Whether it’s in London, Las Vegas, Macau or Monaco, a casino visit is synonymous with excitement and glamour. After all, there are few places in today’s informal world where you can dress up elegantly and spend the evening feeling like a cast member in a Bond film.
In recent years, though, online casinos have become increasingly popular. And while it’s clear that a virtual casino can offer the exhilaration of real-world gambling, it’s much less apparent how they rate in the glamour stakes.
The Rise of the Online Casino
Online casinos are almost as old as the internet itself, with the first one opening in 1994. Since then, the spread of broadband has enhanced their global popularity.
Nowadays players in an online casino can enjoy games almost as they would in the bricks-and-mortar version. Some aspects are even better online, such as the ability to call up gaming statistics with ease.
What’s on Offer?
Online casinos may be browser-based, running on plug-ins like Flash or Java, or download-based, requiring you to install the casino as software or an app.
Most offer the usual range of games found in a physical casino, many of which are automated and based on random number algorithms. However, some games are run by a dealer at an actual gaming table and are streamed in real time via live link.
Better than the Real Thing?
Of course, unless you live in a location with a casino, your visits will probably be limited to special occasions. This is where online casinos have a distinct advantage: if you have a browser and an internet connection, you’ll be eligible to join in the fun. You don’t even need to wait for a space to become free at a machine or gaming table.
With these kinds of advantages, it isn’t surprising that the online casinos are even more popular than their land-based counterparts.
But there’s no escaping the fact that if you’re playing Blackjack online, you’re more likely to be wearing an Asda onesie than a Versace catsuit. With the players so casually attired all the responsibility for glamour lies with the online casino interface.
What’s Out There?
There is a staggering range of online casinos available, many of them with branding which seems distinctly low-rent rather than upmarket. At first glance, lots of the established betting shops can be found online as casinos.
These names don’t exactly bring glamour to mind – the usual associations are more along the lines of tiny pens and old men in flat caps. Free from these automatically unglamorous associations, can other online casinos do better?
Betway Casino & Betway Vegas
One of the online casinos which consistently ranks near the top of online search results is Betway. This company offers several different brands, among them Betway Casino and Betway Vegas, the last one specifically claiming to provide a glamorous experience.
Whereas the Betway Casino website carries images of a spinning roulette wheel, the landing page of Betway Vegas hints at a high-speed journey down the Las Vegas Strip. So far so glamorous.
Reviews from Betway Vegas players praise the slick, bright graphics and wide choice of slot games. But apart from a £250 welcome bonus, there are apparently no other player perks which might enhance the glamour of the experience.
And any gains in glamour made by the website graphics are negated once you notice the sixth Betway brand: bingo.
Launched in 1997, 888 Casino is probably about as venerable as an online casino can get. They also know how to run their business, having scooped the Casino Operator of the Year award for 2013.
Offering a large welcome bonus and a system of ongoing financial perks, 888 Casino makes it possible to experience some of the glamour of being a high roller when you play online.
Based in Gibraltar, this company is clearly aware of the perils of mentioning bingo: their polished website appears to be a bingo-free zone. Instead, their homepage features a stationary roulette wheel wreathed in green ectoplasm. This branding is both magical and, yes, a bit glamorous.
The focus here is firmly on the Euro Palace online slots, which offer a massive range of different games licensed from some of the top films, TV shows and video games out there. In addition to them, there’s a wide selection of table games including baccarat, poker and roulette, to help create a bit of the physical casino experience. With a new player welcome bonus of up to £500, Euro Palace is trying to appeal to the high rollers out there. There are a few bingo games tucked away on the site, but there’s still plenty to appeal to the player seeking glamour.
One of the new kids on the online casino block, Guernsey’s bgo also has a range of different gaming brands. The most glamorous of these is undoubtedly bgo Macau, where players can take part in live games streamed from a casino based in the world’s premiere gambling destination. Games feature real players as well as a dealer, so an online player can certainly get a sense of the atmosphere in a Macau casino.
High roller ‘comps’ are cleverly thought out, and take the form of a loyalty scheme where members move through levels from blue to platinum, as well as VIP promotions. Apart from this, bgo’s branding is more on the humorous than the glamorous side. And of course there is the almost inevitable glamour-busting moment when you notice the tab labelled ‘bingo’.
First launched in 1994, online casinos are increasing in popularity and are available at a laptop, smartphone or tablet near you. They offer many benefits over bricks-and-mortar casinos, such as 24-hour access to games and large bonuses for players.
Online casinos are democratic, too: you don’t have to follow a dress code to get in, so if it pleases you, you can play Blackjack in your pyjamas.
But these advantages come with a price: if the players aren’t providing the glamour, the casino interface sets the ambience. And with so many of the established betting shops bringing their existing downmarket branding to the online casino market, glamour is in short supply.
A survey of some of the biggest online casinos provides a slightly more upmarket experience, especially when they offer the chance to join games live-streamed from real casinos. But the constant presence of bingo bursts the glamour bubble by reminding you of the caravan park rather than the Croisette.
So it looks as though online casinos can certainly replicate the thrill of gambling, but if it’s glamour you want, you’d still be better off with the real thing.
Written by Gareth Monet.