Inexperienced players are often concerned about fairness when joining a new online casino and this uneasiness is perfectly natural, especially when one is a first-timer. After all, they entrust casino operators with their hard-earned money and fair play is the least they deserve in return.
Sometimes several losing rounds in succession are all it takes to convince rookies they are being cheated out of their money. The subject of interest in today’s article is ‘Do online casinos really tamper with the games they offer?’ and the short answer is no, at least as long as they are licensed and properly regulated.
Continue reading as we shed more light on the subject and explain how reputable online gambling businesses preserve the integrity of their games. Also included in the article are notable examples of rigged games in the past, along with tips on how to steer clear of gambling platforms that could potentially cheat you out of your money.
Random Number Generators in Online Casino Games
All online casino games run on random number generators (RNGs) that ensure their outcomes are completely arbitrary and fair to players. They churn out long and complex number sequences without discernible patterns to produce entirely random results in games without human dealers.
The RNG is constantly at work and never ceases to produce arbitrary numbers that are transformed into different elements of the casino games within a split second.
It determines what symbols will appear on the slot reels during a given spin, the values of the cards dealt in games like baccarat and blackjack, and the numbers the ball lands on in online roulette. Two types of random number generators are commonly used in online casinos:
Types of RNGs
1True Random Number Generators (TRNGs)
True Random Number Generators (TRNGs) rely on physical stochastic processes that are entirely unpredictable, such as atmospheric radio frequency interference, electrical thermal noise, and radioactive decay. The number sequences are impossible to tamper with or predict because such physical phenomena are intrinsically random.
2Pseudo Random Number Generators (PRNGs)
Pseudo Random Number Generators (PRNGs) rely on complex computer algorithms to produce longer sequences of numbers based on shorter number sequences. The process of random number generation starts with an integer called a seed.
While extremely difficult, it is theoretically possible for hackers or other ill-intentioned persons to decipher the PRNG’s entire algorithm if they manage to determine what the initial seed was.
The likelihood of outside PRNG attacks is minute since gambling businesses implement tons of defensive strategies, including asymmetric cryptography, stream ciphers, advanced firewalls, and other security hardware.
Theoretical Return to Player (RTP)
As random as they are, online casino games are programmed in a way that ensures the house always retains a small percentage of the overall amount of money wagered in the long term.
This percentage reflects the house edge and represents the casino’s long-term statistical advantage over gamblers. Gambling companies must turn a profit after all, or else they would quickly go out of business.
On the other side of the coin, we have the term theoretical return to player (RTP) which denotes what percentage of the total wagers a game pays back to players in the form of winnings. The RTP fluctuates dramatically across different casino games so here is an example with double-zero roulette.
RTP of American Roulette by NetEnt
This double-zero roulette variation has a theoretical return to player of 94.74%.
NetEnt-powered casinos retain 5.26% of all money wagered on this game, respectively.
Players should receive approximately $947 for every $1,000 they wager on American Roulette.
Gambling operators will collect the remaining $53. It should be noted major software developers like NetEnt are also entitled to a cut from the profits of their associated online casinos.
These percentages reflect the long-term profits. Some players would win big over the short term, while others would experience heart-wrenching losing streaks that could drain their entire bankrolls.
Players from the second category might be left with the impression the casino has cheated them out of their money by somehow rigging the game or reducing its theoretical return. In reality, experiencing such losing streaks is not unheard of when it comes to gambling.
Anything could happen over the short term with chanced-based games like roulette or slots. Randomness and unpredictability are precisely what casino operators rely on. A truly unpredictable, and therefore, fair game will still return less money than the overall amounts wagered on it in the long run.
Noteworthy Real Examples of Rigged Online Casino Games
Before we proceed further, we want to highlight the fact that rigorously regulated gambling sites would never entertain the idea of offering rigged games to their patrons as this would damage their reputation beyond repair.
There have been very few documented cases of rigged casino games but they date back to years ago and concern gambling companies that operate from jurisdictions with lenient or non-existent regulations.
The Role of Independent Testing Agencies
All reputable and properly licensed gambling sites subject their portfolios to regular audits to prove their games have not been tampered with and live up to their long-term theoretical expectation.
The audits are conducted by independent testing agencies approved by the regulatory bodies that license the gambling operators.
These third-party auditors inspect the random number generators the games run on to confirm there is no bias or glitches in favor of a given casino, i.e. the results should always be randomly distributed.
Trusted operators publish the aggregate payout percentages of their entire catalogs, along with the average expected return for different gaming categories like slots, table games, and video poker.
We list some of the most highly accredited third-party testing agencies in the gambling industry below. You will have no reasons for concern if your preferred online casino carries the stamp of approval of one of these independent auditors. The odds are most certainly above board.
Third-Party Testing Agencies
eCOGRA is a world-renowned testing agency that specializes in the field of online gambling. Established in 2003, the certification body now services gambling and software companies from more than thirty jurisdictions across four continents. Some of its most notable clients include Microgaming, Quickspin, Betsson, bet365, and 888 Holdings.
2Gaming Laboratories International (GLI)
Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) is another veteran in this field as it has been providing high-quality testing services since the mid-1990s. The company has earned the trust of gambling regulators from more than 450 jurisdictions.
iTech Labs has been in business for almost twenty years, testing gambling companies across Europe, Asia, and Australia. Some of the most notable clients on the testing agency’s roster include Entain (formerly GVC Holdings), NetEnt, LuckyStreak, SkillOnNet, and Habanero.
BMM Testlabs is a seasoned third-party testing laboratory with more than forty years of experience in the industry. The company has offices in over a dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, the United States, and Macau. It has achieved recognition in more than 400 jurisdictions, providing state-of-the-art testing services to both landbased and remote gambling businesses.
QALab is a globally recognized testing agency that provides a wide range of audit and consulting services to both brick-and-mortar and remote gambling operators. The organization is based in New South Wales, Australia.
6Software Quality Systems (SQS)
Software Quality Systems (SQS) is a recognized IT service management company with offices in various European countries, including Poland, Spain, Germany, and Belgium. It conducts diagnostics and provides software evaluation, among other services related to cybersecurity.
Still skeptical about the fairness of online casino games? Here is why you should trust the accreditation of the test houses listed above:
- These are companies with decades of experience in the field of analytics and software assessment.
- They hail from jurisdictions with strict law enforcement. Companies of such magnitude would never risk tampering with test results since doing so will lead to prosecution, conviction, monetary sanctions, and above all, loss of reputation.
- Most testing houses have been officially approved by major gambling regulators like the UKGC, AGCC, DGE, AGCO, and Spelinspektionen.
The Role of Online Gambling Regulatory Authorities
Online gambling regulators fulfill various essential tasks, including issuing licenses to approved gaming businesses, monitoring their operations for compliance with the rules, and safeguarding players from unethical practices. Before you sign up and deposit real money anywhere, always check who licenses and oversees the online casino you are interested in.
Playing at rigorously regulated gambling sites that undergo all the necessary software and payout inspections is the surest way to protect yourself against rigged games. Below, we list some of the most stringent regulatory organizations in the gambling industry.
1The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) regulates both landbased and online gambling on the territory of Great Britain under the provisions of the 2005 Gambling Act (soon to be revised). The regulator is incredibly strict when it comes to enforcing compliance and does not hesitate to suspend licenses or impose hefty fines on operators caught in violation.
2Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) licenses are valid in many European countries with few exceptions like Germany, the UK, Turkey, and France. Established in 2001, the MGA carries out various regulatory functions such as promoting responsible gambling, protecting player rights, and preserving the industry’s integrity through independent testing and audits.
3The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC)
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) oversees the operation of remote gambling businesses in Alderney. AGCC licensees can service any market where it is legal to do so. AGCC-licensed operators looking to access certain markets like the UK, for example, must also apply for permits from their local regulators (UKGC in this case).
4The Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen)
The Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen) grants licenses to trusted gambling operators looking to service the Swedish gambling market. All licensees have passed through thorough verification and hold certificates for fair RNGs.
5The US Gambling Market
The US gambling market is regulated both at a federal and state level. Each state with legal interactive gambling has its own watchdog that observes for compliance and fairness.
Notable regulatory bodies in the US include the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), and the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
Canadian players seeking a secure and fair gaming environment should look for online gambling sites licensed by the relevant authorities of the province they reside in.
These include the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of British Columbia (GPEB), the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), among others.
Australia has adopted a framework similar to that in Canada and the US, whereby each state or territory has a separate gambling regulator that enforces fairness and compliance. The Commission for Gambling Regulation oversees the industry in Victoria, the Office of Gaming Regulation controls gambling in Queensland, and so on.
Red Flags to Consider before Playing Casino Games for Real Money
Now that we have established that all regulated operators undergo consistent audits and would never risk their reputation by rigging their games, we shall highlight several red flags to watch out for before you join a real-money online casino.
A gambling site is not necessarily rigged if it meets one or two of these criteria. However, we recommend you still exercise due diligence and take to your heels if you detect any suspicious anomalies in the games’ outcomes.
- The online casino is blacklisted by numerous independent review sites.
- Former customers systematically give negative feedback and complain of result inconsistencies.
- The online casino consistently receives low ratings from both players and professional reviewers.
- Licensing information is obscure or altogether absent from the casino’s website.
- The brand is licensed in a banana republic or a foreign jurisdiction with lax or no regulatory enforcement.
- The casino never publishes the payout percentages of its games.
- The operator’s name is associated with past cases of cheating and offering unfair games.
- The operator insists its catalog undergoes regular audits but lacks a certificate from any recognized independent testing house.
- Former customers consistently report delayed or altogether denied withdrawals.
- The terms and conditions page contains unfair or ambiguous clauses open to broad interpretation.