Here at ThePOGG we take our online casino rating and reviewing procedure very seriously. We understand the need for a service like ours in a market where rogue casinos operating without licenses flourish by conning players out of their hard-earned cash. With over 30 years of collective industry experience and over 2,300 casino reviews published, we are well placed to advise. To protect our customers and give them a complete picture of the operator they are considering signing up and playing at, we provide in-depth and entirely independent reviews based on a stringent set of parameters. Our review process is unique in that we will not accept payment from an operator to guarantee privileged placement or a review rating upgrade – sadly this is common practice in the igaming industry - and many players are unaware of this. None of our New Online Casinos will be listed on our website without a thorough review having been compiled.
How our Online Casino Reviews are Categorised
We want our review categories to be as clear as possible – we want to make sure that there is no room for players to misinterpret a casino’s status on our website, then we can be sure there is minimal risk of them being mistreated. We have organised our online casino reviews into 4 distinct categories so that players find their way to the most trustworthy and reputable operators existing in the igaming sector today. Players will find casinos assigned the following categories: Recommended, Needs Work, Not Recommended and Blacklisted. Read on to find out more about what each of these categories means for players.
Casinos assigned Recommended status at ThePOGG are premium quality operators. They have a track record of trustworthiness – they are safe, secure and display high levels of integrity. Our Recommended casinos are keen to make sure that all players receive the best experience possible across all aspects of their time on site – this means that most of them are very proactive in discussing and resolving complaints players may bring to us about them. Casinos listed as Recommended will be in possession of top-tier licenses from the best regulators in the sector and as a result of this they go out of their way to protect the most vulnerable players visiting using their service. More information on our top-tier regulators can be located here.
We think of the Needs Work category as something of a buffer category allowing new operators (to the market or to our website) to build up the quality reputation it takes to make it to Recommended status without placing players at risk. New operators without any negative factors to influence their review will remain in the Needs Work category for a year in order for us to gain experience of working on complaints with them, and to allow them to demonstrate that their business practices are of a high standard. If this probationary period is successfully negotiated, then the operator in question will move to the Recommended category; if not they will remain at Needs Work. If concerns emerge during the 12 months the operator may also be reassigned to the Not Recommended or Blacklisted categories depending on the severity of the issues raised.
If we have placed an online casino in the Not Recommended category it is a strong indicator that players should not signup and deposit there. Normally this is as a result of an accumulation of low tariff incidents that have been brought to our attention over a period of time. Issues such as refusing to enter discussions pertaining to complaints brought to our service by players, or a variety of other irresponsible or questionable practices lead to Not Recommended status at ThePOGG. Players should note that the number of casinos that we do recommend is vastly less than other similar websites – our standards for Recommendation are incredibly high – we will not negotiate on this.
Any casino that has been assigned Blacklisted status at ThePOGG is considered a real danger to players – never, ever play with an operator found In this category – it is not worth the possible heartache they can cause. Usually if an operator is Blacklisted it means they have been engaging in some nasty practices – sometimes even criminal. Repeated rogue behaviour such as, displaying license seals but being unlicensed, using games that are fake or allowing players to deposit and lose but not paying out on wins are commonplace with operators on his list. If a player chooses to play with a Blacklisted operator there is likely to be absolutely nothing that can be done to get their money back. Even trying to pursue operators on this list through a court will be extremely difficult since most are based in jurisdictions that they do not disclose and offer no legal protection to players based in other places. The best thing a player can do in our opinion is to keep up to date with the operators on our Blacklist and never take their play to them.
How our Casino Reviews are Compiled
Reviewing an online casino takes time to carry out in the appropriate depth. Many review sites have their eyes on their bottom line which means they are more inclined to give favourable reviews to casinos that we would not. When an operator is happy to pay for advertising space and prime placement on a website the temptation to overlook misdemeanors can be too much for many. Unfortunately, we see this all the time. We work with far fewer operators than many affiliates simply because we will not compromise on quality. It is important to us to maintain our reputation for honesty and integrity and so players can be 100% confident that our reviews are genuinely accurate reports of operators based on their treatment of players – not on their payments to us for being placed in our top spots. The next section of this guide details the areas we explore when reviewing an online casino alongside what we are looking for when we allocate a score. One of the most original aspects of our reviews is that we can break down bonuses in real terms, assigning them a score, revealing their true cash values to players with a range of different needs. We have a numbers whizz in our team able to deploy high level skills that allow the reality behind the bonus hype to come to the fore so there is no real work for the player to do.
Without a doubt the Trustworthiness section of our reviews is the one we assign most weight to. If an operator is involved in questionable practices, then it does not matter how many games they offer or how quickly they pay out – the chances are at some point a player will run into trouble whilst playing with them. An operator must be honest, safe and secure or we do not want to recommend them to our customers. Our Trustworthiness score reflects the reliability and good standing of the operator in question. A score of 0 is assigned to our Blacklisted operators highlighting that we have absolutely no confidence in their ability to treat customers honestly; our Not Recommended operators will be assigned a score of between 1 and 3 depending on the severity of the issues that are on record relating to them. In the Needs Work category operators can achieve a score of up to 7 and our Recommended operators will all be scored 8 or higher.
For those operators really serious about getting everything correct and giving customers the highest quality experience, we do offer an Audit service. Essentially this means that we go through their entire website with a fine-tooth comb so that we can give meaningful feedback on the site’s performance and the support staff servicing the needs of customers. Any issues that arise as a result of the Audit are highlighted and suggestions are made as to how things can be improved. Our Auditing service also enables us to help operators be sure that they are meeting all of their regulatory requirements. If the operator acts on our recommendations and amends all our areas of concern so there is nothing to suggest anything other than high quality player experience, then their Trustworthiness score will be increased by 1 point.
We always urge players to do more than just look at the overall score we have assigned for the Trustworthiness section – read the associated comments too. Lots of operators may detail things in the Terms and Conditions and Bonus Terms and Conditions documents that, whilst not directly harmful or deliberately unfair, could be deal breakers for some players. Things such as maximum win caps, dormancy fees applicable, confiscation of positive balances after set periods of inactivity, being unable to withdraw if a deposit has not been made in the preceding 30 days. All of this will be laid out in the comments associated with the Trustworthiness score. If a player’s funds are at risk for any reason this information will be found in this part of our review.
Any online casinos that have been assigned to the Blacklisted or Not Recommended categories will have the reasons for this status detailed here. In this way customers can be sure that we have been thorough and professional in researching the actions of these operators fully before listing them negatively so that there is no risk to players or their cash.
Why do some operators get more than 10/10 for Trustworthiness?
Some operators have a score of 11, 12 or 13 out of 10. Doesn't that break the system? Yes a little bit. But let us explain why this happens.
Unlike any other online review services, ThePOGG.com has been approved to act as an official Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service for a number of gambling regulatory authorities. This means that we have contracts in place with some operators that allow us to give legally binding rulings on complaint matters. For obvious reasons our confidence in operators where we have such an agreement in place is far higher than other groups. When we review a complaint against these operators, our verdict is the final word and one that will be backed-up by the appropriate regulator.
No other review/complaints service can make this claim.
When this dynamic first came into place, we knew we had to represent the improved trust we had in those operators that chose to engage our ADR service officially. We did not feel that the difference between 8/10 and 10/10 sufficiently emphasised the difference in standards. We considered moving other operators down to 6/10. The difference between 6/10 and 10/10 does make clear the difference in our option. However, saying that an otherwise very good operator who has chosen to use a different ADR service can have a maximum Trustwithiness stat of 6/10 reflects poorly on these operators when they have done nothing wrong. If you think about it, if you see an operator given only 6 out of 10 for Trustworthiness, you're going to conclude that they are questionable. Whereas, 8 out of 10 suggests a high-quality operator. As such, rather than imply some questionability about otherwise good quality operators, we chose to give our ADR clients a Trustworthiness of greater than 10. We feel that this was the fairest way to demonstrate the difference in our confidence for all parties.
We always recommend that players refuse to compromise on the quality of the license held by an operator. Some regulators are far more proactive in insisting on high standards of customer care than others – so too are some regulators more player focused than others – the best thing that you can do for yourself is only play with those online casinos regulated by one of our top-tier licensors. If you do this, you can be completely sure that highly detailed and player focused rules and regulations have been provided for licensees and not meeting these high standards will not be tolerated by the regulators. Licensees breaching regulatory requirements will be held to account and in some cases, operators have been heavily fined, even stripped of their license, for failing to comply with regulatory standards. Playing with UKGC or MGA licensed online casinos gives players a level of security that they will have recourse should there be issues during the course of play.
Below you can see how we rate regulatory agencies:
Top Tier Regulators (score 8/10)
- United Kingdom Gambling Commission - 38% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place, complaints managed by outsourced ADR groups resulting in variations in experience.
- Malta Gaming Authority - 48% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place, regulator has been cooperative with dispute mediation process. We act as an ADR for the MGA license.
2nd Tier Regulators (score 7/10)
- Alderney Gaming Control Commission - 68% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place.
- Aland - 100% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place.
- Gibraltar Gambling Commission - 26% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints process in place, regulator has failed to uphold the technical specifications of their license during previous issue.
3rd Tier Regulators (score 6/10)
- Kahnawake Gaming Commission - 10% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place, regulator has been cooperative with dispute mediation process, we are aware of a significant number of player complaints that have received player positive outcomes through this regulator, regulator accepts licensees who work accept unlicensed US traffic.
- Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission - 24% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status (small number of licensees), regulator has full complaints processing system in place.
4th Tier Regulators (score 4/10)
- Jersey Gambling Commission - 100% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status (small number of licensees), regulator does not have full complaints process in place.
- Antigua and Barbuda Directorate of Offshore Gaming - 7% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has full complaints processing system in place.
Bottom Tier Regulators (score 2/10)
- Curacao eGaming - 29% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, regulator has partial complaints process in place, some Master License holders have been cooperative with dispute mediation process but have demonstrated highly questionable paritiality, we are aware of a significant number of player complaints that have been poorly managed or received no response.
- Cyprus - 71% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status (small number of licensees), no player complaint infrastructure in place that we could find.
- First Cagayan - 60% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status (small number of licensees), no player complaint infrastructure in place that we could find.
- Costa Rica - 8% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, no player complaint infrastructure in place.
- eGambling Montenegro - 0% of operators holding this license hold non-negative status, no player complaint infrastructure in place, associated with disreputable operators.
Where an operator holds more than one license their score will be adjusted positively by the Tier of the licenses being combined. The primary license will always be considered to be the better rated of the licenses and second Top Tier or 2nd Tier license will increase the Regulator score by 2. A second 3rd Tier license will increase the Regulator score by 1. Additional licenses in the 4th and Bottom Tier will not increase the Regulator score.
Choice is important to players, so part of our review procedure focuses on the number of games they have to choose from in terms of software providers available and categories of games offered. Jackpots – particularly progressives - are sought after in the playing community because they often run into millions of pounds between wins. Currently the biggest jackpot total recorded stands at €18,915,872.81 – one lucky player, playing Microgaming’s Mega Moolah, had a very good day back in 2018. The software section of our reviews clearly outlines how many of each game type is offered by operators – Live Games, Jackpots, Slots, Table Games and Video Poker – and which providers are offered.
We rate the casino software by the number of games a casino has on offer. Ratings are as follows:
|Number of games||Score|
♦ Payout Speed
Here at ThePOGG many of us started out as players – both on and offline – we empathise with players waiting absolutely unacceptable lengths of times to receive their legitimately won cash. The length of time it takes an online casino to process and then complete a withdrawal varies considerably across the industry. Happily, many of the top operators are very good at providing super-fast withdrawals – particularly withdrawals to ewallets which can arrive in the player’s ewallet almost instantaneously. Sometimes players are unaware that there can be huge differences in the time it takes to process a withdrawal depending on which method is used – it is always worth taking the time to make sure that you are happy with the withdrawal times listed as you will have no recourse to complain after you have accepted the operator’s Terms and Conditions. Most often bank transfers are the method that take the lengthiest time – we have found that they can take 7 times as long as an ewallet withdrawal – remember too that not all methods of withdrawal are available at all online casinos – check before you signup is our best advice. Our review team allocate a score for withdrawal times according to our original standardised grading system.
To establish payout speed we've chosen to use Neteller as our payment method of choice. Neteller is the largest and most trustworthy ewallet available to online gamblers and is also normally the fastest withdrawal method. By using an ewallet the customer avoids having to give card details to every casino they sign up to, instead trusting those personal details to one company that is more stringently regulated than any online casino.
To keep the field level and ensure our reviews compare apples to apple, in the rare instance of a casino not offering Neteller as a payment option we will review their stated withdrawal times and attribute a Payout Speed score slightly lower than that time would receive using Neteller. This is to reflect the lack of player convenience and the fact that we will not have confirmed this payout time.
|Within 4 days||6|
|Within 5 days||5|
|Within 6 days||4|
|Within 1 week||3|
|Longer than 1 week||0|
♠ Customer Support
We are confident that selecting and playing with our Recommended casinos, our customers will experience few issues, meaning that the need to contact support staff about anything too concerning is likely to be low. At ThePOGG we find it entirely unacceptable when a casino’s support staff refuse to answer legitimate questions that customers may have if they have not yet opened an account. Any casino refusing to answer our test questions on these grounds during our review process will simply score a zero rating for this part of the review – no second chances. We feel very strongly that a customer has the right to ask innumerable questions before signing up to play if they have any misgivings or lack clarity on any policies instituted by the operator. It is imperative for everyone involved that Customer Support staff are trained to exceptionally high standards – players should feel confident that the information they are being given is precise and as it should be. Complaints arise when Customer Support staff are incapable of offering frontline support to players. If you feel the need to open a complaint connected to misinformation that has affected the outcome of your play you can find out more about the process in our article How to Report/Complain About an Online Casino.
To assess customer service we test the casino’s email response times. We do this by setting up a free anonymous email account then we email the casino’s customer service address with a couple of basic questions. Our rating is based on the response time. Previously we did give the casino 3 opportunities to respond, reducing the rating for each non-response, but we've reconsidered this stance and are of the mind that there is no excuse for failing to reply to a customers question. As such only one email will be sent to each venue during each test and the rating they receive will depend on how long it takes them to respond to that email.
In the instance where no form of email support is offered - no email address and no on site submission form - a Customer Service score of 0 will be awarded. It is absolutely essential that players can initiate some form or written communication. Phone and live chat are great services but they do not as standard provide written proof of what was communicated.
The below scores can be amended depending on our reviewers experiences with the venues customer support.
|Response time to email||Score|
|Within 3 hours||10|
|Within 9 hours||9|
|Within 15 hours||8|
|Within 24 hours||7|
|Within 1 day 12 hours||6|
|Within 2 days||5|
|Within 2 days and 12 hours||4|
|Within 3 days||3|
|Within 3 days and 12 hours||2|
|Within 4 days||1|
Here at ThePOGG we have long memories, and we know that when we were players ourselves, bonuses were one of the things that made our money go that little bit further, if we found the right ones. We provide a bonus rating system that is unique – not advertising ‘unique’ like every other review site on the web, but genuinely unique. Our system ensures that players have a clear understanding of bonus value meaning that bonuses are no longer a mystery and you can claim the ones that are best for your financial situation. We calculate the real cash value of the bonuses operators are offering and give this in one easily interpretable figure for players. Behind the scenes our bonus expert is running through complex simulations, addressing four distinct categories, so that at the end out pops a single value, the amount of money a bonus is worth to you, taking into account the parameters you have to work with, that you can base informed playing decisions on. Since we are well aware that all players have different playing budgets to keep to, we run separate simulations for each category of player – for ease of identification we call them: low, mid, high and super high rollers – this allows all players - regardless of budget - £10 or £1000 – to find a bonus that meets their criteria before signing up to play.
It is also vital for players that all Bonus Terms and Conditions are laid out clearly by the operator – we do not want any nasty surprises when it comes to withdrawals – so we go through these on your behalf. Confusing bonus terms, terms that are spread over three areas of the site instead of being centralized in one, maximum win limits and maximum bet rules – all will be found handily summed up in the one place for your convenience in our Bonus Reports. Panicking at the mere mention of sticky, cashable, cashback or post wager bonuses because you have no idea what these things actually mean? Have no fear – we have you covered – everything you need to know about a specific bonus will be simply and clearly explained for you in our Bonus Report.
How do we Decide on a Final Overall Score?
We know that people are busy – players want to access the most important information about a casino without having to spend countless hours looking for it in a hundred different places. For this reason, we felt that the simplest way to convey the most important information about the safety and reliability of a casino was to combine all of the scores, across all of the different areas of the review, into one number, a score out of 10. Our uniquely calibrated system also prioritizes areas of a review that we feel have greater implications for players if they are substandard. In our opinion, the score that is most vitally important for the security of players is the Trustworthiness score, and so we have weighted it accordingly.
Our ratings are weighted as follows to derive the overall score:
- Trustworthiness (0.3)
- Payout Speed (0.14)
- Customer Service (0.1)
- Bonuses (0.22)
- Software (0.14)
- Licensing (0.1)