The purpose of this website is to provide you with a comprehensive guide to online gambling for real money, which includes choosing from the hundreds of real money sites, and tips for winning more money with your bets. Our team of veteran casino and iGaming experts analyzed and compared dozens of online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms. After considering multiple factors including bonuses, game selections, security, and software quality, they came up with the following recommendations for the best real money gambling sites in 2018. We work hard to keep this website up to date, so rest assured that all providers listed below are secure, reputable, and a blast to play at.
Ways to Gamble Online
There are many ways to gamble online, and the differences between them can be extreme. Whether you’re interested in gambling for entertainment or profit, this guide will help you deposit your money with the right provider.
Return-to-player score: 4/10
Online casinos give you access to the same games that you can find in most land-based gambling establishments. These include slots, blackjack, roulette, video poker, and keno, to name a few. The outcome of each game is generated instantly by means of a certified random numbers generators (RNG), which means that internet-casino games are more fast-paced than their traditional counterparts. Some platforms also offer live dealer games, which are played using traditional casino equipment and real croupiers.
Different casino games come with different rules, so players must follow different strategies in order to maximize their odds of winning. What almost all games have in common is their negative expected value. Whether you’re playing roulette or slots, the house always has an edge. This edge can range from above 20% to less than 1%, so picking the right game is important. Regardless of your choice, you will always lose your entire bankroll if you play long enough.
Consequently, casino games should always be treated as pure entertainment and cannot be played professionally. You can win money if you get lucky and exploit the variance, but every casino player is guaranteed to lose in the long run.
Return-to-player score: 8/10
Sports betting is offered by specialized online sportsbooks. Some of them offer other forms of gambling under the same brand, but the sports betting section is always separate from the other games. Available bets range from simple money lines or over/under bets, through parlay bets that require you to predict the results of more than one sporting event, to futures. Online sportsbooks offer more options than their land-based counterparts and take less juice due to lower operating costs, so using them is always preferable as long as it’s legal to do so in your jurisdiction.
The odds offered by online sportsbooks don’t reflect their experts’ real predictions, however, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become a winning bettor. In fact, there are people who turned sports betting into a successful career, but doing so requires a lot of hard work and success is by no means guaranteed.
See our sports betting guide for recommended sportsbooks and tips to help you win real money betting sports online.
Return-to-player score: 10/10
Online poker isn’t as popular as it was in the first years following Chris Moneymaker’s legendary 2003 WSOP win, but it’s still one of the largest iGaming markets around. PokerStars, the most popular network in the world, gives you access to every imaginable variant of the game. It also hosts weekly tournaments with millions of dollars in guaranteed prize pools. Smaller platforms, such as 888 or PartyPoker, aren’t capable of replicating this experience due to lower traffic, but the competition is generally softer there.
This is even more true for real money sites that are forced to operate on fenced national markets due to strict iGaming regulations, as their player pools tend to be so small that they’re essentially forced to stick to No-Limit Hold’em.
Competitive poker is a game of skill, so becoming a consistently winning player is a matter of learning the game and playing enough hands or tournaments.
It also requires mental toughness and an adequate mindset. All of this means that the road towards becoming a professional poker player is a journey of self-improvement. If you’re able to access poker rooms without excessive rake, you can undertake that journey yourself. Just keep in mind that online poker is significantly more competitive now than it was in the noughties.
Horse Race Betting
Return-to-player score: 7/10
Many sportsbooks accept bets on horse races. Available options typically range from standard Win/Place/Show bets to the more complex Quinella and Trifecta bets. High-profile betting platforms have excellent track coverage, allowing customers to wager on races held in Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the United States.
It’s possible to profit from horse race betting, but it requires more research than betting on regular sports. This is due to the sheer number of horses participating in most races. Typically, you won’t have access to data on the performance of individual horses against one another, which can be difficult to work around.
Return-to-player score: 8/10
Fantasy sports gambling sites allow players to assemble virtual teams composed of real sportsmen or women. These teams compete with one another based on the real-life performances of their members. The most popular forms of competition are head-to-head 50/50s and guaranteed prize pool tournaments.
Being successful at fantasy sports requires a similar skill-set to the one that makes a successful sports bettor. The key difference is that you will be dealing with individual players instead of the team-level odds set by professional oddsmakers.
Return-to-player score: 7/10
E-Sports betting is a new service offered by innovative sportsbooks. Through it you can wager on the outcomes of competitive gaming events, such as League Championship Series, The International, DreamHack, or the Evolution Championship Series. Most e-sports betting is centered around MOBA games (League of Legends, DOTA 2, King of Glory), RTS games (StarCraft 2, StarCraft: Brood War), and first-person shooters (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch), but other genres are also available around major tournaments.
Betting options are less extensive than in traditional sports betting, but the most e-sports-friendly legit sites continuously add new bet types based on the mechanics of specific games. In terms of profitability, betting on e-sports is very similar to betting on traditional sports. Match outcomes are difficult to predict, but this is balanced out by the fact that the oddsmakers are less experienced with competitive e-gaming than they are with professional sports. As with traditional sports betting, it’s possible to become a consistent winner as long as you’re willing to put in the necessary work.
See our eSports guide for recommended eSports betting sites and tips to help you win real money betting eSports online.
Return-to-player score: 3/10
From a mathematical standpoint, bingo is just another casino title. It’s a game of luck with a significant house edge, which usually amounts to about 10%. Players can improve their chances by buying the right cards, taking advantage of bonuses and discounts, and tracking the size of the field. However, once the game starts, the outcome is out of control.
Playing online bingo for a living is impossible for the same reason one can’t become a long-term winner at slots or roulette: the expected return on each bet is negative, which means that every player will eventually lose his entire bankroll. However, it’s possible to exploit the variance and become a short-term winner.
Return-to-player score: 1/10
There are two ways to buy lottery tickets online. You can either use the official website, which is not different from going to a local distribution point, or you can use a lottery concierge service. The latter allows you to purchase tickets for any lottery in the world. The catch is that you’ll have to pay a small commission on every transaction, which reduces your potential profits.
In terms of profitability, playing the lottery is the worst form of online gambling by a large margin – the house edge is usually close to 50%. To put this in perspective, consider that casino games with a 15% or higher house edge tend to be considered highly unfair. Furthermore, the odds of scoring a large win are extremely low. As a result, you should only play the lottery for fun and without expectations.
See our online lotteries guide to learn how to buy lottery tickets online.
Gambling sites by country
Country-specific gambling regulations have a significant impact on your ability to find a safe site in your jurisdiction.
Federal gambling laws in the United States are very strict on operators. This makes it impossible for offshore, reputable sites to offer their services to Americans without coming into conflict with the Department of Justice. Fortunately, regulations don’t impose penalties on the players, with the exception of Washington.
Other than that, all states have their own gambling regulations, which in most cases don’t address the issue of internet games directly. Residents of such states are free to play on offshore sites that don’t follow federal laws.
New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have legalized online gambling and have their own fenced iGaming markets.
Best US-facing offshore platforms:
Best Nevada-licensed sites:
- WSOP NV
Best New Jersey-licensed sites:
- Golden Nugget
- PokerStars NJ
- Virgin casino
Best Delaware-licensed sites:
- Casino Delaware Park
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Gaming Online
Canadian land-based gambling laws are strict and prohibit all types of gambling. Provincial and territorial governments are allowed to provide regulated gambling to Canadian citizens and have established regulatory bodies for this purpose. There are some secure sites operating under locally-issued licenses, such as Loto-Quebec and PlayNow. However, the traffic they get is very poor, which has a negative impact on the player experience, particularly when it comes to poker.
Importantly, there are no laws prohibiting individual iGaming enthusiasts from using offshore gambling sites. This means that Canadians have access to US-facing operators, such as Bovada, and massive international platforms, including PokerStars and William Hill.
Best international platforms that accept Canadians:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best US-facing gambling platforms available to Canadians:
The UK is one of the most gambling-friendly countries in the world, both from an operator’s and player’s perspective. All forms of internet gambling are legal there, and up until 2014 offshore sites weren’t even required to have UK-issued licenses to offer their services to UK residents. What’s more, players in the UK don’t have to pay consumption taxes because the government is interested in encouraging them to play on local, safe sites. This also extends to professional gamblers, who treat poker or sports betting as their main source of revenue. As a result, UK-based gambling aficionados have access to all the best iGaming platforms in the world.
Best international platforms available to UK-based players:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best UK-based iGaming platforms:
- William Hill
Australian gambling enthusiasts used to enjoy unrestricted access to international gambling platforms, thanks to legal loopholes in the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. However, the situation changed in September 2017, when the Interactive Gambling Amendment (IGA) Bill of 2016 came into effect. As things stand, offshore gambling operators face massive fines for offering their services to Aussies, which forced many a reputable site to withdraw from the market.
It’s worth noting that only operators were targeted by the government. There is no law that punishes individual gamblers for continuing to play on illegal sites. Furthermore, the IGA does not apply to Australian-owned sports betting sites or lotteries as long as they’re associated with a local land-based gambling company.
Legal Australia-licensed gambling platforms:
Offshore gambling sites that still accept Australia residents:
The Gambling Act of 2003 outlines what forms of gambling are permitted in New Zealand and grants the New Zealand Racing Board complete control over regulated sports betting in the country. This act was amended twice, in 2005 and later in 2015, but none of these amendments affected individual gamblers. In fact, the NZ legislation targets operators exclusively.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand didn’t take a firm stand against offshore gambling platforms, so most international operators still offer their services to NZ-based gambling enthusiasts.
Best offshore gambling platforms that accept New Zealand-based players:
- William Hill
NZ-licensed sports and horse racing betting sites:
The amended National Gambling Act of 2004 specifically prohibits South Africa residents from using real money internet casino, bingo, and poker platforms. Government officials are allowed to confiscate unlawful winnings, which are then donated to the Unlawful Winnings Trust. Furthermore, the National Gambling Regulator is expected to be vigilant in alerting banks and payment processors to illegal iGaming transactions. The goal here is to block deposits to prohibited sites.
The only form of internet gambling that’s allowed in South Africa is state-licensed sports and horse race betting. Recreational gambling winnings are not considered income for income tax purposes.
Best online sportsbooks that accept punters from South Africa:
- Betway South Africa
The federal Public Gambling Act of 1867 is the central piece of gambling-related legislation in India. However, due to the outdated nature of this document, everything is regulated on the local level. Furthermore, the Information Technology Act of 2000 can theoretically be used to punish online gamblers for “transmitting information that can corrupt people”, but in practice, PokerStars has launched a successful site for India with a segregated player pool. All in all, the country’s legal framework is very ambiguous, but that doesn’t seem to be preventing local players from joining international sites.
Best international gambling sites available in India:
- William Hill
- Pinnacle Sports
Best local gambling sites available in India:
How to Make a Real Money Gambling Deposit
Online gambling operators almost always provide several deposit methods to choose from, but the specifics vary from jurisdiction to another. Here’s an overview of the most commonly available options.
Card payments are fast, accessible, and available on almost every real money site. However, players from the United States have to be very careful about choosing the right card, as Visa and MasterCard payments are frequently blocked due to federal regulations.
Credit and Debit Cards
Most people own a credit or debit card these days, so iGaming sites always support them as a payment method unless they have a really good reason not to. The most notable example of such a reason is Global Poker, which doesn’t allow traditional deposits because of its unique, sweepstakes-based business model.
While ubiquitous, this method isn’t 100% reliable in countries that demonstrate hostility towards offshore gambling operators. This is particularly true for the United States, where between 25% and 45% of all Visa and MasterCard payments get blocked due to federal-level regulations. This can be an issue even if you play exclusively on legal sites licensed in New Jersey or Nevada. Please note that if your payment is rejected, you won’t lose your money or face any legal consequences. You will receive a full refund and will be allowed to try your luck with a different card if you choose to.
Some gambling operators offer their own prepaid cards, which are guaranteed to work 100% of the time. This practice is most prevalent in New Jersey, where the majority of online casinos offer their own Discover prepaid cards. These cards can be topped up using a Visa or Mastercard, which makes them an excellent alternative in case your direct credit card deposit gets rejected.
Cryptocurrency payments are supported predominantly by US-facing offshore sites, which due to their illegal nature are often unable to cooperate with credit card processors or e-wallet providers. While there are a few dedicated Bitcoin gambling platforms, we generally recommend avoiding them. Most of them hold no gambling license, and some haven’t even submitted their random numbers generators for fairness verification.
Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and is accepted by all operators who support this banking method. High-profile sites that accept Bitcoin payments include BetOnline, Bovada, Slots.lv for US players, and Bodog for Europe-based gamblers.
As of May 2018, the only reputable site that supports other cryptocurrencies is BetOnline. They accept both Litecoin and Ethereum.
E-wallets are a perfect solution for those who value speed and security. They can also be used to make quick withdrawals, but this option is usually available exclusively to players who made an e-wallet deposit in the past.
Neteller and Skrill
Neteller and Skrill deposits are supported by most gambling sites. Both allow you to load up your account in a matter of minutes and at no extra charge.
Because e-Bay is not particularly keen on working with internet casinos, having PayPal support is a badge of honor for online gambling operators. The sites that offer PayPal deposits can be considered 100% safe, as it’s a clear indication that they adhere to the highest standards in terms of security and fairness.
Cash transfers aren’t free. Service providers, such as Western Union, typically require you to pay a 5%-10% fee. You should also alert your gambling site’s support team if you’re planning on using this method – this will expedite the process significantly. Due to the above, this payment method should be used as a last resort.
Tips for choosing a legitimate gambling site
Choosing a legit site can be a daunting task for the inexperienced, which is why the best approach is to break the process down into three steps. Begin by checking which of the sites available in your area of residence catch your interest due to their game selection and feel. Next, remove all sites that don’t have a long history of fair conduct behind them. Finally, compare available bonuses – not just in terms of size, but also in terms of wagering requirements. Check out our real money site reviews for details and recommendations.
Bigger is usually better
Platforms that get a lot of traffic almost always offer better services than ones that don’t. This is because more traffic means more revenue, and more revenue allows for better promotions, bonuses, and games. Furthermore, the iGaming market is overcrowded at this point, which results in fierce competition between operators. Usually, the platform with the largest market share offers a better product, while smaller competitors try to carve out their own share by offering more attractive welcome bonuses.
In the case of competitive gambling, higher traffic translates directly into a better player experience. This is most apparent in online poker, where bigger platforms are capable of sustaining more exotic game variants and give you access to larger prize pools.
Pick a trustworthy site
Although attracting a large crowd is heavily indicative of trustworthiness, always check whether the sites you’ve pre-selected for direct comparison have the right paperwork. In gambling-friendly countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, or Canada, this boils down to checking whether the operator in question has a valid license issued by a widely-recognized regulatory body.
Most international platforms operate under licenses issued in Gibraltar, Curacao, Malta, or the Isle of Man, as this allows them to avoid excessive taxation. Some countries have fenced iGaming markets that are isolated from international player pools. If you live in such a country and have no access to an international, secure site, you should prioritize operators that have been approved by your local regulatory body.
The above also applies to those parts of the United States that have legalized online gambling. If you have no choice but to play on an offshore site, always go for the most reputable operators, such as BetOnline or Bovada.
Bonuses are there to draw your attention, but you should always consider them last. That 200% match up to $3,000 first deposit bonus won’t mean much if your relatively unknown poker room or online casino refuses to process your legitimate withdrawal.
The size of the bonus isn’t the most important factor, especially when it comes to casinos and poker rooms. This is because you will be required to meet certain conditions before you’ll be able to withdraw a part of the bonus or any winnings.
Typically this means wagering the combined value of your bonus and deposit a predetermined number of times in less than 30 days. A $200 casino bonus with a 15x wagering requirement is significantly better than a $500 bonus with a 30x playthrough. The latter might seem larger, but odds are high you’re going to lose your bankroll before you’ll be able to cash out. The former might seem small, but there’s a higher probability that at least some of that cash will make its way to your pocket.
Be wary of scams
Scams come in many shapes and forms, but one of them deserves particular attention: spoofing. This tactic involves the perpetrators tricking you into believing they are representatives of an online casino or sportsbook. They do this either by e-mail or by setting up a website that looks surprisingly similar to a casino’s official website. The scammers will then offer you a particularly enticing bonus in exchange for making a prompt deposit. If you follow their instructions, you’ll end up sending your money to the crooks instead of the real site.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” – the old maxim is particularly true in the gambling world. Always make sure you are browsing a casino’s official website by double-checking their URL in your browser, and never initiate deposits from outside the casino’s official applications.