Regulatory Differences in Online Casinos

How Is the Industry Changing?

Is there a huge difference in the regulation of licensed online casinos within the United States, or more to the point, in player treatment compared to offshore ones? Brandon James doesn’t think that there is a huge difference, and in this study, compares in-state online casinos to those from out of the country to highlight what few differences there are.

Introduction

introduction

One of the major changes in the United States, in recent years, is that several different states have legalized online gambling of one form or another.

New Jersey was the first state to do so when it was still up for debate whether or not a state could actually do that. One of the problems with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was that it gave several people the impression that gambling online was totally illegal. Not only was that NOT true, but it wasn’t even close to what the UIGEA did.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act did quite a few things, but the biggest part of it was actually a fairly specific type of enforcement. Essentially, it said that United States based financial institutions could not knowingly engage in financial transactions with offshore Internet casinos (or any at all, really) IF such online gambling were illegal in that state or illegal for the resident of that state.

From that, people once had a long-standing impression that online gambling was totally illegal in the United States, even for players, which was never close to being true. In fact, I did a comprehensive study of all of the states in the country for Wizard of Odds (that I am not going to link to as it seriously needs updated) and found that a great many states did not make gambling online illegal for mere players, and even if they did, the UIGEA would only impact them as far as their financial institutions maybe refusing to engage in the financial transactions.

Of course, the vast majority of states as of just a decade (or less) ago, at the time, had online gambling either expressly illegal within the boundaries of the state, or at least, illegal by implication by way of a general prohibition against, “Unlawful Gambling,” which would usually be defined as any form of gambling that was not specifically regulated and overseen by the state.

When it comes to whether or not states had any laws that were targeted at individual players, or still do, the answer is: it depends. Some states have it written into their, “Unlawful Gambling,” laws that, essentially, only operators or those who stand to profit (meaning, the casinos or bookies themselves) could face any legal consequences as a result of Unlawful Gambling taking place. In other words, as long as you are just a customer, you’ll always be, presumably, fine in those states absent some sort of highly unusual local ordinance to the contrary.

There are a pretty surprising number of states that have it codified that mere players can face criminal consequences (in theory) with most of them being the equivalent of it being a petty offense or low-grade misdemeanor that would typically (again, theoretically) result in a small fine. However, these states have little to no interest in actually enforcing that law, and even if they did, would have little reason to suspect players anyway and it would also be difficult (read: near impossible) to establish the probable cause that they would need to get a search warrant when it comes to online gambling.

Essentially, there would have to be a law in the first place that would have anything to do with criminally potentially penalizing mere players. Even where such laws do exist, we can find no instance of them having ever been enforced for someone who was just playing from home on an offshore website. The second thing that would have to happen is that the Government would have to establish probable cause; the only way we figure that could be done is if an online gambling operation got busted on the operator side and you happened to be in their records when the records were seized.

Offshore Operators

offshore_operators

Of course, that’s generally not going to happen when it comes to offshore operators because the United States Government does not have the jurisdiction to actually do anything to them. The only thing that the United States Government can actually do to offshore operators who are not in United States Government jurisdiction is arrest them if they enter the United States---which they probably know not to do. Even then, they probably wouldn’t have their company give up its records and, even if they did, the United States Government does not itself have the jurisdiction to go after players within U.S. States---the individual states would have to do it and it would not be their investigation anyway.

As far as the individual states are concerned, they have no legal reach to do anything to offshore operators because they have no legal jurisdiction over them. Once again, such operators (or those foolish enough to operate an illegal online casino from the state) could be arrested if they were to enter that state, but again, that’s not going to do anything to the players who are just customers of the casino, even if they are found out in the first place.

Essentially, the only way that we would imagine most players could face any consequences is perhaps if they were engaged in, “Unlawful Gambling,” in a public setting in one of the states that prohibits a person from even being a player. Alternatively, we guess that someone could technically call and report a person for playing online, but we think that it’s highly unlikely that the police would actually care to do anything about that.

Another thing that should be mentioned is that knowingly is a very important word when it comes to the United States financial institutions. It is for that reason that, historically, offshore online casinos will do something to disguise the nature of the transaction, such as handle the deposits via a third-party payment processing intermediary that will make it appear to be a transaction unrelated to gambling. For instance, they might make it look like something innocuous, like the sale of some books, coffee or something goofy like a woodworking kit.

It should also be mentioned that, if a player has access to financial institutions outside of United States banks, then none of that even matters. At that point, it just becomes a question of the policies of that particular institution or the laws concerning the financial transactions with online gambling from wherever they happen to be regulated.

It’s also for that reason that, when players would request to be paid their winnings in the form of a check, the online casino’s name will usually not appear anywhere on that check. Typically, it will look like the name of some generic company. In the case of the United States, the check will often be cut from some Canada-based bank account, at least, in past years.

How that turned into the notion that online gambling is illegal in the entire United States, I have no idea, but that notion was never correct.

Sports Betting Legality Issues

With that, we will turn our attention to sports betting. Illegal sports betting was something that was illegal across most of the United States (exception to Nevada and a couple of ‘Sports Lotteries,’ which are really just parlay pools in a state or two) and enforcement efforts would be conducted by states AND the U.S. Government that would frequently target players as well as operators...though they were mostly concerned with the operators.

The reason for this law was a Federal Legislation known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, whose entire purpose was to keep gambling from influencing sporting events. Essentially, the Federal Government (for reasons that I will never understand) was concerned about the integrity of the sporting events (that they don’t even regulate as it is up to various leagues) and wanted to ensure that no bookmaking was being done such that athletes, coaches, etc...would be placing money on games themselves or would work in concert with other bettors to, “Shave points,” or throw games outright.

While that may seem like a highly unusual thing to have happen, it’s actually something that has occurred throughout the history of this country. The most well-known historical example is that of the 1919 Chicago White Sox who, in an incident that is now called, “The Black Sox Scandal,” would throw the World Series in the hopes of being paid off by a group of wealthy sports bettors in a scandal with Arnold Rothstein as its kingpin. There’s actually an excellent movie about this scandal called Eight Men Out, and is based on a documentary non-fiction book with the same title, so we would recommend watching that movie or reading that book. The second link is to a short, but solid, book review done by Stadium Journey.

Of course, trying to influence the outcome of the World Series was a pretty brazen act, so much so, in fact, that Rothstein almost didn’t get on board with it as he was sure that they would be caught out.

Other gambling scandals in major professional sports throughout the years would include Pete Rose being banned forever from Major League Baseball when he placed sports bets as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1980’s. His main defense was that he never bet against his own team, but that’s not really that solid of a defense when you consider that he might base his relief and starting pitching decisions around trying to win a particular game. Obviously, it would have still been a pretty major scandal even if he had never bet on games involving his own team, but at least he would have had a defensible position that nothing that he did could have influenced the outcome of his bets---which was the major problem.

As you would expect, these sorts of scandals would pervade other sports, as well. Bleacher Report published an article ranking the Top 10 NCAA College Basketball scandals of all-time, and four of them involved some sort of points-shaving scandal.

That comes as no surprise as these events would take longer to figure out than did the Black Sox Scandal. One of the aspects that makes College Basketball attractive for people who wish to engage in a points-shaving operation is that many of the games involved are not going to draw a ton of attention. As you can see if you follow the link, one such scandal involved a Northwestern team that only won five games that season, so it’s safe to say that very few people were paying attention to most of those games.

There have been more point scandals in college basketball that that, of course. I’m sure many readers here are familiar with the speeding analogy that says, “If a cop pulls you over for speeding, then chances are he didn’t catch you on the only time that you have ever sped in your entire life,” so you can take that and use it as an analogy for points-shaving scandals. For every single one that we DO know about, there are probably several that never got caught out.

Basketball is also an attractive sport for points-shaving just because of the nature of the game. With only five players per side during the games, it’s an easy sport for a single player (especially if he is a key member of the team) to have a huge influence over the game’s outcome. Additionally, it’s not unusual at all for a great player to simply have an, “Off game,” from time-to-time, so as long as his efforts to shave points are not over-the-top ridiculous, then it’s going to take awhile to put the pieces of the puzzle together if it is something that he has done frequently enough.

Much like speeding, you’ll most likely get away with it if you do it only once, unless you have a cop right behind you, of course. Please don’t take that as an invitation to speed and please do not hold me responsible if you do speed only once and get caught!

Robert Duff of Sports Betting Dime also penned a brief article about point shaving. As you can see, most of those listed in this article have to do with Men’s College Basketball, but there are a few other sports such as Football (Soccer if you’re an American, like me) and Cricket listed as sports in which major point shaving scandals have taken place.

Former Commissioner of the National Football League, Paul Tagliabue, also expressed some concern about potential points shaving in an article and video posted by Mike Florio of NBC Sports. We’re not going to link that one because we’re not actually quoting anything and NBC doesn’t need any cross-traffic help from us, but it’s easy enough to search.

In the interview, Tagliabue was concerned that, with the spread of legalized sports betting (including online betting) that the probability of points shaving---which would probably be done by a player making a crucial mistake at a critical moment---is now more likely.

Personally, I disagree with this take because Las Vegas (well, all of Nevada) has been home to sports betting for a long-time now. Another thing that has existed for a long time are phones. Phones are relevant because as long as there is legal sports betting somewhere, then you can have a person AT that somewhere to get the necessary bets down. In other words, in order for points shaving to not always have been a theoretical risk, then sports betting would have to be completely non-existent.

Besides, why would legalized and regulated sports betting make such a thing more likely? That notion makes no sense on its face as, like we saw with the Black Sox Scandal, they threw an entire World Series at a time that Sports Betting was totally illegal.

We would also suggest that Football is a sport where people could worry less about such scandals because the players are so handsomely compensated for their efforts. What could you possibly offer a player to risk his entire career when he is already making millions, tens of millions, or sometimes even hundreds of millions of dollars throughout his career!?

That’s another reason that Rothstein was able to target the Chicago Black Sox. It was a pretty widely known fact that the players were not satisfied with their salaries or the way that they were treated by team ownership. In addition to the scandal itself, they were often sometimes called the, “Black Sox,” because they were made to play in dirty uniforms as the team owner wanted to save money on laundering costs. Basically, players were frustrated with their circumstances...and the MLB was such that a team basically owned you for life as they was not really a concept of Free Agency absent a team simply choosing to release a player.

The way that it worked was that players would sign contracts of a finite duration with the teams, but even when the contract would expire, the teams themselves would still have the rights to that player. In other words, unless a team were to waive its rights or trade its rights to draw up a contract to another team, players could be forced to only having the option of going back to the team that they had already been playing for.

One of the players most frustrated by this was Eddie Cicotte, who was famous for having pioneered the knuckleball. He was also well-known for throwing a variety of other pitches (such as the spitball, the shineball and the cutter---you would actually scratch the ball so it would change directions, or, ‘Cut,’ in an unexpected way) that were either illegal at the time (but tough to prove) or legal at the time.

“Chick,” Gandill was one of the architects of the Black Sox Scandal and the first, “Inside Man,” on the team to start orchestrating the thing, but the reason that they went for him (aside from his importance to the team) is because Rothstein wanted him to get Cicotte on board with the World Series fix, as having a pitcher or two in the bag was instrumental to the plan working. Again, that’s one of the components that makes baseball a tougher game to fix...there are only a few positions in which an individual player can change the entire scope of a baseball outcome, but pitcher is certainly one of them. Outfielders, for example, might never see a ball the entire game...and even if they did...it’s unlikely to be on a close defensive type of play. Essentially, to have a major impact, they would have to drop something really easy or make a seriously errant throw deliberately.

Infielders can have more of an impact and see a lot more balls throughout the game, but again, fixing a game would often involve these guys screwing up a bunch of routine plays. Another aspect of baseball that makes it difficult is that it is REALLY difficult to screw up several routine plays, yet make it look like you are actually trying, simultaneously.

For that reason, it was important to get a pitcher or two on board as they represent one of the only positions on the field that can screw the thing up whilst making it appear as though they are giving their best effort.

This becomes quite clear when we look back at the Black Sox Scandal. There were murmurings even before the start of the World Series that some unsavory things might be afoot, which led one of the journalists for the games started making notes of all of the defensive plays that they considered suspicious---of which there were several. In fact, there were even some individual plays in the games that were pretty clearly ridiculous with multiple incomprehensible errors being made even on the same play, at times!

The reason that all of this is relevant to football is because it’s the same concept. There are only a handful of players on the field that can directly influence the outcome of a game, and would most likely be the quarterback or the running back. The quarterback can do it by just making a bunch of errant throws, or intentionally throwing interceptions...while the running back can do it by simply fumbling the ball. Even then, the running back would have to count on a teammate not to pounce on the fumbled football...which would still likely cost a down, but the opportunities would be seriously limited to change an entire game.

Honestly, quarterback is probably the only position that could change an entire NFL game with a high degree of reliability. It would also probably have to be a highly regarded quarterback, that way, he could do as much damage as possible without getting benched. 

Of course, if you’re wondering what position the highest-paid players on most teams plays---the answer is quarterback. In other words, they would have the most to lose by jeopardizing their NFL careers by participating in any kind of a betting scam and, as such, I would consider it absurdly unlikely that you would actually see an NFL QB participate in such a scandal. It would be pretty unprecedented.

NCAA (College) Football, on the other hand, is the area where I would be concerned. Much like college basketball, individuals who wanted to get players to fix a game outright, or merely just to point shave, could focus on games that aren’t going to get a ton of national attention.

The two problems with a College Football game-fixing or points shaving operation that wouldn’t involve a major team are first that most games are recorded and televised these days at least somewhere, so if there was any suspicion about the result or any plays whatsoever, people would have something that they can go back and watch clearly. Obviously, the 1919 World Series didn’t exactly have crystal clear video quality (on those plays for which video still exists), however, you can still clearly see a video in which Chick Gandil clearly pulls up in his running to get forced out at third base during Game Three of the series.

Most peoples’ phones have crystal clear video quality compared to just televised sporting events twenty years ago, much less events with limited video from more than 100 years ago!!! What we are saying is that, as long as there is going to be video evidence of a game, doing something to blatantly change the result is going to be much harder for a player to pull off without being suspected.

The second problem that less major College Football games would run into is the fact that. While they would normally not be the subject of much scrutiny, major bets all coming in on one side would be a serious cause for scrutiny by itself! Who plunks thousands of dollars down on a game between two losing record teams in a non-major conference in which the result of the game has no bearing on anything (in the grand scheme of the season) whatsoever? That’s not to say that someone plunking five grand down against a 2-7 team to cover a 17-point spread automatically means that something untoward is afoot, but it’s definitely going to raise an eyebrow with the sportsbooks.

In fact, many of these college basketball scandals were originally investigated because people took a look at the betting records for the games and saw a bunch of money coming in, a highly inordinate amount, in fact, on a game that basically didn’t matter. Remember, when it comes to bribing players to throw the games...just the act of the attempted bribery itself is a pretty serious crime, so even the most unsavory of characters are not going to risk it unless they stand to make a substantial sum of money.

Of course, when a player has worked in concert with people trying to rig the outcomes of games, you’ll forgive me for not putting it delicately, but the shady characters, “Have them by the balls.” Think about it: In just the act of throwing, or points shaving, one game, they have jeopardized not only their amateur (and possibly professional, if they are good enough) careers, but they also risk being thrown out of college and will have a stigma attached to their names and characters that will seriously limit their opportunities in life.

sports_betting_legality_issues

One of the big issues with the Black Sox Scandal, for instance, is that the gamblers were really slow about paying off the players and, in some instances, didn’t pay them off the promised amounts, if at all. For one thing, they lamented the fact that so many players came to know about it (one utility infielder for the team actually found out on accident, but had to be cut in, or he was going to rat out the whole operation), and secondly, the bettors did not make as much money as they had originally anticipated as murmurings of the fix being in caused a ton of money to come in on their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds.

At one point, the Reds would actually become the favorite to win the Series and some of the White Sox players who were originally in on the fix actually started trying to win, mostly because they were not compensated when and how much they were supposed to be. Of course, the gamblers still had them dead to rights because, if the scandal were to be found out (as they found out) their Major League Baseball careers were over. In fact, the players who were involved in the scandal would receive lifetime bans from all of organized baseball.

With that, most intelligent young men and women who are amateur or professional athletes and are offered such ideas will immediately refuse outright. If someone is willing to stoop to bribery and game-fixing, then it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re not going to have a problem with throwing you under the bus when the time comes. They’ll also not have a problem with using what you have already done to make you essentially a beholden slave to whatever their plans are for you in future competitions. Basically, they pretty much have you for life.

With that, it made a certain kind of sense that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act would be passed, with the underlying problem being twofold:

1.) While the intent to keep sports clean was a noble one, none of it is really any of the business of the Federal Government in the first place.

AND:

2.) As long as sports betting exists somewhere, as the Government would find out time after time, match and game fixing (as well as point shaving) remains a possibility. It doesn’t matter if the sports betting is itself legal or illegal, though the existence of legal sports betting in Las Vegas (as well as any number of offshore sports betting sites---a VERY dangerous game when it runs afoul of the Federal Government) certainly helped such plans along a great deal.

Eventually, the Federal Government would come to the conclusion that there was simply no getting rid of sports betting. It took individual states to reach that conclusion first, however, and to also want sports betting of their own as a number of states (most notably Michigan and New Jersey) would bring a lawsuit to eliminate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to the Supreme Court of the United States.

As Natalie briefly wrote about here, this lawsuit would prevail and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act would be overturned which, among other things, gave states the ability to license and regulate their own sportsbook operations (including online) and made some offshore operators a little less hesitant (in some cases) about offering their services in the United States.

Many gamblers within the United States probably wondered why many offshore casino companies that offered sportsbook services elsewhere would only offer casino games in the United States, and generally, PASPA was the reason why. There’s really not a ton of concern for offshore operators when it comes to running afoul of the law of individual states, as they have very little in the way of legal reach outside of the state, and technically, none at all...but many of these entities were very hesitant when it comes to potentially pissing off the United States Government!

PASPA was overturned on a few different grounds, but probably the most important (at least, in my opinion) was the Tenth Amendment grounds upon which it was overturned. For those of you who haven’t brushed up on your U.S. Constitution reading lately, let me help you out:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There are SOOOOOOOO MANY LAWS (in my opinion) that should be challenged on Tenth Amendment grounds, and are not, but at least PASPA was one of them.

In theory, the Tenth Amendment is as simple as it reads: if the Constitution of the United States does not put the Federal Government in control of something directly, then the delegation of the responsibility to Govern that particular thing falls upon the states. Most State Constitutions are such that jurisdiction over something not handled by themselves, or the Federal Government, falls to the counties, cities, municipalities or townships within those states.

Anyway, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was challenged on the grounds that it was a Federal Government overreach. This was, obviously, true for a few different reasons:

1.) The Federal Government does not regulate sporting events. Even if it does in some instances and to a very limited degree, it certainly doesn’t do it by way of having those powers reserved to it by the Constitution of the United States of America.

2.) Even if sporting regulations fell in the area of, “Interstate Commerce,” which the Constitution DOES give the Federal Government jurisdiction to handle (similar to the way it handles crimes that cross state lines), the sports leagues that are interstate are already regulated by private companies, institutions or non-profit organizations and are not an affair of Government. The National Football League itself, believe it or not, is technically a non-profit organization. That’s why the NFL teams are called, “Franchises,” as they are licensed by the NFL and the rights are conferred upon them to play in the league.

With that, there’s nothing that would indicate that the Federal Government has any jurisdiction over the conduct of sports leagues, in general, much less individual sports leagues. For that reason, it was a major overstep in the sense that the Government was regulating the conduct of private institutions and organizations.

That fact notwithstanding, if there is a crime committed by someone within that organization in the scope of their conduct of activities in that organization, then it’s obviously just as illegal as it would be if they were engaged in that crime in their capacity as a private citizen otherwise. In other words, it’s illegal to take bribes or to offer them, regardless of whether or not the Federal Government directly regulates anything about sports. In addition to bribery, there are a wide variety of other Federal-level felonious financial crimes that become involved...bribery, racketeering, money laundering, failure to report income, tortious interference with economic advantage...the list goes on.

3.) The Constitution says nothing whatsoever that would give the Federal Government the ability to regulate ANYTHING having to do with gambling, much less to regulate anything, specifically, that would prohibit states from having sports betting. Perhaps the most egregious component of PASPA was the fact that it grandfathered states that already had sports betting in, such as Nevada obviously, rather than simply making it completely illegal nationwide.

Of course, PASPA would grandfather the State of Nevada in because they knew that Nevada would immediately bring a lawsuit on Tenth Amendment grounds otherwise. Naturally, if Nevada became one of the only states that were even conceivably allowed to have legal sports betting, then that benefits the State of Nevada, because anyone who wants to bet directly on games (legally, anyway) has to travel to Nevada and do it there.

Beyond the fact that the Constitution has never spoken to sports betting, or even gambling, in general, there was also a historical precedent that matters involving legalization of gambing were left up to the individual states. Simply put, some states had legal Land Casinos, while others didn’t. Some states had legal Video Lottery Terminal parlors, others didn’t. Some had slot machines and/or tables games, others did not. Hell, even when it comes to Lotteries, there are a handful of states that do not have a state lottery.

Contrary to popular belief, Powerball and Mega Millions are NOT national lotteries in any official sense. They are interstate, but they are not run or regulated by the Federal Government in any way whatsoever. Instead, the states that offer these games came together to agree to do so and joined one another in creating Commissions that oversee the conduct of these games.

In short, prior to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Federal Government had absolutely nothing to do with gambling and never attempted to do so.

It’s also for that reason that all gambling activities that are licensed and regulated by a state must take place ONLY within that state, including online. Otherwise, it would become interstate commerce, which the Federal Government DOES regulate, by way of the Constitution.

However, similarly to games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, individual licensed and regulated online casinos that operate in multiple states have the ability to, if all participating states agree (by law or ordinance) to give their players in different states access to the same poker games, live dealer games, or jackpots. It’s possible, though probably unlikely, that the actual legality of this activity, vis-a-vis Interstate Commerce, will be tested at some point.

However, it’s also the reason why, back when PASPA was in effect, that you could not call a Nevada Sportsbook and have them disclose the lines over the phone. The sportsbooks themselves could not do anything that would even give the appearance of Interstate Commerce, especially when there was a Federal regulation in place that made Sports Betting flatly illegal in states other than Nevada. Essentially, they would have been breaking Federal law to do so.

It’s also for that reason that online casinos in different states that are licensed and regulated will require their players to have a Geotracker software on the device they are playing from, especially if the IP Address is not a known one, so that the online casino can verify that the player is playing from within the state’s boundaries. Once again, they do not want to run afoul of the United States Government or be seen as engaging in Interstate Commerce.

Of course, you can be from a different state and create an online casino account. In most cases, you can even deposit and withdraw your funds, they just aren’t going to let you do any actual playing until your geographic location is verified as being within the state’s boundaries.

I have spoken with some players who have said that they can get around that just by being near the boundaries of some other state to which I say, “Come on, man! Don’t be doing that!!!” The last thing that we need is for the Federal Government to get interested in online casino operations. Everything gets worse as soon as the friggin’ Feds get involved with anything.

In that sense, the fact that they are regulated in the first place makes things tougher for licensed online casinos that operate within individual states, but I’m sure they will take the business. Online gaming has absolutely exploded across the country compared to previous years, so these casinos are glad to have direct access to residents of states, even if it means that they (and players) have to jump through an extra legal hurdle.

That is one aspect, however, that actually makes it easier for online casinos that are not operating in a licensed or regulated (by individual states, anyway) way. For the most part, if their regulations (from the jurisdiction that licenses them) care at all, then they only care that they not operate in U.S. States in which gambling is illegal for the players. Some casinos (such as Bovada) also avoid U.S. States where there is licensed and regulated online gambling, and will also sometimes avoid states in which gambling is illegal for the players of their own choosing and volition.

However, the only thing that most of these online casinos care about is a player’s state of residence. Where the player is physically located at the time that he or she is playing is not really of any relevance or concern to them. That at least makes things somewhat more convenient for players, and easier for the online casinos, from an operational standpoint.

With that, many of you are probably wondering about some of the other differences between regulations in online casinos that are operating in a licensed and regulated way within the boundaries of the United States, and those that do not (offshore). For you who are curious, we will be able to investigate and compare the Terms and Conditions of different online casinos and also take one state as an example case when it comes to the actual regulations that are on the books.

Regulated In-State v. Offshore Online Casinos

For our Wizard of Vegas website, I’ve actually already written an article about this subject that had a bit more of a player-focus that a regulatory and legal focus here.

In that article, the point of my investigation was to demonstrate that, when it comes to slow-paying, no-paying or making players jump through hoops to get paid, that customers of the offshore casinos in the United States should not expect things to be much different when it comes to states in which the activity is licensed and regulated. Overall, the only meaningful difference that I found with the two different types of casinos is that I consider player deposits somewhat better protected in casinos regulated by individual states.

Before I get into any of that, however, the first thing that I will do is discuss my personal experience with two online casinos in Pennsylvania, though I have played at more.

1.) Caesars Online Casino

The Caesars Online Casino shares a name with Caesars Entertainment, who are the operators of the famed Caesars Palace properties in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas. However, it appears that they have licensed out their online casino products to various entities as I was told that the ones in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (both of which I have played) have nothing to do with one another.

I didn’t really have any problems with the service here and customer service was always responsive, but getting paid was kind of a pain in the ass. Caesars Online is one of those properties that don’t really seem to care about documents until it comes time to cash out, and when it does, will usually just leave the pending document requests sit on their website (when you login) rather than send an E-Mail that a document has been requested.

Thus, the player requests to make a withdrawal and doesn’t hear anything on it until they either log in and see the document request, or the withdrawal is denied. If the withdrawal is denied (mine wasn’t), then they will receive an E-Mail and will have to log in and find that a document has been requested, or talk to chat to determine that.

Anyway, I went through this entire process with them and was originally going to request a Paypal withdrawal, but then it became apparent that they were going to take the full 72 hours that they gave themselves to do it (as they did in New Jersey when I did request a Paypal withdrawal), so I reversed that transaction and would instead request a cage withdrawal.

The process of withdrawing at the cage was also a pain in the ass. You would think that it would be easy, especially considering that the withdrawal had been approved in advance of my stopping at Harrah’s Chester. Go in with my ID, hand it to them, give them a code and get the money...but that’s NOT how that goes down.

The first thing that I had to do was go and pick up a phone near the casino’s cage. At that point, I had to call a particular extension, whereupon I proceeded to listen to the phone ring for anywhere from 10-15 minutes. I would eventually get tired of standing there (this is right in the main casino area, so I was in the way of a bunch of passerby), but I couldn’t really walk anywhere because of the phone cord, so I stretched out and grabbed one of the chairs from the slot machines and sat there and listened to the phone ring.

Finally, someone got on the line and said that they would be down to take care of the cage withdrawal in about five minutes, but in reality, it ended up being closer to ten.

That person would eventually come down, get my ID, have me sign something and then said it would be about another ten minutes until the cash was ready. Not really wanting to play anything as I was on my way to Atlantic City, I just meandered around the property and walked by the cage until they finally signaled that they were ready to pay me.

Overall, my stop would take about an hour in total, between waiting on their phone and waiting for everything else. Some of you might be thinking that the delay had to do with the fact that it was thousands of dollars, but nope, though I was profitable, the total withdrawal was safely under a thousand bucks.

2.) PlaySugarhouse

My other experiences I will detail is with PlaySugarhouse casino, which is actually my favorite of the regulated online casinos in Pennsylvania as they have regular additional bonuses (after the sign up bonus) that are tailored to what you actually use the website to play. In addition to that, the Live Chat staff themselves are very nice and I like the software platform and choice of games.

However, my experience with them has had a few issues. The first one is that, when I first signed up for the account, I did a deposit at the cage at Rivers Pittsburgh and wanted to use their deposit bonus. Granted, in the terms, they give themselves 48 hours to actually credit the bonus funds...but who would ever expect them to take the full 48 hours? I went and talked to Live Support, who wanted me to upload a copy of my ID, which I did, but it still took the full 48 hours.

You would think that they would want to get new players playing right away without any hassle, but I guess not. The unusual thing is that I have to admit that it probably varies based on the customer service representative that you talk to, because on other occasions with smaller deposit bonuses, I will go to Live Chat and they will add the Bonus Funds immediately, but that makes it, at a minimum, inconsistent.

After some while of doing deposits with a Debit Card and Paypal, but usually handling withdrawals at the casino cage as I am frequently in Rivers Pittsburgh anyway, things were kind of humming along. That was until I hit a better than expected result and ended up with a withdrawal that was of a few hundred dollars on a relatively small deposit.

The problem there was that the casino started doing, in my opinion, what I consider stalling tactics. It’s important to remember that I had made more than one deposit at the cage, by this time, and probably about five withdrawals; I had also (to my recollection) already submitted a copy of my identification to the casino.

However, I got a document request (but no EMail) that said that I needed to submit a copy of my ID. That was very strange to me, because I am nearly 100% sure that I already had when I signed up for the site, but they said no. Beyond that, what practical necessity is there for me to do that when the cage at the physical casino had already verified my ID on several different occasions?

Anyway, I had recently gotten a new ID, but the plastic hadn’t arrived in the mail yet. The state had given me a paper that I could present until the new ID came in, so I sent them a picture of that, but they said that it was unacceptable.

The next thing that I did was found the picture of the old copy of the ID in my phone’s storage, which is the one that I had already sent in the first place...I am almost 100% certain about that, though I know that I definitely had that picture on there for one online casino or the other.

In any event, they said that picture was not clear enough and it would need to be retaken, even though I had already explained that I was sending them a picture of my old ID as they would not accept the paper that the state gave me to hold whilst waiting for my new ID.

Fortunately, my new plastic card would arrive in the mail shortly thereafter, which I then sent them a picture of...only to be told that picture was also unclear. With that, I did my best imitation of a professional photographer and staged a photo of the ID that was extremely brightly lit and undeniably clear, which they finally accepted.

At that point, I was told that I would still have to wait up to 72 more hours for a physical withdrawal at the casino cage that had been approved instantly in the past and where my ID would be checked again and I went absolutely ballistic. I was told that cash withdrawals are processed in the order that they are received, so then I pointed out that I had requested it quite some time before that and it’s supposed to be within 72 hours...only to be told that the 72 hours starts as of the document finally being accepted.

Again, this is for a withdrawal where I am physically present at the casino. I’m sure the casino has plenty of cash on hand to cover it.

The customer service representative would eventually put a manager in chat who said he would approve it as a, “One-time courtesy,” in advance of other requests. They also made it a point to point out that, if I were a higher level player with them, then I would qualify for preference when it comes to withdrawal requests.

How do you like that? The casino is literally saying that you can have the cash that belongs to you anyway faster the more you gamble with them.

Besides that, if you wouldn’t consider the ridiculous hoops that I had to jump through when it comes to the ID as, “Stalling tactics,” then I just have no idea what stalling tactics are, especially when it comes to a casino that is licensed and regulated by an actual state!

Those examples should give prospective players an idea that the overall process is not necessarily that much better, or faster, with at least some of the licensed and regulated online casinos in individual states. The only thing that I can say is that I am pretty confident that, if it had escalated to the point of me complaining to Pennsylvania Gaming, then something probably would have been done. 

Of course, you never know, because I had physical cashout vouchers confiscated from me at Ocean resort in Atlantic City and New Jersey Gaming Enforcement never did anything about it. It took me several weeks of hassling them to get a response at all, then I was told they review such matters every thirty days and they never followed up with me when the time came. I continued to call them and leave several messages, to which they never responded in anyway whatsoever. The best part of all of that is that there’s literally only ONE person in the entire department you can talk to about things like that.

Overall, I don’t consider the regulatory bodies in the U.S. States to be that much better, at least, not necessarily, when it comes to player protections. While it’s my tendency to believe that Pennsylvania Gaming would have resolved the matter, if needed, I’m not confident enough in gambling departments (in general) to say that for sure.

Michigan Online Issue:

The link in the subtitle goes to a Newsweek story about a woman in Michigan who claims that their BetMGM website will not pay out her three million in winnings and has decided to sue the outfit.

The lawsuit stems from the fact that a certain Jacqueline Davis was playing a novelty Roulette game that they had on their site, with a special kind of payout, that was not working as it was originally intended to do. That said, it was working the way that it was programmed to work---so where the hell was BetMGM on the game testing side of things?

More than that, the player was actually able to play under these conditions for a period of about five days, so even if the game had not been playing as it was supposed to, then BetMGM (which is required by law to do daily audits of its online casino offerings) should have been able to discover the issue before Davis had decided to cash out some three million dollars ahead.

Initially, the online casino would refuse to pay her, which isn’t really all that big of a surprise as we know from the Phil Ivey Borgata Atlantic City issue that BetMGM will go as far as to sue players (and, sadly, win) for conditions that they themselves put in place, though the BetMGM online casino would later offer Davis the equivalent of shush money.

Davis had originally intended to go to the casino to get a $100,000 advance of her winnings, but the casino presented her with a Non-Disclosure Agreement, explained their bullshit side of the story, and informed Davis that is all she would be getting paid. Apparently, it’s her job to make sure that BetMGM’s software is working as it should!

While there may legitimately have been an issue with the game, it exposes (to me) a greater concern...which is players having to go to a legal process just because an online casino claims that there is an issue with a game. What if a player deposits a huge amount of money on a game that is working properly, has a ridiculous run up and then is told by the casino that there was an issue that impacted the random number generator, or something? Is a player like that going to need to sue in order to get their money.

Bonus Abuse

When it comes to, “Bonus Whoring,” and, “Bonus Abuse,” online casinos that are regulated and legalized by individual U.S. States will also crack down on that, if they think that it is going on.

One example comes from a trustworthy friend of mine who says that Caesars Online Casino (yes, them again) had offered a Sports Bonus and accused he and a friend of doing, “Offset betting,” to make sure one of them won and the other lost.

The way that offset betting works for sports bonuses is that, imagine a casino offers you a, “Risk Free Bet,” if you lose, then you will pick a game that has some sort of half point line, have two people doing the promotion and then take opposite sides of that game.

The way that it works out, and let’s say that each player is betting $500, will look like this if both have one side of a -110 line:

Winner: $500 + (500 * 100/110) = $954.55 (rounded) Cash

Loser: -$500, $500 “Risk Free Bet.”

Okay, so the way that the Risk Free bets usually work is that the player qualifies to receive the winnings on the Risk-Free bet, if his next bet is a winner, but will not get the Risk Free Bet money back itself. With this, the two players will partially offset each other again in order to guarantee profits. You can come up with a tighter possible outcome if you want to, but I’m going to have the side with the cash bet $260 on a half point offset line:

Risk Free Bet: $500

Winning First Bet: $260 ($694.55 cash remaining)

Okay, so either side can win this one. If the risk-free bets wins, then the winnings are going to be $454.55, which gets added to the $694.55 the other side still has, for a total outcome of $1,149.10, which is $149.10 in profits on a $1,000 total deposit ($500 each).

If the side playing the cash wins, then you have:

260 + (260 * 100/110) = $496.37 (Rounded)

Which gets added to the $694.55 that person already had remaining in cash and results in $1,190.92, or $190.92 in profits on $1,000 total amount deposited.

Again, you can play around with this to achieve a tighter outcome, if you want to, just use the same formulas that I used. In this instance, if you want to tighten the two possible results a little bit, then the cash side of the equation should bet a little bit less.

I have engaged in this strategy with a confederate (actually, it’s the guy that I am talking about) on these Risk-Free promotions as high as $1,000 per side...we’re actually making them risk-free!!! Other than the casino refusing to honor the promotion, there’s no possible way that we can fail to profit!

However, this same confederate did the risk-free bets with someone else; I don’t even want to say what amount...and despite the fact that they did this in two different states, the casino refused to honor the Risk Free bet rebate. As a result, the winning side of the bet (and the two, in total) ended up losing the total vig on the bet...in our example above, that would mean that $45.45 had been lost.

One way of getting around this is to try to find a state with several different promotions of this nature going on and try to structure your betting so that bonuses are being taken at different websites such that Player A (playing at a certain site) is offsetting Player B (who is playing at a different site, or combination of sites) as long as both players have access to the same half point line. It’s not that important if the Vig is a little different at these sites; the most important thing is that it be a half point line because a push is the last thing you want...especially when you’re doing the, “Risk Free Bet,” part.

Another thing that you can do, unless you might be concerned that the casinos communicate with one another, is simply use multiple sites to offset yourself on these promotions. There probably are some players out there who do that, but if those online casinos communicate with one another, then the side where you should be getting the Risk Free Bet might refuse to give it to you. For that reason, I think the least detectable strategy, at this time, is to have two different people (preferably in two different states) using different sites from each other. In the case of my friend who did not get the Risk Free Bet honored...they were already in different states.

It’s probably also a good idea to do it on games that are going to get a lot of action as it is, such as Monday Night Football games, at least, if you can get a half point line on the spread or the game total. Just to be extra safe, if you’re Friends on some sort of social media (such as Facebook) Unfriend/Unfollow each other and make both of your profiles as private as possible. If the online casinos, even the regulated ones, suspect that something is up...then they will probably Google (or search social media) for the players involved to see if they can establish any connection between the two.

It’s Not Risk-Free!!!

People might consider some of these tactics shady, which is fine, you do you and I will do me, but I consider the way that they advertise shady.

For one thing, the bet is absolutely NOT Risk-Free. It’s not as if the casino gives you an immediately withdrawable rebate of your losing bet, no, they give you a free bet, so there are a wide variety of risks which include:

1.) If you lose two bets in a row, then you will have lost your entire deposit. That certainly seems like a risk!

2.) The Risk Free bet, at least for every site I have seen, is ONE bet, which means that you can’t stagger out a bunch of small bets to try to return as much of your initial deposit as possible, which is something that you would totally do with other, “Risk Free,” casino promotions.

3.) Most (if not all) of these, “Risk Free Bets,” only pay out what the profits would have been as if it were a cash bet, but do not pay the original wager amount in cash.

As a result, if a player loses the first bet and gets a, “Risk Free bet,” then puts the Risk-Free Bet on a line such as -110 (perceived as more likely to win than + lines) that player stands to gain less than the amount of the Risk-Free bet itself is. As such, the player will have still lost money overall, so I fail to see how that is, “Risk Free.”

Instead, I would be fine if they changed the terminology to, “Bet Rebate,” because that’s what it actually is. They won’t do that because the initial advertising would no longer be misleading, but that is what the right thing to do would be.

Just because it’s not Risk-Free doesn’t mean that you should not play it. There are a variety of ways that it can be played, which includes even taking a shot at a longer odds outcome in the hopes of a big payday. However, for the purposes of illustrating an example of the value of this bet, I will give an example of a single player making a straight up $500 deposit and betting only on up to two -110 lines where the following results are possible:

Lose-Lose

Lose-Win

Win

If the player wins on the initial bet, then there is obviously no reason that he would make a second bet, because he is already profitable and does not qualify for the Risk Free bet anymore. Again, for simplicity, we are going to assume that each bet has a 50% probability of winning, which is what is implied by the -110 line:

-500 25% of the time (Lose Lose)

-500 (Gone)---Free Bet win of $454.55, Net Loss of $45.45 25% of the time

+$454.55 (50% win immediately)

With that, we can do some simple subtraction to get our expected value:

(454.55 * .5) - (45.45 * .25) - (500 * .25) = $90.91 (Rounded) 

Therefore, the expected result is for the player to profit to the tune of $90.91 relative to an initial bet of $500. In terms of profit probability, the only way that happens is if the first bet is won, so the player will expect to have overall profits 50% of the time.

90.91/500 = .18182, which means that the player playing the promotion this way, under these betting conditions, is at a 18.182% advantage. This is the same thing as 590.91/500 = 1.18182, which means an expected percentage return of 118.182%, so you can express that either way.

What the offsetting method discussed above attempts to do is structure the betting in such a way that guaranteed profits can be had at the sacrifice of a little bit of expected value. The reason that there is a small sacrifice in EV, compared to two players just doing it separately, is because the two players will be making more in total bets and, consequently, will face a great vigorish against them...even though they are guaranteed to be profitable as long as the Bonus is honored and they do it correctly.

In this example, you’re only making one $500 bet with actual cash. Even if you include the Free Bet and count it as a cash bet, then there is a 50% chance you will bet a total of $500 (because you won the first bet) and a 50% chance that you will make $1,000 in total bets, which represents an expected bet total of:

(500 * .5) + (1000 * .5) = $750

Whereas, the players offset betting one another (as above) will ALWAYS be making a total of $1,760 in bets, using $260 as the cash bet amount to offset the Risk Free Bet amount (and, again, that can be adjusted)...so you have the initial bet total of $1,000 plus the Risk Free bet of $500 and a cash bet of $260 ($760 in total) the second time around for a total of $1,760 in bets that happens 100% of the time.

In other words, where players would normally expose an expected bet total of $750 (includes a 50% chance of making the $500 Bonus bet) players offsetting one another will instead expose a total of $880 in total bets, each.

If we assume that all bets are going to be made at a Vig of -110, then we will find from this example a difference of:

750 - (750 * 100/110) = $68.18181

As opposed to:

1760 - (1760 * 100/110) = $160

In expected total vig paid.

In fact, going back to our first example of possible outcomes, the average outcome would have been $170.01 in total profits, which is $85 per player. With the player playing it straight up, and possibly making less than $1,000 in total bets, we will recall that the expected profits playing it otherwise the same way (-110 lines) were $90.91.

In other words, each of the two players working together are sacrificing $5.91 in expected final profits in order to instead guarantee a profitable outcome. Combined, they are sacrificing $11.82 in expected total profits compared to each of them just playing it separately instead.

That makes total sense and is based entirely off of that $260 cash bet which, as we can see:

260 - (260 * 100/110) = 23.6363636364

Has a vig of 23.6363636364 on a win and a 50% probability of winning (assumed) for an expected total vig of 11.8181818182, or $11.82, which reflects the total difference in expected profits between the two players working together and them working individually and playing it the way that I highlighted for an individual player completely independently of one another.

However, in exchange for this loss in expected value that comes about by way of the expected vig on the $260 cash bet (otherwise, each player would still be expected to make $750 in total bets, which is exactly the same as an individual player is expected to make) what the two players working together does is guarantees a profit. Again, as long as the Bonus is given and the players are paid, (and they do it right by not accidentally picking the same side of the bet, or something) then it is literally impossible for the two players not to profit.

Of Course…

Of course, online sports betting is a pretty new thing in the United States and what I have detailed is probably the easiest, but far from the only way, to take advantage of Risk Free Bet type of promotions, so you will probably want to hurry up, find a partner, and get on it if you want to do it that way, because these promotions are likely not going to last much longer.

If you don’t want to do it the way that I have detailed, then as I have mentioned (for people playing individually) there is still an expected profit with other ways of doing it, or alternatively, there are other ways of doing it with confederates that you can look into, if you are interested.

Some people to play this, even with confederates, might even put some study into the matter and find ways of doing it that involve making bets that they perceive to be positive expected value by themselves, and while that is certainly going to often lead to better ways of doing it, personally, I would recommend my way for amateurs for ease of use...it’s a ridiculously simple method to follow and I have given you all the details that you will need to do it above.

Other Bonus Terms and Conditions

With that, we will take a look at Unibet online casino, which is an online casino in Pennsylvania where I have recently played a deposit match promotion and failed to profit. It was a pretty marginal promotion to begin with, but I wasn’t finding much new stuff in the state (or online) and my recurring offers had been kind of slow from both in-state and offshore casinos lately, so I decided to give it a try.

The Unibet promotion, as of the time of this writing, is a straightforward 100% Deposit Match promotion on $500 deposited. If you want to see the Terms and Conditions for yourself, then you can find them here:

Some of these will be quoted as I go on, but this is a very marginal promotion. As of the time fo this writing, there are two casinos in PA that are offering a 100% deposit match with only 1x playthrough, and one of them (PlaySugarhouse) even allows for Video Poker to be played to meet the playthrough requirements. If you live here or are ever in the state, then I would get on those in a serious hurry because, as long as you are happy to bet low enough amounts to, “Grind it Out,” even on the one with a 100% deposit match of $400 that is slots only, it is almost impossible to fail to profit if you pick the right games...even the slot one has a bunch of somewhat low variance options available.

Anyway, this promotion has more than a 1x playthrough requirement, unfortunately, and is the type of bonus that I will expect most in-state online casinos to be doing in the future...so you really should hop on those 1x playthrough ones while they last! The way that this Bonus worked, here are the relevant terms:

Casino New Player Offers – New players can claim a free $10 casino bonus and a 100% deposit bonus (max bonus of $500) when registering by selecting the “CASINO | $10 Free Bonus Money & 100% Deposit Bonus” when creating a new account.

The player must be opening a new account and select ““CASINO | $10 Free Bonus Money & 100% Deposit Bonus” during the registration process. Failing to select this option on the registration process, will result in the bonuses not being added to the account.

The first thing that we notice is that the player must select these options upon registering the account, or may otherwise make a deposit and forfeit his or her right to the bonus. Other promotions as this casino also involve going to a player’s own, “My Bonuses,” page and making deposits through the bonus link...which is the same thing at other online casinos, such as Wind Creek.

It’s honestly better to have to do it this way (especially if chat will give you a bonus if you accidentally forgot to click through the bonus link, though I cannot promise they will, and then you will have to do a 1x playthrough to even cash out your deposit) because some casinos will lock you into promotions that you have to specifically decline and for which the playthrough requirements and Bonus Terms are so ridiculous that you have no expectation of profit anyway.

What I am saying is that, even if players have to take a somewhat specific action, I think it is better that they should have to, “Opt into,” a bonus rather than being required to, “Opt Out,” of a bonus that they do not want.

For the 100% deposit bonus players must wager the deposit and bonus amount (the “Wagering Requirement”) 10x on casino games or 10X on the sportsbook. Sportsbook players have a wagering requirement of odds -300 or greater (i.e -200, +100). Players have 30 days to satisfy the Wagering Requirements from the day the bonus funds are awarded. Failing to do so will result in the expiration and any remaining bonus amount.

Example: If you deposit $50 using the 100% Deposit Bonus Offer, you will receive $50 in bonus money along with the $50 you deposited. You would have to wager a total amount of $100 either 10X ($1000) for casino games or 10X ($1000) for Sportsbook events.

Sportsbook bets must be wagered at odds of -300 or higher (e.g. -200, +100) to contribute towards any bonus wagering. Odds that are enhanced via either a Profit Boost or Odds Boost token will only contribute to any bonus wagering at their original price. All table games will only contribute 10% towards bonus wagering. Video Poker is considered a table game and will also contribute 10% towards bonus wagering. For example, $100 wagered on Blackjack will only contribute $10 towards your bonus wagering.

This has recently been updated and Video Poker was not stated to have a separate wagering requirement, at one point in time.

When it comes to this bonus, players who do the full deposit of $500 will essentially have to play through $10,000 in total on casino games (which basically just means slots), make $10,000 in total sports bets, or make $100,000 in total bets on either Video Poker or Table Games.

When it comes to this promotion, it would take a paytable of 99.5%, or better, on Video Poker for players to be expected to finish with a profit. They do have a few such paytables, but this is not a promotion where a player can easily, “Grind,” his way to profits. Even if there was a way to reliably grind it out, the wagering would take forever because of how low that players would have to bet. Basically, this deposit bonus with the new Video Poker addendum is not THAT much better than decent deposit bonuses at offshore casinos.

When it comes to Sports Betting, unless a player is good, then the player is expected to make only a small amount of money. The expected vig on the sports bets of $10,000 total is almost as much as the original deposit itself, which makes the expectation slightly profitable.

Overall game returns are available on some of the slot games and almost all of them are over 95% return-to-player, which means that players playing this bonus thorough on slots will have an expectation of profit (depending on the return of the game they choose), but that will also come with a substantial amount of variance. However, players doing it that way will have a more reasonable time trying to grind out small bets, but on slot games, the Variance is a lot higher than it would be on something like Blackjack.

Order of Funds Used for Wagering

The player will receive the $10 free bonus money after selecting this offer during the registration process and getting their account verified.

When you deposit and claim the 100% deposit bonus, your bonus funds will be combined in your account balance. When wagering, the portion of your balance that is cash will be used first.

Example: If you deposit $500 using the 100% Deposit Bonus offer, then you will receive a $500 bonus. Player will see $1,000 as the balance to play.

The, “Cash used first,” policy is similar to most online casinos, including offshore ones and the reason for that policy is that the bonus funds are used last, so if a player wants to change his mind about doing the promotion and requesting a cashout, then he will lose any profits from the bonus itself (be entitled to the original $500 only, but with a balance over $1,000, it makes more sense to keep playing anyway), or with a balance of between $500-$999.99, would have the bonus funds subtracted from that balance, as well as any winnings that came from bonus funds, and would only be entitled to that.

HOWEVER, one thing that players will notice with this promotion, which is not the case with many offshore casinos, is that there are no restrictions on how much they can bet (aside from the Table Limits themselves), which means that players do have the option of taking a shot and grinding through the playthrough if they win on the initial huge bet that they have taken. That is a common tactic that I have written about before both here and on the Wizard of Odds, so you can look into my articles related to that, if you wish.

Generally speaking, you will want to take something of a long shot before starting the grinding process if you are going to do that.

Of course, while it may not be specifically prohibited, their general Terms and Conditions have the usual catch all terms that you would find anywhere else, such as:

In the event that we, in our sole discretion, determine that a player is abusing, or otherwise acting in bad faith in relation to any bonus or promotion, we reserve the right to terminate a player’s account and/or withhold funds in a player’s account pursuant to our Terms of Service, subject to applicable laws and regulations.

We reserve the right, at our sole discretion and at a time of our choosing to revoke bonuses or any parts thereof.

We may, at our sole discretion, amend or modify the terms of any bonus or promotion.

We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to restrict eligibility for any bonus offer to a limited category or subset of players.

All bonus or promotional funds are subject to the terms of our Withdrawal Policy.

In other words, they reserve the right, in their sole discretion, to decide that you were not playing the bonus the way that they wanted you to and are going to withdraw your bonus.

They also reserve the right to withhold a player’s funds, but chances are that they will at least offer you your deposit back (even if they decide you have abused a promotion or bonus) because they will probably not want players taking their complaints to Pennsylvania Gaming. That’s the only area where I think the licensed and regulated casinos might have players be slightly better off than offshore casinos, which is to say that I think initial deposits might be slightly better protected than offshore.

With that said, reputation means a lot and I think that Unibet is a decent casino and many offshore casinos are also fantastic, in my opinion. Many of them have stellar reputations and have very few, if any, reported issues when it comes to unfairly withholding player deposits. In fact, many of them have representatives who are active on our forums, and are ready to help players out to resolve a dispute.

Another term:

In the event that Unibet deems in its sole discretion that you have been taking unfair advantage of promotions, or have executed any other act in bad faith in relation to a promotion offered on pa.unibet.com or any other sites owned, operated by, or affiliated with pa.unibet.com, we shall have the right to block or terminate your account, and the Company shall be under no obligation to refund to you any bonus funds or winnings that may be in your account, subject to applicable laws and regulations.

Which is another sort of catch all term, but as you might notice, it doesn’t say anything about potentially refusing to refund deposits. Again, I think the Gaming Departments of individual states are going to have more teeth that most licensing jurisdictions of offshore casinos that operate within the United States, so as a result, I think deposits are slightly better protected.

Although, I wish bonus winnings would be just as protected! If they offer a bonus, and I execute a high-variance, high expected value, but low probability strategy and crush it...is it really my fault that they offered the bonus in the first place? They didn’t have to give me a bonus that I could crush, after all.

Also, much like offshore casinos like to do, if you want to see all of Unibet’s policies, then you have to go to three different pages on the website. You might read through the deposit match terms and think because it said, “Full Terms and Conditions,” that those are everything that could apply, but they aren’t.

Of course, there are some things that in-state online casinos have the right to do, by player agreement, that offshore casinos don’t have and that players may not like. From Unibet’s general Terms and Conditions:

 You hereby explicitly consent to the Company performing background checks on You for any reason related to the use of the Website(s), the Software, or the Services, including, but not limited to, any investigation into Your identity, any credit checks performed on You, or any inquiries into Your personal history. The basis for such investigations will be dependent on the specific case, and could include, but not be limited to, verification of Your registration details, such as the name, address and age, verification of financial transactions, and verification of gaming activity. The Company shall be under no obligation to advise You of such an investigation taking place and We may use social media sites in conducting such an investigation. Such activities may also include the use of specific third-party companies who perform the investigations as required. The Company may decide, in its sole discretion, to block Your account, and withhold all funds, on the basis of such an investigation.

How do you like that? It’s possible that they may just straight up run a background check or a credit check on you, when all you want to do is deposit and play at the website that they are offering! Don’t worry, this is not unique to Unibet, while I have not read the full Terms and Conditions of every online casino in the State of Pennsylvania (or other states, for that matter) something like this Term has been involved in every casino for which I have read the full terms. It’s not unusual.

In addition to not notifying you of any such investigation, they will also have people, if they decide to, search your social media profile. In other words, if you play their bonus in a way that they think may constitute bonus abuse, then they may look for other ways to deny you your winnings.

Again, we don’t think that such a thing typically happens, just like most reputable offshore casinos don’t typically refuse to pay out winnings...but if you ever have a withdrawal that is being delayed, then there’s a fair chance that an investigation is the reason why. That actually has me starting to wonder about PlaySugarhouse hassling me over the drivers license that I was going to present at the physical casino anyway...I wonder if they were investigating me at the time? Oh well. They wouldn’t have found anything that they could use to void my winnings, I wouldn’t think. I certainly didn’t do anything wrong as I was basically playing it straight up.

They also have a general Term and Condition that covers the sports betting corporation method that I described above, with:

7.5 You acknowledge that, if We have reason to suspect that an End User or group of End Users are operating systematically (for example, employing specific wagering techniques or wagering as a group), the Company shall have the right to block or terminate all such End Users accounts and in such circumstances, the Company shall be under no obligation to refund such End User(s) any funds (including any deposited funds and/or winnings) or provide such End User(s) with access to any rewards points or bonuses that may be in such End User accounts, with such funds, rewards points, and bonuses being forfeited, subject to PGCB approval.

In that instance, they say that they will not be obligated to refund deposits or winnings, but once again, we would think that they would allow the winning side of the bet to withdraw funds because the two people working together would have lost money (overall) in the first place and we seriously doubt that Unibet (or any other site) would be in any great hurry to get Pennsylvania Gaming involved in the matter. For that reason, while we can’t say that initial deposits are absolutely safe, as long as you obtained those funds legally, we would consider them to be generally safe.

Here’s the one where they give themselves five business days to approve withdrawals and say that they are not responsible for third-party delays:

9.8 When You wish to withdraw money from Your account, payments generally will be made as soon as reasonably possible (subject to internal processing time of up to five (5) business days). However, if at the time of a withdrawal request, You have any deposits which are pending receipt of confirmation of funds (e.g., deposits by ACH/E-Check, wire transfer, or other deposit methods), the Company reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to delay any withdrawal payment until such deposited funds have been confirmed by Your banking institution. Additionally, You may experience additional delays due to any security review undertaken by Us, or whenever any other provision of this Agreement allows or requires Us to hold a payment. Should You fail to provide the Company with, or fail to verify the authenticity of, any documents requested by the Company relating to Your identification or any deposit or withdrawal method used by You, the Company reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel a withdrawal request. Once the Company approves a withdrawal, the Company is not responsible for any third-party financial clearing process that delays Your payment from being received.

Again, there are also possible delays for their security review, if any, to take place even though they said in an earlier term that you will not necessarily be notified that such a thing is happening.

Beyond that, as I have seen with other online casinos, they will often request various documents from you (I had to send a banking statement to one state licensed one), but typically, will not do this until such time that you are actually requesting a withdrawal...sound familiar?

Much like many offshore casinos, they are not that worried about verifying your identity and the accuracy of your information when you are depositing and playing (out of six PA online casinos I have played, only two requested any documents prior to my asking for a withdrawal), but when it comes time to withdraw, they suddenly become much more concerned that you are who you say you are. However, I can say that I was able to both deposit and withdraw from one online casino without ever having to send them any documents...but it could be that they are managed by the same company as a casino that I had played at before, so they might have already had what they wanted, as far as documentation goes.

Remember how we were talking about, “Shot-Taking,” before...well, while it wasn’t mentioned in the Bonus Terms for that specific Bonus, or in the general Bonus Terms, they do cover it in the General Terms and Conditions, where most people would never think to look for it as follows:

10.5 In the event that the Company deems, in its sole discretion, that You have been taking advantage of the Company’s bonuses or have executed any other act in bad faith in relation to a bonus promotion offered on the Website(s) or on any other websites owned and/or operated by the Company, the Company shall have the right to lock or terminate Your accounts with the Company, and in such circumstances, the Company shall be under no obligation to refund You any bonus funds or winnings that may be in Your accounts according to the Regulations and subject to PGCB approval. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing and by way of example and not limitation, the Company may deem activities such as minimal-risk wagering (for example, placing opposing bets, such as both red and black, on the same spin in roulette) to be taking advantage of the Company’s bonuses or an act in bad faith in relation to a bonus promotion, thus enabling the Company to exercise its sole discretion under the terms of this Section 10.5. Similarly, and again without limiting the generality of the foregoing and by way of example and not limitation, the Company may deem activity such as using multiple accounts, closing and reopening accounts, irregular betting patterns, or other activity that violates the intent of a promotion to be bonus abuse, enabling the Company to exercise its sole discretion under the terms of this Section 10.5.

Okay, the prohibition against self-offsetting bets, such as betting Red and Black simultaneously in Roulette, makes total sense and is a term that I would expect ANY online casino to have. In the early days of online casinos, players could sometimes get away with that (which is one of the reasons that Terms are so strict now---thanks, guys!), but you cannot realistically expect ANYONE to put up with that these days now that online casinos are more sophisticated. In fact, it’s probably been 20+ years since a player could have any hope of getting away with those kinds of junk tactics.

However, the, “Irregular Betting Patterns,” is a bit of a concern because, where some offshore casinos will specify minimums and maximums for betting while on a promotion, Unibet offers no such set of specifics. In other words, “Irregular Betting Patterns,” might as well just be whatever they feel like that means at the moment. It’s for that reason that I didn’t use the, “Shot-taking and then grind if you win,” method and would recommend that nobody else does, either.

Hell, the site might even decide to void your bonus because you used a negative expectation betting system, such as the Labouchere or Martingale, but decide that those are irregular betting patterns designed to exploit a bonus. While players probably do not have to flat bet and are free to switch games, we would recommend probably staying away from doing anything that could be considered, “Shot-Taking,” while you are playing on Bonus funds.

Conclusion

In short, my conclusion is that I do not think that there is much that would increase player protection when it comes to the Rules and Regulations that in-state online casinos must follow as compared to offshore casinos.

The positive aspects of in-state casinos, when compared, are that I think that deposits are slightly better protected and, not wanting a dispute to escalate to in-state regulatory agencies, I think that in-state online casinos can be expected to be slightly less aggressive when it comes to accusing players of, “Bonus Abuse,” and taking action against them.

On the other hand, players may not like that they are allowing an in-state online casino, which deals directly with a State Government entity, the authorization to perform background and credit checks on them, perhaps, without them even knowing about it or knowing that that term even exists...as most players will not read the full Terms and Conditions.

Personally, if I think that there is a promotion that I can beat without resorting to unusual methods that would draw suspicion, then I am just as likely to play at an in-state licensed and regulated online casino as I am at an offshore one that has a good reputation and favorable player reviews because, overall, I really don’t think there is much of a difference.

Brandon  profile image Brandon LCB Reviewer - last updated 2022-03-16
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