Thousands of desktop and smartphone casinos exist in today’s digital gambling market. Logically speaking, they can’t all be top-tier sites. Only the most prestigious, well-built and finely tuned operations can claim such status.
In the last few years, mobile casino popularity has grown to phenomenal heights. Desktop gaming sites are still well-visited, and won’t be disappearing from the iGaming realm anytime soon. But with the majority of the world’s population carrying one touch-screen mobile device or another, smartphone casinos are becoming the primary focus of the industry’s software developers.
The shift to mobile began just a few years ago, and surprisingly, most of the sites that once ruled the roost in desktop gaming have found themselves descending the proverbial ladder. It’s not that they aren’t converting their systems to support gaming on smartphones and tablets. It’s that they’re forced to take a backwards approach to it.
They’ve started with a stellar desktop platform, and that’s good. But ordering their programmers to transition that technology to something that’s ultimately compatible with all the major mobile phones and tablets – Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone, etc. – that’s obviously easier said than done.
The key was to convert all desktop web pages to HTML5. However, as these operators began boasting that their platforms were fully optimized for mobile, the inevitable bugs began to rear their ugly heads. An error here, a miss-sized page there, a menu that didn’t agree with the programmer’s tap-to-open language.
Best Smartphone Casinos Built On Mobile
While all of these mishaps were being untangled, new smartphone casinos were appearing. These websites were being designed with a mobile-first approach, ensuring that their platform loaded seamlessly on all devices before they ever went live.
In 2012, a new mobile casino called LeoVegas hit the market. New gambling sites don’t often get a lot of attention. It can take years to establish a distinguished reputation, especially in a business such as this one. But by using the exact strategy described above, LeoVegas didn’t just make waves, it crashed upon shore, employing a phenomenal marketing campaign that drew countless players and decimated the competition.
LeoVegas Proves Mobile-First Works
The company’s mobile strategy was enormously successful, earning LeoVegas a trophy case full of awards over the next few years. It started when EGR Nordic Awards named them ‘Best Innovation in Casino‘ in 2013, followed by ‘Best Mobile Product‘ in 2014.
The next year, LeoVegas took home EGR Nordic Awards for ‘Slots Operator of the Year‘ and ‘Affiliate Program of the Year‘, as well as the ‘Grand Prize Award‘ from the GP Bullhound Summit.
In 2016, LeoVegas scooped seven more awards, including EGR Nordic’s best ‘Mobile Operator‘, ‘Casino Operator‘ and ‘Nordic Operator‘ awards. International Gaming Awards named them ‘Online Casino Operator of the Year‘, Gaming Intelligence awarded them with ‘Casino Operator of the Year‘, and EGR bestowed them with dual titles of ‘Best Mobile Marketing Campaign‘ and ‘Best CRM Campaign‘ of 2016.
One of the companies lead managers explained why he thinks LeoVegas has become on of the best smartphone casinos in the world.
“I think what makes LeoVegas different is that we had mobile in mind before we launched as a website,” he said. “Most companies do it the other way around. They launch the website with desktop in mind and then have a problem to solve when they realise they have to offer a mobile version as well…
“Because we were always thinking ‘how will this look on mobile?‘ or ‘will this create a problem on mobile?‘ from the very start, we were prepared for all that already when the app came.”
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Today’s industrial market is filled with competition. Pick any business, and you’ll likely find two juggernauts leading the way. In mobile technology, it’s iOS vs. Android. In eMerchanting, it’s Amazon vs. eBay. Even the toothpaste industry has Crest vs Colgate. In Daily Fantasy Sports, we have the two leading DFS betting giants, DraftKings vs. FanDuel.
For the last few years, these DFS sites have competed directly against one another to be the top fantasy-based, real money sports betting operators in the world. While their operations were aimed solely towards the US and Canada for a long time, they both branched out into the UK market last year, each seeking eventual global domination.
According to ESPN, DraftKings and FanDuel spent more than $750 million combined on television ads, encouraging DFS betting enthusiasts to choose one operation over the other. It was a grueling, no-holds-barred campaign from both directions. And I must say, it did work, attracting an estimated 56 million users to their DFS sites from North America alone.
But as is often the case with huge companies in a dead heat for first place, we’ve learned that the two largest fantasy-based real money sports betting companies are now about to merge.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!
That’s right – it’s Serius and XM satellite radio all over again. DraftKings and FanDuel have already negotiated the terms of a merger. All that’s left now is that pivotal moment when government regulators stamp their seal of approval on the deal.
That’s expected to happen in the coming months, lining the DFS sites up to finalize the merger shortly into the second half of 2017; probably just in time for kick-off of the next NFL season.
Being relatively equal in size, the merger will see both companies splitting their responsibilities right down the middle.
Jason Robins, current CEO of DraftKings, will maintain his role, becoming the new CEO of the merged brand. Nigel Eccles, current CEO of FanDuel, will hop into the seat of Board Chairman. And, to keep it fair, each operator will get three seats on the new company board.
“This merger will help advance our goal of building a transformational global sports entertainment platform,” said Robins in a press release commenting the intended merger.
Eccles was equally enthusiast about the deal on ESPN.com. “Being able to combine DraftKings and FanDuel presents a tremendous opportunity for us to further innovate and disrupt the sports industry.”
“Disrupt”? Wait Just A Darn Minute…
Did Eccles really use the word, “disrupt”, to describe the DFS sites’ merger? Yes, he did, and that’s exactly what government regulators could be thinking, too.
You see, in order for a merger to be approved, it must not create a monopoly that would devastate other businesses operating in the same industry. And that could pose a huge problem for these real money sports betting aficionados.
But assuming the merger is approved – and it probably will be, just as Serius/XM was – it begs to question how punters will be effected.
As Kevin McGuire of The Comeback pointed out: “Reducing competition… could be dangerous for the consumer… there’s less incentive to keep prices (in this case, the portion of the fantasy pot taken by the company) down when there’s the perception that the player has nowhere else to play.”
“Commission Will Absolutely Not Increase”
In response to growing concern among the DFS betting community, Robins told ESPN on Friday, “The commission will absolutely not increase as a result of this merger.
“We always try to balance what’s the right commission rate to make the games fun and exciting and make everyone feel like they have a chance to win and also to create a healthy profitable company. And those are the same objectives that will exist post-merger,” he said. “We’re not foolish enough to think that we can raise commission to a level that players will just accept.”
Yeah, well, Richard Nixon said, ‘I am not a crook!‘, and George Bush senior said, ‘Read my lips – No new taxes!‘
There are no guarantees as to what will or won’t happen if/when DraftKings and FanDuel become one. But if we use the example of Serius/XM just once more, it’s worth noting that company did not issue a price hike following it’s 2008 merger until 2011, and that was based solely on inflation.
Casinos have been around for hundreds of years. Thanks to the computer geniuses that brought us the world wide web, online gambling showed up about two decades ago. As technology progressed, we gained the ability to play the same games on a mobile casino for real money in the late 2000’s.
Mobile gambling has actually been around longer than that. I believe it was 2003 Microgaming launched the very first mobile casino app, but that was in the draconian days of flip-phones with arrow-keys to make selections. In terms of modern, touch-screen technology, mobile casinos didn’t begin to flourish until about five years later.
Now days, everyone uses their Android and Apple iOS smartphones and tablets for gaming. Some prefer social games, like Candy Crush or Words with Friends. I prefer something with a bit more of a bite to it, and there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration that comes with playing a mobile casino for real money.
Every game you can imagine is available these days. Hundreds of classic and 5-reel video slots grace the menus. Video poker and table games like blackjack, baccarat, roulette, craps, three card poker, ultimate Texas holdem; I could go on and on. Thanks to HTML5 optimization, mobile casinos have it all, and you don’t even have to download an app to access them (although it is an option).
Sounds great, right? And it is – but just like those social games I mentioned above, mobile casino games can be quite addicting. The thrill of the win can be like a drug-induced high. And if we’re not careful, we could find ourselves spending a lot more money on these games than we ever intended.
It’s awfully easy to keep clicking the Spin button on the slots, or doubling up a blackjack bet to regain the previous loss. But we can avoid such problems by simply being aware of what we’re doing, and how much we’re doing it, at all times.
Appreciating the Entertainment Value
The golden rule to gambling is to appreciate it as the entertainment option that it is. You don’t go to the movies expecting to win back your price of ticket and popcorn. Playing a mobile casino for real money affords that opportunity, but you should never play with expectations of a profit.
Those who think they can just play until they win are what critics and statistical data collectors refer to as ‘problem gamblers’. No one wants to end up in that category, and if we’re conscious of our actions, we never will.
Set Strict Deposit Limits
Think about how much money you make each week. Think about the bills you have to pay each month, and the amount you spend on other necessities like food, fuel and toiletries.
Now, think about what you have to spend on entertainment. Maybe you have an extra $200 each week. You’ll want to hold onto some of that for random things, like date night or a spontaneous outing with your friends.
If you split it in half, that gives you $100 to play around with. You know you can log onto your favorite mobile casino and deposit that $100, confident that you can afford to lose that much.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a negative way of thinking. It doesn’t mean you are going to lose, or that you’re even planning to lose. It just means that if you do lose, it’s okay. That’s a huge positive in my book.
It’s also a good idea to set time limits. If you only spin the reels or play blackjack for 15 minutes at a time, chances are your bankroll will last a lot longer. And if you do run out of funds before the week is out, that’s okay, too. There’s an easy solution for that.
Switch To Free Play Mode
You don’t always have to play a mobile casino for real money. All of those games – well, the vast majority of them, at least – are also available to play for free. The only games you won’t have access to are the live dealer casino games. Because the operator pays to maintain the studio and hires professionally trained dealers to run the tables, they like to make sure there’s always cash flowing in.
All of the other games, though, can be played anytime you like without spending a single coin of your own money. Yes, the overall experience may lose some of the exhilarating bite I spoke of before, but it’s still entertaining, and it’s a great opportunity to learn how to play new games you never tried before.
Practice Before You Play for Real Money
Would you go to the track and bet on a race if you didn’t know anything about the odds or horses that were running? Hopefully not. The same goes for casino gambling. Why would you risk real money on a game that you know nothing about?
Practice mode is the perfect way to learn the rules for any game you’re unfamiliar with. You may decide you don’t like that game, or you may find it’s your new favorite. Either way, knowing how to play is imperative before you try any game at a mobile casino for real money.
Be An Opportunistic Player
Free play mode is also a great way to incorporate and fine-tune your strategies. Maybe you know all the rules of blackjack, but do you know the best times to hit, stand, double or split your cards? Intuition is a wonderful thing, but it would be unwise to deny the law of probability.
If you really want your bankroll to last as long as possible, with the highest chance of actually winning some money, developing a solid strategy is the only way to go.
If your bankroll runs dry, don’t contemplate depositing more than you can afford to lose. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to improve your play until the next payday rolls around.
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Your good at math. You have a tidy bankroll stowed away. You’ve decided it’s time to turn your stash into more extra cash by playing real money blackjack online. That’s not a bad idea, seeing as blackjack is the most profitable game in any casino – but let’s back it up a moment.
Ask yourself a few questions first. Have you ever played blackjack? Do you truly understand the rules of the game? Are you aware that there are dozens of rule variations you could come across? Have you developed an optimal strategy for the type of blackjack game you intend to play?
If you answered ‘No‘ to any of these questions, you’ll want to keep reading.
Usefulness of Free-To-Play Blackjack Apps
I know you want to play real money blackjack online, where you can actually win cash. But the best way to learn the rules and develop a proper strategy is to practice. Playing free blackjack games just for fun is the best way to accomplish that.
Not just any blackjack app will do, though. You need one that allows you to set the various rules, and provides optimal strategic data for all hands. There are some great blackjack training apps out there that offer these features, compatible with all iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices.
Some of my favorite blackjack apps include:
Know The Rules You’re Going To Play
Selecting only the best rules for the lowest house edge isn’t going to get you anywhere. There’s no casino out there that’s going to provide all the best rules on a single table. Instead, you’ll need to see what rule variations are available at the online casino you intend to play at (see next section for more info).
Because these free-to-play blackjack apps allow users to set the rules, you can enter the exact rules in the settings menu before you start practicing. This way, when you do start playing real money blackjack online, you know you’ll be working with the best possible strategy, giving you the lowest house edge and, therefore, the highest possible win rate.
Real Money Blackjack Online
Never assume that all internet blackjack sites are created equal. For every reputable operator out there, there’s a rogue operator hoping you’ll deposit with them instead. Take your time. Do your research. Find an operator with a long-standing reputation for honesty, integrity and quick, reliable payouts. Royal Vegas is a good example, as it meets all of these standards.
Also make sure players from your country are accepted, and that the deposit/withdrawal methods meet your needs. Then, peruse the available blackjack games and see what rules they offer. If the rules are appealing, make sure the pay table is too.
A natural blackjack should always pay 3:2. If the payout is anything less than that, find a better game. Decreasing the payout for a natural blackjack is the easiest and most covert way for casinos to hike up the house edge by as much as 2.27%.
Finally, remember that it’s impossible to turn the tides completely into your favor. If it were that easy, casinos would be out of business. The best you’ll manage playing real money blackjack online is a house of about 0.4%. With the right knowledge and strategy, you’ll only need a bit of luck to overcome that minuscule edge.
As always, Microgaming is delivering new internet slots this month to all of its licensed operators. The latest addition is called Shanghai Beauty, introduced in October 2016, and the name alone tells us they’ve added yet another Oriental-themed game to the constantly growing line-up of real money slots.
I’m all for playing new titles, and always look forward to the start of each new month because I know Microgaming will deliver a few new games. But I was ultimately disappointed to see one of the most overused themes slapped atop the same old cookie-cutter slots set-up, yet again.
That’s not to say the game itself isn’t a good one, just blatantly repetitive. And of course, they didn’t get too imaginative with the symbols either, filling half the reels with generic playing card symbols of 9, 10, J, Q, K and A.
Now that I’ve gotten my rant out, let’s look a bit deeper at what else these real money slots have to offer in the way of features.
Shanghai Beauty Features
The new internet slots employ Microgaming’s typical 243 Ways to Win interfaces on a 5×3 reel set. The background music is fairly enjoyable – not too rambunctious, or slow enough to put you to sleep. It’s also multi-system compatible, so players can access the new game via desktop, mobile and tablet. It’s even available in ‘Portrait Mode‘ for smartphones (i.e. turn the phone to rotate the screen).
Shanghai Beauty follows the oriental theme well enough, filling the reels with images like the Geisha, Junk (oriental ship), Woman playing a Pipa (Chinese lute), Gold Bowls and Silver Bowls, along with Wilds (Shanghai Beauty Logo) and Scatters (Jade Box).
In the base game, things are fairly standard, except that Wilds pay 2x on all wins in which they are involved. Otherwise, because there are no actual paylines, all wins are paid as a derivative of the total bet placed, divided by all possible ways to win.
The game’s most notable feature is free spins, which are triggered by landing 3, 4 or 5 Jade Box scatters anywhere on the reels during a single play. This automatically triggers 15 free spins, regardless of the number of scatters that appeared (i.e. 4 or 5 won’t deliver more free spins). However, the player will receive Scatter pays, which do give nice payouts on their own (2 scatters = 18 credits, 3 = 45, 4 = 180, 5 = 4,500).
While the free spins are active, all winning combinations will pay at a 3x multiplier rate, based on the stake that triggered them. Free spins can also be retriggered at this time by landing 3 or more scatters during free spins.
Shanghai Beauty Slots Worth A Spin?
Not only did Microgaming’s latest internet slots fail to pique my interest in terms of thematic overlay, it doesn’t seem to bring anything interesting or innovative to the table either. There are no special bonus features outside of free spins, and no exceptional graphics or animations to draw players in.
If you’re a big fan of Oriental themes, you may want to give it a go, just to see if you like it better than the dozens of other similar games out there. Otherwise, give it a pass. You can find lots of more interesting real money slots at Royal Vegas, or any other Microgaming powered online casino.
Talk of skill-based slot machines has run rampant through Las Vegas casinos for the last year. Nevada passed a bill that legalizes skill slots in September 2015, and while manufacturers have been busy trying to create them, they quickly learned it’s not so easy to take games of skill and turn them into slot-style games with a guaranteed house edge, as per the state’s regulatory guidelines.
Last week, a pair of tech students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) turned up at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo (G2E) where they demonstrated a new game they developed that just might become the first skill slot to pass rigorous testing from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. It’s called ‘Line Em’ Up‘, and was inspired by extremely popular, puzzle-based social games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled.
Troy Pettie and Evan Thomas, both 20 year old students at UNLV, not only designed the new game, they founded their own company to house it. The company is called Guru Games, and these boys are confident they’ve got what it takes to bring the first skill-based video gambling machines to the gaming floors of Las Vegas casinos.
Line Em’ Up Skill Slots
“This is an original skill-based game called Line Em’ Up,” said Pettie while demonstrating the game at G2E.
Like other strategy puzzle games, the object is to line up matching symbols, but they won’t diappear when you do. The goal is to match as many lines as possible on a 4×4 grid before running out of moves. Lines can run horizontal, vertical and diagonal, and require four in a row (including Wild symbols) for a win.
“It’s inspired by Bejeweled and Candy Crush,” explained Thomas. “We took what we loved about those gaming mechanics, what made those games popular, and then we took what we know about gambling games and traditional slot machines and we melded the two to make something that’s seamless, unique and something that could actually work in a gambling space in a casino.”
How To Play
Players begin by choosing a bet size. The screen then fills up with symbols that drop into place (7’s, Bells, Cherries, Lemons, Gold Bars, Wilds, etc). Players will then receive a number of ‘Moves’, based on how many eligible moves there are on the screen.
If a game starts with zero moves, it’s usually an automatic loss, but as the duo explained, any game that starts with at least 1 move is destined to win.
“All zero movers are losers, but all boards that have moves are guaranteed to win,” said Pettie. He noted that even a zero-move game can be a winner, if the symbols happen to fall with a matching line of four symbols already completed.
Strategy Matters in Line Em’ Up
Just winning is one thing, but winning a larger sum of money is the real trick, and that’s where strategy comes into play. The more lines that have all matching symbols, the more money a player will win.
“The order of the moves matter,” explained Pettie in an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, “because it can impact how many lines you can ultimately make.” During one demo round, he was given a board where he could have made a line of 7’s in the first move, but instead, he made a different move that pulled a Wild over first, and was able to complete two lines, 7’s and Cherries, in two moves.
Best of all, said Pettie, “our math is it meets all the Nevada gaming regulations.” According to his partner, their algorithms guarantee a minimum 3.5% house edge for casinos, even by the most skilled of players. For those who don’t invoke perfect strategy, the house edge rises to about 6%.
The Line Em’ Up skill slots can be played right now for free on Android mobile devices as a social gaming app. But these boys have much bigger plans for the game, and are currently “in talks” with slot machine manufacturers to get their new game beyond free-to-play app, and into a live Las Vegas casino.
These days most online casinos, sports books and poker rooms have mobile applications, with many of them ensuring their applications are compatible with all devices. Android is one of the most widely used operating systems when it comes to mobile devices, and this is the one that many developers focus on first.
In this article we will take a look at the best and worst sites that have apps that are compatible with the Android operating system, along with some of the free games that you can play for fun on the Google Play Store.
The Best Online Gambling Sites
One of the online casinos that seemingly devotes as much time to its mobile app as it does it its main site, is Platinum Play. Their app is available across the board, with the Android app scoring very highly and ranking as one of the highest rated online casino applications out there. Through this app you can do everything that you can on the main site, which includes playing all of the latest slot machines games, table games and more. You can’t join through the app, but if you join through the main site you can take advantage of the 1500 free bets offered to all new members, before downloading the app and using these free bets on the many available games.
Platinum Play is the sister site to Royal Vegas Casino, both of which operate exclusively, with members able to sign up to both of them and take advantage of both of the promotions. The Royal Vegas Casino new member bonus does not offer free bets, but it does offer $1,200 in cash, paid out over the course of your first two deposits, and this money can be used on everything from the latest slot machine games, such as Dark Knight and Mega Moolah, to everything from blackjack, roulette, baccarat and more.
Gambling Sites to Avoid
One of the biggest names in gambling is 888, but we have never been a fan of their mobile apps. Like their Mac software, it seems like 888 are more concerned with rushing out a product that can increase the numbers of people on their site, without spending anytime perfecting that product. The app is glitchy and has a tendency to shut down quite a lot, so whilst 888 is okay as an online casino and sports book, it only really applies to Windows desktop users.
We would also avoid Paddy Power. The app is okay, if not a little too streamlined for our liking, but the customer service that backs it up is very poor. This site is okay if you don’t encounter an issue, but if you do then be prepared. Although they give off an aura of being hip, cool and even irrelevant, the truth is that they’re just as incapable and incompetent as many of their lesser rivals.
We also had an issue with Bet365 and Unibet, although these issues are more related to our preference than anything else. Still, if you want the best of the best, then check out the above list and leave these casinos and sports books alone, if you’re looking for something different, then checkout the list below.
Fun Play Games
These games are based on your favorite casino games, but there is no money to be won or lost here. Remember that these games need to make money though, so if they are advertised as “free” games, in the sense that you don’t pay to download them, then be cautious as they will probably have a lot of “in-app” purchases to tempt you into spending big money.
One of the games worth trying is a poker game created by Zynga, one of the richest developers in the mobile app and game industry. Zynga Poker allows players to play Texas Hold’em against their friends and against strangers. Not only is this a great way to practice the game, but there are also leaderboards that you can keep track of, and so you can test your skills against friends, family and strangers. There is no money to be won and lost, but it is very fun and if you treat it like a real game then it can be great practice for the real thing.
If blackjack is more your thing, then checkout Blackjack 21 Free, which was developed by Super Lucky Casino and has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. If your prefer your blackjack in a different setting, then Vegas Strip Blackjack may be more your thing, although make sure your expectations are low, because it might not exactly play like you expect it to.
As for slot machine games, there are plenty of those as well. Apostek created a standard slot machine game that offers something a little more old school. whilst Fortune Wheel Slots, Pharaoh’s Slots, Slotomania and Las Vegas Casino are all games that offer more of a full-on and feature-rich experience.