Online casinos are actually quite similar in many respects. Once you get past the web design (which even among the better websites typically ranges from god-awful to boring and occasionally all the way to kinda nice), you’ll see the same things from one online casino to another.
A big part of that is the fact that they’re all powered by less than a dozen online gambling software companies. Well, to be honest, there are quite a few more…but most of the smaller ones are not worth considering, for a few reasons:
- at best, they’re of limited use to anyone who likes bigger jackpots, especially progressives — simply because they don’t get enough paying customers to make good payouts possible
- or they may be “beta” versions, created by relatively well-meaning developers who simply don’t have the skill or testing (or customer base) to weed out bugs, or to make sure that the games actually play and pay like the real thing
- but more likely, they’re slapped-together software packages that are only there to grab as much money as possible while they can — they only have to be good enough to fool people into depositing money.
Usually, I like to champion the innovative underdogs, but I’m not really seeing much of that; for better or worse, the world of online gambling software is best served by established, regulated companies like Microgaming, Cryptologic (Wagerlogic), Playtech, RealTime Gaming, Vegas Technology, and Rival.
Note: I’m concentrating on online casino sites; online sportsbooks, bingo parlors, and poker rooms tend to have their own sets of software providers. Even so, some are listed above — but others are unique to online bingo or poker or sportsbetting, so you may not necessarily see their names mentioned here.
There are a few others that are worth your time, so don’t get scared if you find a company that is not listed here. A number of (usually big and well-established) companies do develop proprietary software; PartyGaming is a perfect example because they mix and match software companies to provide a wide variety of games, some found nowhere else.
The software that these companies provide determine more than simply which games are available. The entire menu/lobby/interface (user-friendly, or otherwise) comes with the games, though it is usually ‘dressed up’ with a skin to fit the theme of the particular casino.
Usually, the choice of software developer will also determine many seemingly unrelated details; how the online casino handles transactions, for instance. There are a number of software developers that simply will not power a USA player casino, due to the unique regulations on Internet banking specified by the UIGEA (which, by the way, does not make online gambling illegal in the US, as so many have wrongly interpreted!).
This also means that deposit and withdrawal methods tend to be very similar between online casinos that use the same software. So, for example, Playtech powers many online casinos that accept Webmoney, while few if any Microgaming casinos accept it for banking transactions.
So does this all mean that you should select a software company BEFORE you select your online casino? By no means. While some software companies have higher partner standards than others, none is immune to the occasional dud — and some very mediocre software companies are nevertheless used by fun and customer-focused online casinos (especially here in the US, where our choices are a bit more limited).