The question “Are online casinos rigged?”” is perhaps one of the most, if not the most frequently asked questions about online casinos. Due to the number of technologies involved, all working together behind the scene, online casinos can be perceived as black boxes that can be easily manipulated to skew the odds to operators’ favour. This suspicion is not unreasonable for the relatively unformed new customers.
No doubt, out of the thousands of the available online casino brands worldwide, there definitely will be a small number of rogue online casino operators are out there to make some quick cash, then disappear before they are caught to face the consequences. However, it would be incorrect to say that every online casino or the entire online gambling industry all have their games rigged or fixed.
In other words, the vast majority of online casinos are in the business to make a profit, hopefully, continual long term profit. Otherwise, reputation ruin will simply destroy this industry rather than seeing its continuous booming in the past 20 years.
So, instead of asking “Are online casino rigged?” a better question would be “Are all the online casinos rigged?”. and The answer is a definitive “No!”. The vast majority of online casinos play by the rules. They can profit nicely alone from the houses’ advantages on games of chances.
But you may ask “How do I know which online casinos are safe to play at?”, “How to avoid rogue online casinos?”
It depends on several factors. The most important one is if you are playing at Jurisdictions that regulate the online casino industry. In such Jurisdictions, there are specific laws that regulate and monitors online casinos in operation, hence protecting players. The UK is the earliest and the largest regulated jurisdictions for gambling. For online casino operators to legally offer online casino betting to UK customers, they must be licensed by Gambling Commission UK or UKGC.
The simplest game of chance is the coin-flipping game. Since a coin only has two sides, the head, and the tail, flipping a coin only has two outcomes. Therefore, only one of the two outcomes can happen each time it is flipped. When a perfect coin is flipped a large number of times, the percentage of times it lands on its head will equal the percentage of times it lands on its tail, i.e. 50%. And one bet on either side, he/she only has a 50% of chance of winning. This 50% is the theoretical chance or true chance of winning a coin toss.
Since the chance of winning and losing both equal 50%, thus there is no advantage whatsoever on betting on either the head or the tail. The outcome of coin toss does not bias towards neither the head nor the tail. In essence, the coin-flipping game is a fair game.
In the same coin flipping game, a player bets £1 on the head. If he was lucky enough, and the outcome of the coin toss turn out to be head, then he wins £1, so he now has £2 in total, in other words, he has doubled his money. But if he bet on the tail, but the coin toss outcome was head, then he loses the original £1 bet he has placed.
Now let’s change the rule of the game slightly, if he still bets £1 on the head, but will only receive 99 pence instead of £1 if the coin toss turns out to be the head, and he will lose £1 if the outcome of the coin flip is tail. What happened here is, the probability of winning the game is remain unchanged, still 50-50, but the winning has become smaller. This coin toss game has now become an unfair game.
If a casino is to offer the above coin toss game where for each £1 bet placed, you will only receive 99 pence if you win. This 1 penny between your winning from the casino and your loss to the casino is the advantage of the casino or the house edge.
You may say, that is unfair. Precisely, since casinos are businesses. they are there to make a profit. The difference between what player wins and loses is the casino’s profit. Otherwise, there will be no incentives for casinos to exist.
Rogue casino operators are too greedy to be content with the profit generated from offering games with a house edge. They want more money by whatever means possible. This is what each player must look out for.
Using coin flipping game as an example, if a coin has been tampered with, causing it to lands on tails more often than heads, i.e. 52% 48%. This is the true probability of winning if betting on the tail and the head respectively.
If players are unaware that a fiddled coin was used when playing coin flipping game, and mistakenly think that betting on heads and tails has an equal likelihood of winning, i.e. 50%, over time, this is where their expectations will be met with disappointments, even worse, huge monetary loss.
Therefore, players must make sure that the games they’re playing are indeed what has been advertised, e.g, a 50-50 chance coin flipping game must produce a 50-50 outcome when the game is played a large number of times.
After large numbers of plays, if a game’s outcome differs from the theoretical probability in a statistically significant way, then it is more than likely that the game has been rigged.
Coin flipping has only 2 possible outcomes, therefore it is the most simple example to demonstrate how a game of chance can be rigged. A single dice toss has 6 possible outcomes, whereas a two-dice toss has 36 possible outcomes. In casino games, most games have many outcomes, but the principle is the same. Game rigging makes the real outcome probability deviates from the theoretical probability of the advertised game.
For example, any number of a roulette game must have an equal chance of winning, this mechanism is determined entirely randomly by Uniform Probability Distribution. All games’ outcomes must be determined randomly using random number generators. This is to ensure the outcomes of the games are free from human interference.
You may ask, “Are random number generators susceptible to human manipulation?” Unfortunately, the answer is “Yes”. This is because random number generators are built by humans, therefore they can also be doctored by humans.
Online casinos are powered by computers and software. Therefore it is possible to program the random number generators, so they will respond to bets dynamically, i.e. shifting odds against the players’ bets whatever the bets were on. A true nightmare scenario for any players. This type of rigging is called adaptive gaming rigging.
Again using the simple coin flipping as an example, if a player bets on the head, the adaptive rigging will be able to make the outcome purposely differ from whatever the outcome the bets were placed on, i.e. resulting in a tail flip in this case. This may not happen each time, but just often enough to shift the odds against the players and produce sizable unfair profit without being too obvious to get caught. As Players who consistently play on games that have been adaptively rigged, their loss frequency will be significantly higher than if the outcomes are determined by an un-tampered random number generator.
Adaptive gaming rigging enables rogue casino operators to effectively take money from their customers effortlessly, thus significantly skews the return-to-player rate. Therefore, the return-to-player rate is very an important measure to determine if online casino games have been rigged.
Does the Return-To-Player rate reflect games’ theoretical probability?
The return-to-player rates are the percentage of the total amount won by players divided by the total amount wagered overtime. It is necessary to understand that the % RTP is an average derived from a substantial amount of game plays and not each time the gaming machine is played. For example, an average % RTP is measured over 10s of thousands of gameplays depending on the type of games, or greater for compensated and random machines respectively, dependent upon their category.
The answer is Testing Houses and Regulators.
Testing Houses conduct audits on the Return-To-Player rates and Random Number Generators at online casinos. These checks are carried out once every couple of years. Once the audited return-to-player has passed the checks, the operator can use this status to renew the gambling licences issued by the regulators to continue operation.
Regulators ensure that only operators that can satisfy all the requirements are allowed to offer gambling services in that jurisdiction. One of the main regulators in the UK is the Gambling Commission. The gambling commission prevents individuals or organisations with questionable background from offering gambling services to the UK public. It also has to power to revoke the licences of operators who failed to maintain the standards set out in the licensing conditions.
The UK Gambling Commission aims to accomplish several objectives; first, to protect players’ financial, physical and mental wellbeing; secondly, to ensure that the gambling industry is free from the funding of illegal activities both from inside and outside the jurisdiction; thirdly, to make sure the gambling industry cannot be used to facilitate money laundering activities thus; lastly, to protect the one of world’s oldest and the largest regulated gambling market to ensure the healthy stream of tax revenues. such tax revenue has been used directly to fund various relevant charitable causes.
In the UK, unsuspecting customers can often be caught up by online casino promotions from unlicensed casinos. The likelihood of being scammed is way higher when playing at unlicenced online casinos than online casinos that are licensed by UKGC.
In other cases, players sign up for tantalising promotional offers from licensed online casinos without the proper understanding of what the offer entails. The terms and conditions specify how the promotional offers can be used; which games these offers are accepted; if there are any winning caps or wagering requirements.
In the UK, the customers only need to ensure two things are to play safely:
1. Only play at UKGC licensed online casinos minimised the risk of encountering rogue casino operators;
2. Be fully aware of the important terms and conditions before accepting casino promotional offers, especially concerning withdrawal conditions. Often, this is overlooked by the customers. It is not uncommon that some customers were too eager to sign up for tantalising offers without reading the terms and conditions, and only to be surprised later when withdrawal encounters difficulties. This mostly relates to wagering conditions, winning caps using bonus.
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority requires gambling promotions to be transparent. The terms and conditions of any offers must be displayed prominently. This requirement is to tackle false advertising, thus preventing unwitting customers fall victims to marketing malpractices.
From the perspective of online casino operators, although game rigging can be unlawfully lucrative, it is not without significant risks and serious consequences.
Firstly, the game developer must get involved to leave some kind of backdoors to access the random number generators. For most major game developers, this is not a worthwhile undertaking given the potentially devastating consequences. Since many online casino game developers are large, exchange-traded companies, their interests in keeping their brand reputation intact significantly outweighs any interest they may have from helping online casinos rigging their games.
Secondly, even if the relevant parties agreed to some kind of game rigging, there is always the risk of whistler-blowing. Individuals incentive may not be perfectly aligned with those of the online casino operators, as people are taking a significant risk to commit these offences, therefore they would demand a proper reward. Even if they are rewarded handsomely for these illegal activities, greed may still drive them to demand even more reward from online casino operators, thus leaving the operators in a rather vulnerable position.
Finally, the consequence is severe if online casinos are caught rigging. Online casino operators will lose their licences, face huge financial penalties, and getting banned from running a gambling-related business in the future, even going to prison.
Because of the above reasons, for the vast majority of online casino operators, the reward of gaming-rigging is simply not justified by the amount of risk. And that is good for UK players.
Thankfully, No. But there were extremely rare cases where rogue operators were caught.
UK gambling industry is strictly regulated by the Gambling Commission. The vast majority of online casinos adhere to strict standards set out by the Gambling Commission once licensed or else face the risk of losing the right to offer service to UK customers and hefty fines even criminal prosecution. There are have been cases of revocation as well as suspension of individual or organisational gambling licenses, however, this has been extremely rare. Therefore, the risk of playing at licensed online casinos in the UK is extremely low.
To sum up, the cost to obtain permission to offer gambling services in the UK is highly significant. The list of requirements is long and the requirements are often strict. The barrier to entry is significant enough to deter most businesses whose sole intention is to make a quick profit then disappear.
The same cannot be said for jurisdictions outside the UK. Rogue casino operators can take advantage of unregulated or poorly regulated countries or regions, where customers are not adequately protected as UK residents.
Our Regulatory Action page contains the list of up-to-date sanctioned businesses and individuals. This list is updated regularly using the information from the Regulatory sanctions register of businesses, and the Regulatory sanctions register for Individuals from Gambling Commission in the UK.
Once an online casino’s licence has been revoked, the information of the sanctioned company or individual is made public. The sanctioned company or individual must cease its operation in the UK immediately.
Are Online Casinos Rigged in the UK? The likelihood is extreme low amoung UKGC licensed online casinos.