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So here you are, online and wanting to join the world of gambling on the net?

Well before you jump into the sometimes murky waters of online casinos, here are a few pointers to guide you on your way.

1. Download or no download?

Most online casinos require you to download their software before you can play, however the no download (flash, java) option can be there too. With no download platforms simply play games in your browser, but have less options and fewer thrills than with a full download, where you are welcomed into the full casino experience, with all the sights, sounds, balloons and whistles of actually being there.

Downloads can take time and disk space, normally upto 50 megs, but it's worth the bother, with superior graphics and many more games to play than you have with no download platforms, where all you're likely to get is a fraction of the games available in the downloadable software.

2. So you want to download, but will the software run on your computer?

With no download platforms you just dial up the site on the net and play, easy. With downloads it's usually easy too.

Simply click on the download button after, of course, you've read all the ins and outs of your acceptance, and if you do have a problem, the online casino's customer support people can help.

When the download is complete, click on the casino's installation icon that should now be on your desktop.

If no icon shows, check the folder where your downloads usually go.

Click on the icon and you'll be into the casino's installation program. Proceed with the installation and when completed, you're ready to play.

3. How do I pay in and how do they pay out?

Tricky one this. Credit cards used to be the way in and out, however most (but not all) major cards and banks have blocked gambling transactions. So now the most popular way is by something called an ewallet, details of which can be found elsewhere on this site. So, you've won and you want your money. The casino will send it there and then, right? Wrong.

All casinos have policies about how much you can cash out and when. And even if they do send your winnings immediately, you may still have to wait weeks for your cheque. Some will only pay out once you've obtained a PIN number from them, whilst others require you to furnish a range of ID and address verifications.

So before you start, check what they want. Then it won't come as a surprise.

4. What's a PIN?

It's a personal ID number that the casino will issue, usually via snail mail, which may take days or even weeks to arrive.

But receiving it confirms your address and who you are as recorded in their database. It also helps the casino avoid fraud. However, most online casinos do not use this anymore and instead ask for verification through photo IDs and bills with your name & address on it.

5. Will it cost me?

In a word, yes. The casinos sometimes charge a fee for withdrawals. Some charge a flat rate others a percentage of what you've won. Most card and ewallet providers will also levy a charge, so check on all websites for details before you sign up.

If it's not clear, email or phone for clarification.

6. Hidden banking fees

In theory casinos can pay back to your ewallet, but you might receive payment by cheque, and if it's drawn on a foreign bank in US dollars, you could get hit with stiff transaction fees.

Again, check the casinos 'banking' page for methods of payment, and if they offer direct deposit or wire transfer, make sure their rates are attractive.

7. Bonus rules

Practically all casinos offer bonuses to get new members to play, and by all means take it.

They come in differing forms and value, so compare them to decide what's good and what's not.

Whatever, you can't just take the money and run, you'll have to play it, sometimes up to 2 or 3 times.

Unfortunately, we can't offer words of advice applicable to all bonuses out there because it would be impossible. So we suggest you follow the age old rule of buyer beware.

However, we can offer a few cautionary words. Don't abuse the bonus offers. And don't re-register in another name to get the bonus again. That's "bonus abuse" and the casinos can get more than a little hostile at any such attempts at deception.

Finally, there's the issue of fair-play on the part of the casino. Some managers don't like the fact that a player can sign up with a hundred dollars, get a 50 dollar bonus and check out a 2000 dollar winner.

For reasons beknown only to them, some casinos have even been known to withhold a player's winnings or freeze an account in such instances.

So check out the message boards and read the gambling reviews before you start. And visit other sites like ours if you feel you need to. It pays to do your research before you open your wallet.

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