number one with gambling: in the end on the long run the house has the edge and will always win!

Of course, you can still tweak your game to increase your chances of winning by making sure you only select the best games to play. If you look at the RTP rates which we published above, you will see that slots often have the worst RTP rates and that blackjack has the highest RTP rate. Based on this, you would say that blackjack would be by far the best game for a gambler to play if they want to win money. The truth is however not as black and white and is a bit more complicated than that!

Slots vs. table games

There is a difference in perception of RTPs when it comes to table games compared to slot machines. Let’s start with the RTP of a table game such as blackjack. It is absolutely true that blackjack is generally seen as one of the casino game in which the casino has the lowest house edge. This makes it a great game to play for you as a player, but of course does not assure that you will win or that your losses will be small! The house edge of blackjack is only small if you play a perfect game and make the right in-game decisions based on mathematics instead of intuition. If you follow intuition, you will quickly see the house edge rise substantially! If you follow pre-determined basic tactics such as the ones explained on our blackjack page, the house edge will be extremely low.

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For slots we could perhaps say the complete opposite. As slot machines are all pure games of chance, there are no real tactics and tricks that will improve your chances of winning or to lower the house edge. That said, you cannot use this is an argument that playing slots is necessarily a much worse game to play than blackjack if you have the goal of winning a nice sum of money. Sure, the RTP might be lower on a slot machine than blackjack, but slots has one major benefit over blackjack in that you can potentially win a giant amount of money with a single spin, while you cannot win a similar amount with a single hand in blackjack. Let’s put it like this: if you have a single dollar as your bankroll and use it on a single hand of blackjack, you can only double your amount of money if you happen to beat the house as it just pays out even (1:1) and you win a single dollar on your one dollar bet. If you however throw your dollar in a jackpot slot, you might as well instantly hit that multi-million jackpot, or perhaps some smaller amount!

Sure, chances of winning that hand of blackjack are much higher of that single slot machine spin winning something, let alone the grand prize, but it is all about perspective here. If your goal is to try to win the jackpot you would still opt for the slot machine and not blackjack, as with a low bankroll you might be able to win some pocket change after sitting an hour behind the table, but you are unlikely to get home with a big amount if you do not already start some high stakes betting with a large bankroll. Some players might prefer their chances at slots, while others might opt for blackjack. We really cannot say that one of them is wrong – both are probably doing exactly what is right for them!

Checks for game fairness

Some players might still be a bit sceptical whether or not gaming software of online casinos are all fair and honest. If you are one of them, you are in luck, as there really is no need to believe the casino on the operator’s blue eyes. All casino software, games, numbers and accounts are all regularly checked by auditors of independent testing organisation as well as those from national gaming authorities. They check whether advertised RTP percentages are matching with reality, that the RNG of each casino games does indeed give a completely random outcome, and that all books are balanced and there is no cheating whatsoever with no discrepancies. If you play at a fully licensed online casino you can rest assured that there is regulatory oversight and that all games which you play are legit.

Of course, we always recommend you to only play at an online casino which is fully licensed. All casinos reviewed on this website have all their licences and can be trusted. You should never trust a casino which is not open about this – all legit casinos communicate openly their licence number and government body which is regulating them. Many casinos will also have different logos published on their website. These can most often be found on the bottom of the page or on a tab called ‘about us’ or ‘information’ or something similar. You will find here the logos of such government regulatory bodies and other organisations which might audit the casino or perform quality checks.

Independent auditors

There are many independent consumer organisations active in the online gambling business. Such organisations do occasionally audit online casinos and test their games to check whether or not the outcomes are indeed random and honest, handing out certificates if a certain casino passes their tests. Well-known and reputable organisations doing all of this are eCOGRA, iTechLabs, Gaming Laboratories International, Interactive Gaming Council and The Gambling Commission. You might very well see a certain online casino proudly showcasing a badge on their website handed out by one of these organisations!

There are a number of certificated handed out by these organisations, which all tell you something about a certain aspect of the online casino. Some of these certificates are:

  • Certified Software Seal
  • Affiliate Trust Seal
  • Safe and Fair Seal
  • Certification of a Live Dealer
  • Percentage Payout Report
  • Randomness Review

Certified Software Seal

The Certified Software Seal is perhaps the best-known certificate and logo which you might be able to spot on an online casino website. Only casinos which participate and follow the eCOGRA rules are allowed to showcase the logo. The certificate is proof that all software and games of the online casino in question has been tested by this organisation and can be relied upon to be honest and reliable. Among others, it checks whether RNG in casino games really work in practice as they should do on paper. Often, a casino is monitored for several months to check if reality indeed matches the theory that all gaming outcomes should be random and honest, paying out enough money back to the players of each casino game.

TST (Technical Systems Testing) Certified

This is another well-known certificate in the world of online gambling. TST was founded in 1993 and is a reputable independent testing organisation which regularly audits the systems of online casinos and other providers of gambling activities. If a casino is tested by TST and presents its logo, it means that the software which the casino in question uses complies with the strict rules and demands laid out by this organisation.

Verisign

Verisign is another certificate which you might find back on an online casino website. That said, Verisign is not something unique to the world of online gambling but is active in the entire internet world. It is an American company which ensures the security, stability and resiliency of key internet infrastructure and services, including the .com and .net domains. A Verisign certificate is a sign that the organisation has verified the data flows on a website and that they deem all personal information as well as data and money flows to be sufficiently secured and protected by special protocols and encryption tools.