The Frustrating Issues with Online Casinos

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A few weeks ago I took a trip to Detroit, as part of my occasional treks to get some additional face time with online casinos in a more concentrated setting.

There’s a lot to like about online casinos – the wider range of bets, the familiar slots mixed with brand new and more unusual fare, the better payback percentages.

But there’s also still a lot that’s frustrating, and this was underscored throughout the trip.

Technical Issues

The first issue happened while still in the Uber heading to the hotel. I registered for one of the options for the first time, and made a first-time deposit, in order to qualify for the deposit bonus. But it didn’t work.

I was able to get it fixed by entering an online chat with someone who was clearly out of the country. It took anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes per reply. But it did get done with a minimum of frustration. I just wonder why it didn’t work out of the gate.

Then, as I began to play, the various glitches I remember kept occurring:

  • No activity so we’re signing you out, despite my hitting spin a few seconds ago.
  • Geolocation hiccups that caused me to be kicked out of games.
  • Pulling my cash balance instead of my bonus balance on at least two occasions, slowing my ability to play through a deposit bonus.
  • Showing full bars and WiFi access but struggling for a spin to a complete.

You don’t encounter these things in physical slots, but given how long some of this tech has been around it’s still surprising how often these hiccups occur.

Poor Game Design

I got into this a bit in a previous column, but there are all sorts of things that are at least mildly frustrating about the way some online slots are designed:

  • You can’t speed up a spin, some of which are way too slow, particularly when you realize slot makers have been speeding that pace up in physical casinos for years.
  • You can’t skip past the money count-up.
  • Sometimes you hit spin and nothing happens, because the game hasn’t advanced to where it’s ready to spin.
  • Sometimes you have to hit spin 2-3 times to get it to spin.
  • Sometimes anticipation spins occur way more frequently than they should.
  • Sometimes games are presented vertically on desktops instead of horizontally (great for mobile play, not for computer play).
  • Sometimes the music just stops randomly.
  • Sometimes bonus sounds are made when the bonus can’t be awarded where they land.
  • Sometimes things aren’t lined up properly. Objects that should be centered in an area are off centered in a very clear and obvious way.
  • Sometimes the fonts chosen don’t reflect the level of design game makers are capable of doing.

Now I get that none of this gets in the way of the game to properly show your spin and pay you out properly, but given how often this is presented as a future driver of growth, it sure feels pretty immature and slapped together. There’s a long way to go here.

The good news is some game makers are ahead on these topics, and are putting out some really well designed options, so it’s not all dire. But I sometimes wonder if the reason some games don’t perform as well as they could financially is because they didn’t take the time to massage through some of these things.

And with online slots, one advantage should be to be able to continue to refine them as web tech improves – but some of the older entries to online slots don’t seem to have benefited from that.

Offers and Paybacks Are All Over the Place

I was mildly surprised to see how much diversity there was in online paybacks as well as the way offers were structured. 

Payouts perhaps isn’t the most surprising, but with this data published front and center, it was a bit weird for me to see one slot pay 96% on one casino, 94% on a second and 92% on a third. All were national brands with exposure in multiple markets.

The conventional wisdom about casinos is more competition drives higher paybacks, but I didn’t notice a drastic difference between a national name in a less competitive environment vs. a more competitive one. Here’s an example: DraftKings offers full pay Jacks or Better in Michigan, as they did in Connecticut when I played there last. But BetMGM didn’t in Michigan, which has more entrants competing for players.

In addition, seemingly similar offers were handled very differently between casinos, whether it be the process for completing an offer, opting in to an offer or playthrough requirements. Some were more straightforward – the playthrough requirement on a deposit bonus would differ between casinos, as would the percentage matched.

But even on simpler scenarios like play X, get Y, the Y would sometimes have different playthrough requirements even within the same provider, and it’s not always the easiest to find the specific terms for each offer.


We’re clearly still in the early stages of a new market when it comes to online gaming. But with so much money on the line, there’s also still a lot of work to do. Some of the biggest players are not necessarily putting their best foot forward, while some of the smaller players are doing some of the most interesting work, especially when it comes to game development.

Hopefully we’ll see some bigger and better developments as the markets grow and mature, and many of these teething issues worked out. As a player, that would make me more inclined to play more frequently, but for now, I find myself skipping certain games that are too frustrating to be worth it, and I know I’m not the only one.

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