Our Experts Have Done the Research – Here’s Our Verdict.
Best Sites for Real-Money Play in 2018 – For several years now, our goal has been to provide hundreds of thousands of our visitors with the safest, most reliable real money gaming sites in the world.
We always place the most importance on the money aspect of things – how easy is it to deposit, will the site give you a fair chance to win money, and do they deliver your winnings fast and reliably? The following is a list of gambling websites that do those things better than others.
- Expect easy deposits and fast payouts from these sites.
- We only list sites with top-class reputations.
- Customers from United States accepted.
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Internet Gambling Is a Big Business
Online gambling is a $41 billion business in 2015. I was unable to find any current estimates of the size of the online gambling market within the U.S., but in 2010 Statistica estimated revenues for offshore US gambling sites to be at $5.7 billion (Forbes’ article mentions $6 billion – however, take this information with a grain of salt since some other figures mentioned in the article are sketchy, such as the claim that US gambling sites often charge a 15%-20% cashout fee (most US sites allow one free cashout per month).
Morgan Stanley estimates the legal US internet gambling market to reach $5.2 billion in 2020 (however, take that information with a grain of salt as well since it many states – including California – would have to legalize online gambling by then, and they’ve been wrong about California legalizing online gambling within 2015, and they have already lowered the estimates by $3 billion).
Players outside of the U.S. have a plethora of deposit options from credit, debit and pre-paid cards to online bank transfers, e-wallets (like Paypal and Neteller) and the like. If you live outside of the U.S. and are old enough to legally gamble, you’ll rarely have difficulties finding a way to deposit money to and withdraw money from a gambling site.
It gets trickier if you live in the U.S. I wrote this page specifically about real-money online gambling in the US because most of the people looking for information on gambling deposits and cashouts are in the US.
Deposit and Withdrawal Options – What’s Left?
As mentioned, U.S. customers have few deposit and withdrawal options left. I’ve listed them below along with useful information about using the methods:
Credit, Debit and Pre-Paid Cards
Unfortunately, depositing with cards is a ”hit-or-a-miss” in the American real-money gambling market. Practically all United States online gambling websites accept card deposits (except for Cryptocurrency-only sites), but none of the sites have a 100% clearance rate for card deposits.
A failed credit or debit card deposit is hardly a big deal – either the money leaves your account (and the transaction is successful) or not (and the transaction fails) – but a failed pre-paid card deposit might leave you more disappointed (although you can figure out other ways to spend the money anyway, I’m sure).
Certain card types have more success than others, and certain sites have more success with card deposits than others. The popular options are Visa and MasterCard, with American Express being accepted at fewer sites (but still a somewhat popular option). Out of pre-paid cards, certain types of cards seem to never work (such as Vanilla Visa) but certain types work fairly often (such as Netspend Visa). If you find a working solution, you may want to stick to it.
The use of a card to deposit usually means you have to withdraw the money as a check (which take, suggesting the site is legitimate, anywhere from a week to a month to process). Some sites allow certain customers to withdraw the money back to the card (excluding pre-paid cards, obviously) but this is usually something you have to contact the customer support about (it’s not a standard withdrawal option).
Money Transfer Services
A popular deposit and withdrawal method for American gamblers is the use of a money transfer service such as Western Union..
They’re more expensive than the combination of a card deposit and a check withdrawal (which, often, are free) and require more work, but then again they go through and allow you to receive the money faster than a check withdrawal.
They’re pretty handy, too.
Here’s how services like Western Union work in general: you either go through a live location or use their online service to send the money to a recipient (the gambling site). To do this, you need the recipient’s contact information (contact the gambling site’s customer service for the information). After sending the money, it will be on your gambling account within an hour (usually takes around 15 minutes). To withdraw the money, initiate the cashout from your gambling account and pick-up the money at a live location (Western Union has hundreds of locations in the US).
Money transfer services generally cost tens of dollars to use – in some cases, if the amounts withdrawn are large enough, the transaction might cost $100+. The costs are unfortunate, but money transfer services make for an excellent backup deposit and withdrawal method to plenty of USA gamblers in case a card deposit fails to go through.
A more recent money transaction method at certain real-money online gambling sites is the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.
It’s cheap and instant, although many worry about the volatility of the exchange rate (i.e. you can lose a lot of money overnight by exchanging your dollars into bitcoins). The other downside is that few of the biggest gaming sites have started accepting Bitcoin transactions, and indeed the majority of them are Bitcoin-only sites which is fine for real-money casino gamblers and sports bettors, but a nightmare for poker players who need lots of other players in order to have plenty of games available – but if you’re a Bitcoin user anyway, it should make for a useful banking method.
Deposit bonuses are worth looking at for all of those who gamble online for real cash. They differ in size (some sites offer a $50 bonus while others may offer a $1,000 bonus) and difficulty (some bonuses have a 10x wagering requirement, others may have a 40x wagering requirement).
How Sports Betting Bonuses Work
Here’s an example: a gambling site offers a 100% bonus up to $100 with a wagering requirement of 12x. In other words, for every dollar you deposit, you’ll receive another dollar to your betting account, and you have to bet 12x the deposit amount to be able to withdraw the money you’ve won.
Therefore, by depositing $100, you receive another $100 to your betting account, and you need to place bets worth of $1,200 before you can withdraw your potential winnings. Some people refuse to use deposit bonuses in order to be able to withdraw their winnings without any wagering requirements, and some people figure they’re going to place those bets anyway and rather double the money to bet with.
Pay attention to bonuses but choose a site based on its reliability rather than the bonus offer (the size of the bonus hardly matters if they refuse to process your withdrawals).
Online gambling for real money – and online poker especially – was booming in 2006. Three years earlier, Chris Moneymaker had won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event for $2,500,000 after qualifying for the tournament through a $22 online tournament at PokerStars.
Suddenly, online poker became ”the next big thing.”
Party Poker headed the way and reigned as the busiest online poker room in the world. And what a business it was: Party Poker made $1+ million a day at the height of its power. PokerStars – undoubtedly helped by the sponsorship deal with Chris Moneymaker – was on the second place traffic-wise.
Then came 2006 and President George W. Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) into law. Party Poker reacted immediately and withdrew itself from the U.S. poker market, and the real-money internet gambling market overall took a big hit.
Not only did many gambling operators follow Party Poker’s example, but plenty of payment processors, such as Neteller and Skrill, did as well (in fact, the UIGEA was primarily about prohibiting payment processors from doing business within the USA gambling market). Paypal had already left the American gambling market behind in 2003.
PokerStars stayed in the U.S. and became the biggest online poker room in the world the instant Party Poker left (Party Poker continues to accept players from outside of the U.S. and, by traffic, has consistently ranked among top-5 internet poker sites in the world).
Big operators within U.S. real money online casino and sports betting markets were leaving as well, such as bWin. It should be noted that while many still argue about the legality of internet poker in the United States, U.S. online sports betting was considered a big ”NO” even back then, and still is. Therefore the impact was lighter in the betting market.
Then along came April 2011, known as internet poker’s ”Black Friday.” PokerStars had brilliantly marketed itself to become a giant, getting around 10x traffic of what its second closest competitor was getting. It even organized the largest online poker tournament ever. Full Tilt – another site accepting U.S. customers – was sponsoring some of poker world’s most famous players, yet couldn’t come close to PokerStars’ traffic (although being the second busiest online poker room is a respectable achievement).
In any case, the Department of Justice seized the domains PokerStars.com, FullTiltPoker.com, AbsolutePoker.com, UltimateBet.com, and many others, while prosecuting 11 founders of some of the world’s busiest gambling sites. In 2006, the UIGEA was a big blow, but the effect of this April day was devastating. Suddenly, three of the biggest US poker operators had exited the market, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers looking for a site to play at and plenty of confusion.
It’s difficult to say which online gambling site is the biggest but there are several giants like Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes. The casino side of the industry has had plenty of successful newcomers with companies like Mr. Green and LeoVegas, and they’re going to make life difficult for the “old-timers”.
Even without the U.S. market, PokerStars is much bigger than any other online poker site in the world. Here’s its traffic (provided by PokerScout.com) compared to nine others (PokerStars actually owns four sites in the top-10):
There’s never been a better time to play at real-money gaming sites… except for those who live in the U.S.
U.S. Online Gambling:
Bovada is the biggest online gambling operator for U.S. customers. It’s an ”all-in-one” gambling site, just like its biggest competitors (BetOnline and Bookmaker). Judging by its traffic numbers, other U.S. sites aren’t even close to its popularity.