A week or so ago, I held forth at some great length on my ideal casino.
I talked about the sights, the smells, the games, the cocktail waitresses — everything my ideal land-based casino should offer.
But what about online casinos? Surely — you ask — surely, I’m not suggesting that they are already perfect in every way.
You know me so well.
No, online casinos are not perfect. Far from it, in fact. But online casinos have existed for only a couple of decades, while land-based casinos have had centuries to hone every aspect of their operations to a fine edge.
Think of the online casino as a teenager. Teenagers are ignorant, loutish, and self-absorbed — but who wasn’t at that age? Online casinos are all that, sometimes laughably so, but like teenagers, they can be made to learn.
So now it’s time for some tough love, online casino world. You may have developed a few bad habits in your short existence here on earth, but with a few tweaks — and, okay, maybe a couple of life-altering changes — you can bring yourself much closer to what I imagine the perfect online casino to be.
Don’t bother taking notes, online casino world. I have a list.
Don’t Make Me Go Looking for Information You Should Be Proud to Share
If you’re not licensed, you’re not an online casino; you’re just a bunch of people hoping I’ll send you some money in return for the “opportunity” to play your hokey knock-off “Buffalo” slots until there’s nothing of my bankroll left.
If you want free money, open a GoFundMe account. Begging may not be the most respectable method of acquiring money, but at least it’s honest.
And if you are licensed, then show me the license. Give me the license number and where it was obtained. Tell me what regulations your licensing jurisdiction requires you to follow. Link to those regulations so I can see them myself.
And do this on your landing page — you know, the one you make sure all the googlebings point to.
I should point out that there can be the occasional exception regarding licenses and online casinos. There are a couple of legitimate reasons why an online casino might be unlicensed for a period of time.
Although we generally advice (strongly) to avoid any operation without a license, an exception can be made if an already established and trusted casino is temporarily without a license for a genuinely acceptable reason.
Stop Treating Five-Inch Cell Phone Screens Like Jumbotrons
Somewhere, there is a tiny, tiny person with fingers like tiny, tiny pencils. This person also has big, squinty eyes that can read the bottom line of the eye chart. From space.
This person is employed by all online casinos to test their latest mobile gambling apps.
Okay, I’m being a tad harsh. Some software companies, as well as the online casinos for whom they toil, understand the problems inherent to downsizing a table game to a 3×5-inch screen. Using a variety of techniques, including understanding when close-ups of the action are preferable to seeing the cleavage of the live dealer, for example, these software companies have developed games that translate rather nicely to the small screen.
These companies — humanitarians, I call them — understand the possibility that some of us are not minuscule versions of regular-sized people, but are, in fact, regular-sized people. Regular-sized people who have fat fingers and eyes that squint at stop signs, for crying out loud, let alone the second line from the top of the eye chart.
People who don’t have pockets big enough to accommodate the mobile phone with the 14-inch hi-def screen we would need in order to play, oh, I don’t know, craps or roulette. Ever seen a craps table? How about a roulette table?
So why isn’t everybody using that software? Probably because some online casinos don’t care enough to spend the extra bucks. Besides, slot machines represent the majority of gambling at online casinos. And slot machines (as well as most versions of video poker) work rather well in the tiny format.
Okay, given all that, I guess I can’t expect miracles, but if one or two software companies can come up with workable solutions that are accessible to fat-fingered folk like me, then all of them can. As the kids say today: “Learn to code.”
Hire Live Dealers Who Are, Um, Alive
The whole live dealer fad at online casinos is a relatively recent phenomenon and is one that makes online gambling feel more like the “real thing.”
What it more often means is that from the moment I sit down at a live dealer table, I’m confronted with bad sound quality, bad lighting, and mumbling dealers with obviously terminal cases of ennui. Seriously, I’ve seen CGI characters with uncanny valley leaking out of their flawless faces with more humanity and joie de vivre than some of these dealers.
At a real blackjack table, I can pretty much ignore the dealer’s face because I’m usually spending my time studying the cards or staring off into the distance trying not to move my lips while I’m calculating odds.
That’s not the case at a live dealer blackjack table. The live dealer is part of the attraction; she’s the main reason why we sat down here in the first place. I can’t look away, and lord knows, all too often, that’s all I want to do. So I do the next best thing: I leave.
Chat Me Up, Stranger
You can’t fool us — the text chat feature offered at most live dealer tables is operated by someone else, not the dealer. Either have the dealer herself type in her “chat” using a keyboard we can all see (not a very good idea for any number of reasons, incidentally) or dispense with the pretense that the chat is coming from the dealer.
How about introducing both the dealer and her chat assistant as soon as we sit down? Heck, give the chat assistant a provocative name like Natasha, Isabella, or even Charlotte. The chat assistant could be a burly guy (and probably is), but I’ll sit at a losing table longer if “Natasha” is even mildly nice to me. Just don’t make it weird, okay, pal?
Hey! Our Eyes Are Up Here
Speaking of which, require the live dealer to show more interest in the game. A smile wouldn’t hurt, Grizelda. This ain’t the DMV. Maybe a little eye contact once or twice.
See that red light atop the video camera? That’s where you should imagine our eyes are. Look at it as though that’s what it was: a single, red, unblinking eye (and that didn’t sound at all creepy when I thought of it).
Okay, I’m creepy. I’ll give you that. Still, you’re safely separated from me by thousands of miles of cable and space, so make me think we just made eye contact. I know that isn’t possible, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief on so many other aspects of this that it only seems fair that you pretend you are looking into my eyes.
At the other end of the conversational spectrum is the dealer who won’t shut their cakehole.
I’m sure your detailed story on your most recent visit to the salon is endlessly fascinating to your boyfriend (who understands that every quid has its pro quo), but I’m a thousand miles away and see no percentage in showing any appreciation whatsoever for your hair stylist’s unsuccessful attempts to launch her own brand of erotic netsuke.
Actually, that might be an interesting story to hear. Unfortunately, I muted the sound back when you were still blathering on about having your nails bedazzled.
I understand — as does a majority of humans everywhere — that the world is an extension of the Tower of Babel, with everyone shouting incomprehensibly at others who are likewise incomprehensibly shouting.
Ever see the original movie version of La Femme Nikita? Anne Parillaud, the actress playing the title role, puts at least 50% of her performance into her voice. It doesn’t matter that I don’t speak French. When she talks, I almost feel like I can speak French. It kinda makes me want to learn to speak French, but only to her…
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the dubbing thing.
As I was saying, the subtitles tell me what the actress is saying, but I can still hear her emotions in the delivery of her lines. If you haven’t seen the original (subtitled in a real language, of course), see it now. I’ll wait here.
Back already? Okay. Ever seen a dubbed version of La Femme Nikita? And are you still searching for the jerk who recommended it? I know I am.
Short and simple: Don’t dub the dealer. Her voice is almost certainly better than the bored minimum-wage translator you hired. Or is the translator even translating? How would I know?
The dealer could be regaling me with her tragic tale of woe (everyone seems to have one). The dealer could be reciting Lenny Bruce monologues translated into her native language, which of course the translator is re-translating back to me as gambling table chatter.
Just as well, probably. I’ve seen what happens to anything run through two or three successive rounds of translation. It may have begun as poignant haiku, but it always ends as “all your base are belong to us.”
You had no problem putting my initial deposit into play instantly, so why does it take up to two weeks to successfully complete a withdrawal? Short answer: It doesn’t.
You hang onto my money for up to 14 days because it — along with the hundreds of other amounts you’re likewise delaying — is generating interest. Money for nothing, in other words.
So here’s my proposal: Pay me interest on any cash of mine you have, including interest up to the moment that money becomes mine again. I deposit a hundred bucks with you, gamble for three months on it, and end up withdrawing $490? Then my withdrawal, by the time it hits my bank or e-wallet, should be $490 PLUS whatever interest has accrued throughout the last ninety or so days.
You want my money? Pay for it, just like any other bank would do.
Update Your Gaming Software
Adobe Flash is the go-to software for animating online slot machines and various RNG table games. It is also dead. Adobe says it won’t support Flash beyond 2020, which — last I heard — is only a few months away.
All the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Windows Explorer, etc.) support HTML5 — an integrated markup language that implements many animation features seamlessly with the browser’s normal operation. Also, many of the browsers currently block Flash by default (it is a bug and malware magnet, by the way, which might explain why nobody, including Adobe, wants to support it).
I understand that this is more the responsibility of the companies that provide online casinos with their selection of games. That should make the switch that much easier. Nobody wants to be the last typewriter repairman in town.
Speaking of Babel
For every currency you accept for deposit, you should publish your terms and conditions in that country’s native tongue. You take yen? Then your 諸条件 better be in Japanese. Likewise, all your specific game rules and any other policies and procedures you generally post on your site.
I sure don’t need it in Japanese, or Croatian, or Tagalog, for that matter, but I bet there are plenty of gamblers who do speak those languages and would welcome understandable information in their native tongues, particularly when that information pertains to their money.
Don’t bother with translating anything for the French, though. They’re a lost cause.
It All Boils Down
Seriously, I just took a look at all the items I dislike about online casinos, and it occurs to me that most of my objections would disappear if the online casinos would simply be forthcoming with information. But of course, then they wouldn’t get so many patrons.
There’s no need for online casinos to go all 12-step on us, but for crying out loud, have the decency to state your policies clearly and apply them fairly. Oh, and implement that interest thing I suggested as soon as possible.
Other than that, online casino world, you’re golden.
PS: Speaking of golden, the good folks here at GamblingSites.com have put together a list of top-rated online casinos we think come pretty darned close to my (admittedly impossible) standards. Give them a visit and see if you don’t agree.