Beginners Guide

For players who are new to online casinos, there can be quite a bit to get your head around at first, with regard to the terminology, the process of joining and the huge array of different games. However, we’re here to simplify the whole process for you, and our online casino beginner’s guide tells you what you need to know about downloading software, setting up a casino account, how to make deposits and withdrawals, and where to find the best games.

Casino Download and Instant Play

A growing number of online casinos are entirely web-based, meaning that they only offer games in Instant Play versions that are played directly in the browser of your device. However, most sites also offer PC users the choice to download a casino software client on to your desktop or laptop, that gives you quick and easy access to the full suite of games and which automatically updates so that you’re always playing the latest version. (If you’re a Mac iOS user, however, this option isn’t available.)

The business of downloading and installing the software is quick and easy, and anyone who has ever installed any sort of program or application on their machine will have no difficulties. While the actual steps involved may vary slightly form site to site, to download free casino software you can follow this guide. Overall, you shouldn’t expect the whole process to take any more than 5-15 minutes:

  • You will generally need to register for your account before you can start to download the software, although at some of our sites, you can sign up as part of the installation process (see below for more on how to sign up at an online casino).
  • Once you’ve registered, you’ll find on the Home Page or the Welcome Bonus page a button that will be marked “Download Now” or “Play Now”.
  • When you click this button, a set-up wizard will open, and the download should commence automatically. Following the wizard is very simple, and the process is the same as any other sort of installation you might have done.
  • At this stage, you’ll be required to read the casino’s Terms and Conditions; indicate that you’ve read and agree to them by checking the box.
  • A shortcut icon will then be displayed on your desktop (or wherever else you chose to install it).
  • To access games, simply click on this icon and you will automatically be taken to the casino lobby.

The sites that we feature here are all operated by the world’s leading online game developers, such as Microgaming, Playtech and NetEnt, and you can be sure that all of their software has been certified as virus-free by third party testing agencies and that it’s therefore perfectly safe to install. These testing agencies are also responsible for certifying the fairness of the games, and that the software is secure when it comes to storing your persona and private information. So not only is downloading free casino software quick and easy, it also provides an outstanding gaming experience that is safe and secure as well.

For Mac iOS users, or those who don’t want to install software on your machine, all of the sites that we recommend here also offer the choice of playing web-based games, which can be played directly in the browser of any device — desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. This also means that  many of our games can be played for free in practice mode, and at some sites you don’t even need to have an account to be able to do this.

There will usually be a button labelled Instant Play (or something similar) prominently displayed on the Home Page or the page detailing the Welcome Bonus. Most sites will also have a tab for this in the menu bar as well. The other way to play Instant Play games is simply to locate the game you want to play, hover over the icon, and you will usually get two options — Play Now and Practice Play. Click on Play Now and the game will automatically open and load, and will then be ready to play in seconds.

At many sites, you need to have Adobe Flash installed to be able to play in Instant Play, although the move towards HTML5 game technology means that this is no longer necessary at all online casinos. However, if Flash is required but you don’t have it installed, you can download it directly from most of our sites.

Signing up for an online casino account

The process for signing up for a new real money account at an online casino is quick and easy, with a few simple steps that need to be completed, and these are the same whether you want to play using the free casino software or in Instant Play.

If you’re signing up using a special bonus or promotion code, like the ones that we sometimes offer here, then you’ll need this when you register to be able to claim the special offer. Also, as you complete the signup process, you might sometimes be asked to check a box to confirm that you want to receive the Welcome Bonus that’s on offer — keep an eye out for this, as you don’t want to miss the opportunity to play with some of the casino’s money for free!

The steps you need to complete to begin playing may vary a little, but generally speaking you can expect the process to go like this:

  • to start with, create a username and password
  • link your account to a valid email address, which you’ll need to confirm
  • check the box saying that you’ve read and accept the site’s T&Cs
  • enter your full name, home address and a contact mobile number

It’s important that all of this information is accurate and complete. This is because, due to money laundering prevention measures, you will need to provide a range of ID when you come to make your first withdrawal, and if the info you provide at this time doesn’t match that which you gave when your registered, getting your cash out becomes a lot more complicated. Therefore, to avoid hassles later on, make sure that everything you say at this stage is entirely accurate.

How to make deposits and withdrawals

If you’ve ever done any online banking, paid a bill or made a purchase online, then depositing and withdrawing from your casino account will be pretty easy, as the process is quick and straightforward. The sites we list all offer players a range of methods for depositing and withdrawing funds, and so you should always be able to find one that is convenient and accessible.

Depending on the payment method you use and the casino you play at, the actual number of steps in the process may vary a little, but you can usually expect it to go like this:

  • log in to your casino account
  • click the ‘Banking’ tab
  • click the ‘Deposit’ button
  • a drop down menu will give you the available options; choose the payment method you want to use
  • enter the log in and account details that you’ve set up for that payment method (ideally, different to your casino log in)
  • enter the amount you want to deposit
  • click on ‘Deposit’

None of the sites that we recommend charge you a fee for making a deposit, and most payment methods that our casinos accept will credit funds to your casino account immediately — this includes PayPal and other electronic fund transfer systems, e-wallets, and credit and debit cards (including virtual cards). Direct bank transfers and online banking can take longer, anywhere up to 3 working days depending on your bank.

Making a withdrawal is likewise very easy, although the process is generally slower and, at least with your first withdrawal request, you’ll need to provide several forms of ID that the casino will accept before your payment is processed, which can slow things down further. It’s also important to know that not every method that can be used for deposits is available for withdrawals.

Generally speaking, the withdrawal process is:

  • log into your casino account
  • click the ‘Banking’ tab
  • select ‘Withdrawal’
  • enter the withdrawal method you want to use from a drop-down menu
  • enter the amount you wish to withdraw
  • click on ‘Withdraw’

Most online casinos have a processing period of between 24-48 hours before your funds become available (during which time you can reverse the process), although an increasing number of sites, once you have provided sufficient proof of your identity, are offering a quicker service.

Once your withdrawal request has been processed, how quickly you can get your hands on your cash depends on the method you use. With e-wallets and PayPal, your money is usually available immediately; with direct bank transfer, it can take between 3-5 working days; if you receive your funds via bank cheque, this can take up to 10 working days (and there may be additional delivery time on top).

Where to find games

The design and look of online casinos varies a great deal: there are those that go for the traditional ‘Vegas’ look; others aim for a much more clean, contemporary design; while some sites can be described as just downright quirky. However, despite these superficial differences, most casino sites make it very easy for you to find and play your favourite casino games.

A lot of sites will have Featured Games prominently displayed on their Home Page, and so these are the first games you see when you log in. These tend to be new releases as well as old favourites that the operator knows are popular with its players. If the game you want is displayed, simply click on the icon and away you go.

If you’re looking for a particular pokie, for instance, or a specific category of game, the top and sidebar menus will connect you to the pages where different types of games are to be found, e.g., online pokies, progressive jackpot slots, card games, live dealer games, etc.

The best organised sites will also then divide these into more specific sub-categories i.e., 3-reel pokies, video pokies, 15, 20, 25 payline games, etc., while some will go even further in their categorisation and list games according to their theme.

Another useful feature is that at sites where the games of more than one developer can be found, you can sort them according to this criteria as well, so you can find your favourite producer’s pokies all listed together on the one page, for instance.

Customer support

The best online casinos will all offer players first-rate customer support, as well as a variety of ways of getting in touch with them, should the need arise. Almost all of the sites that we feature here have 24/7 live chat and telephone support (ideally with a toll-free number) and email (either an email address, or from a form on the Contact Us page). Some are now offering Skype as well, while some operators are beginning to use messaging services like What’sApp too. You can also connect with most of the sites we recommend via social media as well.