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.”
Since the advent of virtual currencies, and more specifically, “virtual commodities”, a very fine line has been drawn between what does and does not constitute real money gambling online. The issue has been highlighted by a UK court trial in which two men have been accused of facilitating illegal gambling, including the advertisement of gambling services to minors.
The two Essex men in question are Craig Douglas (31) and Dylan Rigby (33), a pair of video bloggers who record and upload football game content on YouTube, and at the same time, advertised for the website www.futgalaxy.com; a website where access from UK customers was blocked earlier this year.
Both men were charged with advertising unlawful gambling. Additionally, Douglas was charged with inviting minors to gamble, while Rigby was charged with providing facilities for gambling without a license.
According to the UK Gambling Commission, all counts are direct violations of the Gambling Act of 2005.
Using Virtual Items for Real Money Gambling?
The offences are related to the use of a virtual commodity known as Fifa Coins, which can be purchased or win in the Fifa computer game, and can be used on www.futgalaxy.com, and some other third-party sites, to place bets on virtual football matches and other eSports. The winnings can then be transferred back into the Fifa game.
After being charged in September, Douglas and Rigby pleaded not guilty on October 14. The hearing will begin on February 6, 2017, where the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court will whether or not Fifa coins constitute a virtual currency.
If that’s the case, computer game companies and websites that deal in these virtual currencies would be required by UK law to apply for a regulatory licence from the Gambling Commission, as their activities would fall under the guidelines of real money gambling.
Gambling Commission’s Mind Made Up
The Gambling Commission published a discussion paper in August in which a warning was emitted to operators of internet-based platforms that supply eSports betting where virtual commodities, obtained in game, are used to facilitate wagers. The Commission advised operators that they may require a gambling license to continue their services.
Trading of in-game items that can be bought, won, traded, sold or used were deemed “digital commodities” by the Commission, especially when those items can be “converted into money or money’s worth”. In cases where those items can be gambled with, the Commission defined them as “a form of virtual currency”.
Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, who specializes in gambling law and licensing, and is a prime legal consultant for Out-Law.com, gave his opinion on the matter.
“The crux of the issue is whether in-game items have a monetary value derived from the current market price and can be converted back into real-world money, and whether the court’s interpretation of the Gambling Act accords with that of the Gambling Commission on the matter of virtual currencies,” said Rees-Gay.
“The Commission in its recent discussion paper stated that ‘where ‘skins’ are traded or are tradable and can therefore act as a de facto virtual currency and facilities for gambling with those items are being offered‘ it considers that a gambling licence is required,” he explained, noting that facilitating gambling without a license “is an offence under section 33 of the Gambling Act 2005…”
Rees-Gay called this an “important case”, as it will clear up an existing “grey area” of the law for operators in terms of what does and does not constitute real money gambling where virtual items and currencies are concerned.
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Real money gambling over the internet, via desktop or mobile, is a highly controversial subject mong global governments. In some regions it’s legal, others its prohibited, and for the rest, it tends to fall into a gray area of the law. The Netherlands falls into the second category, and has made its legal stance clear to the makers of Apple smartphones and tablets.
Back in May 2016, the nation’s gambling regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), sent an official request to Apple, Inc. asking that real money gambling apps be removed from the service’s Dutch-facing App Store.
The request was more of a demand, really, as the regulator crisply reminded Apple that online wagering is still illegal in the Netherlands. Although the government is currently working on a draft bill to legalize internet casinos, the KAS was adamant that, until the Remote Gambling Act is passed, and licenses awarded to individual operators, the App Store’s provision of real money gambling applications could be interpreted as a direct violation of current law.
Apple Removes Real Money Gambling Apps
It took the tech giant – the renowned maker of Mac, MacBook, iPhone, iPad and other popular computer products – several months to fully comply with the request, but a recent publication on the Dutch regulator’s website confirmed that Apple has finally obliged.
KAS stated that “one” company (no doubt referring to Apple) successfully removed 55 real money gambling apps from its Dutch-accessible App Store, including those from major iGaming operators like Bwin and Unibet. Note that Google Play did not receive a similar request, as that company did not offer these betting apps to Dutch customers in the first place.
“One of the app stores heeded the request of the Gaming Authority and deleted initially 49 and later six so-called real-money gambling apps,” read the announcement on the KSA website.
The regulator maintains that Bwin, Unibet and other betting operators of their nature may not lawfully provide their services to anyone physically located in the Netherlands. Therefore providing their mobile apps to Dutch customers is also a violation of the law.
Higher Fines Convince Operators, App Stores To Comply
Assisting companies like Apple to comply with that law was a move by the Dutch government in 2015 to triple the penalty for illegal online gambling from €50,000 to €150,000. In the past three years, at least iGaming operators have been fined by the KSA, with some operators being slapped with as much as €200,000 in individual fines.
According to reports, only three of the penalties were actually collected. Other operators were apparently able to avoid the fines by ceasing acceptance of Dutch players and confirming their intent to apply for a Dutch license once remote gambling becomes legal.
Two iGaming operators in particular became aggressively targeted victims of the KSA’s wrath. Total E Soft Ltd. and XKL Ltd., both based in the UK, were hit with a combined total of €180,000 in fines after being charged with providing illegal online gambling services to Dutch players via 14 different online poker, casino and sports betting sites. The KSA compiled strong evidence against them, as the websites were written in Dutch and boasted the Netherlands flag within their graphical layouts.
Remote Gambling Act Coming in 2017?
The government has been working long to pass a Remote Gambling Act, and is expected to finish the job sometime next year. The draft legislation is currently working its way through Parliament’s upper house, and will finally give private companies a chance to proffer licensed, real money gambling apps and websites within the country, eliminating the existing monopoly.
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.
Recommended Casino: Royal Vegas
To Canadians, a Mac can mean a lot of things. From Mac’s Convenience stores, to Kraft’s Mac and Cheese, a processed American “food” that is loved throughout this fine nation, but in the last few years, the word has become synonymous with Apple, and the Macintosh computer. These days there is no such thing as a Mac computer, it’s an iMac or a MacBook, but the operating system that both of these use still carries the Mac name.
In this article we’ll focus on online casinos that work with the Mac operating system. There was a time when the number of gambling sites that were compatible with this OS were few and far between, a time when to play online slots for real money you had to find an Instant Play casino and force yourself to use Microsoft Internet Explorer. Those days are behind us though, as ancient as Microsoft’s dominance of the computing market, and there are many online casinos that are compatible with the Mac operating system.
With so many to choose from, Mac users are actually afforded a choice and don’t just have to go with whichever one takes them. In this article we’ll look at the best ones out there, focusing only on those that accept players from Canada, and indeed already have a strong following in this country.
The Best Mac Gambling Sites
Unfortunately, there are no sports books on this list, because whilst many such sites do work with the Mac operating system, none of them are available in Canada. We’re crossing our fingers that these laws will one day change, but as it stands Canadians are forced to limit their online betting for when they visit Europe, Australia and other countries with more relaxed laws. There are poker sites though, which is more than we can say for those living south of the border. As Canadians we have been lucky to avoid the sting of Black Friday, and to still be able to play on sites like Pokerstars, which has the biggest member base of any poker site in history.
Pokerstars is growing day by day. Here you can play in everything from 5 Card Draw cash games, to Omaha Pot-Limit Zoom games and Texas Hold’em tournaments with millions of dollars in the pot. Whatever variant you prefer, however you prefer to play and whatever level of ability you have, you’ll be able to find a suitable game here.
If video poker is more your thing, then head for Euro Palace. Don’t let its name deceive you, because this online casino is available in many countries, including Canada. Along with games of video poker that allow you to test your wits against a machine, there are also virtual scratch cards and more. New members can pickup both a matched deposit bonus and 250 free bets, which they can spend how they choose. This double-whammy is increased for all members depositing using one of 6 web wallets (including Skrill and Neteller) as they will be given a 10% bonus each and every time they deposit. Euro Palace uses Microgaming, which was the first of its kind and continues to rank as one of the best, if not the best gambling software programs on the market.
The Euro Palace casino is owned by Digimedia, who have been in business for many years and have created some of the best sites we have ever seen. One of these is Royal Vegas Casino, which offers the biggest promotions, the best games, the widest choice of banking options and much more. Royal Vegas Casino, like its sister site Euro Palace, uses Microgaming and it also offers all members a 10% bonus if they deposit using one of 6 web wallets.
One of the areas in which Royal Vegas Casino differs from its sister site, is the new member bonus that it offers. Royal Vegas Casino does not offer any free bets, but it does offer a cash bonus that is considerably larger than Euro Palace. All new members can claim up to $1,200, with a 100% matched bonus paid out on their first deposit, and a 50% matched bonus on their second deposit. With the extra 10%, this can add up to a huge amount of free cash with which you can start your Royal Vegas Casino membership.
More importantly, at least for the context of this article, both of these sites work with the Mac operating system. In fact, they’re pretty much compatible with all operating systems, including many mobile ones. They both have high quality apps that you can find on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and you can do everything that you can on the full software on these apps.