Reason I like Bovada #4:

It's fair and safe

The best way to avoid losing money by gambling is to not gamble in the first place.  That goes double online, because online gambling is mostly unregulated in the U.S.  That means the casinos serving the whole U.S. don't answer to anyone.  If you have a problem with a casino (like they won't pay you), then you're usually out of luck.  I can't count how many players have written to ask me for help because they didn't get paid by some other casino.  (Not that I helped them, it's not what I do—if a dodgy casino won't pay you then you're on your own.)

So if you're intent on gambling online, then the #1 most important thing is to pick a good casino.  The good ones know they make more money with fair games and consistent payouts than the dodgy casinos, because fair play means repeat customers and good word-of-mouth referrals.  It's no coincidence that the most successful online casinos are the ones that focus on their players.

Many casinos try to find excuses to not pay winning players, especially players who have won big.  Outright cheating (rigged games) is pretty rare, but it happens.  Either way, if you have a problem with most U.S.-facing online casinos, you're usually out of luck.

This is another reason why Bovada is the only online casino I've accepted advertising from for over 15 years.  They use industry-standard software, it's absolutely fair, and players get their payouts, consistently.  I have a choice in whom I advertise, so I purposefully picked a casino with a good reputation where I'm confident my readers will have a good experience.

To be clear, Bovada's not perfect.  Once they got duped by a bad vendor (Betsoft) who provided progressive slots whose jackpots weren't winnable.  When I discovered this I alerted Bovada, and they pulled all the Betsoft games from the site, but I thought they were slow to do so and didn't offer proper restitution to affected players. (more on this)  Still, even with this incident, their overall history is better than most; as just one example, there are many other casinos still offering Betsoft's questionable games.

Another good thing about Bovada is that they allow me to mediate if one of my readers clicks over to them, plays the games, and has a problem they can't get Bovada to resolve.  My time is valuable and I wouldn't offer that service if I had to do it very often.  I think I've gotten maybe one or two inquiries from affected players in the 15+ years I've been advertising Bovada.

Bottom line: I'm confident that Bovada is fair and reasonably safe.  You might have a good experience with another casino...and you might not.  I trust Bovada, and that's why I picked them.

Visit Bovada

Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

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Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

How to get money into an online casino (for U.S. players)

Last update: March 2021

My recommended casino: Bovada
Offers free-play with fake money, or true gambling
Casinos to Avoid: Here
Resolving Disputes with Casinos: What to do
How to Play: Gambling Crash Course
Mac Users: How to run casino software

Since online gambling is illegal in many states, U.S. banks won't touch online gambling money.  That makes it harder for U.S. players to get money into or out of an online casino.  Many credit cards don't work, PayPal won't handlethose transactions, and the feds have shut down countless small processors.  This article will cover your options for making deposits and withdrawals.

1. Credit cards

Try a credit card first, because it might work and because it's super-easy.  If it doesn't work then you can try something else, but if it does work, then problem solved!

Credit cards are hit-or-miss:  they might work and they might not.   Also, a card that works one day might not work the next.  (But then it might start working again in the future.)  I've had success at one point or another with cards from Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, First Equity, MBNA, and Washington Mutual—but not every time.

Note that you might have to pay a fee (like 4.9%) to use your card.   Blame that on the hat dance that casinos use to disguise the nature of the transactions so that banks don't block the use of the card, which is expensive for them.  It's also probably illegal, which is why many casinos have stopped even taking credit cards and want their players to switch to Bitcoin.

2. Bitcoin

If your credit card doesn't work, most casinos now accept Bitcoin, using a service like Bitstamp.  If you're unfamiliar with Bitcoin, it's basically a currency like dollars or Euros, but it exists only on the Internet; you don't hold physical Bitcoins in your hand.  The way it usually works is:

  1. You open an account with a Bitcoin service like Bitstamp.
  2. You transfer money from your bank account to Bitstamp (or competing service) to purchase Bitcoin.
  3. You use Bitstamp to send your Bitcoin to online merchants who accept them, like online casinos.

You can also use Bitstamp or similar service to receive Bitcoin from others, such as a payout of casino winnings:

  1. The casino sends Bitcoin to your Bitcoin account.
  2. The service lets you sell the Bitcoin to convert it to U.S. dollars.
  3. You transfer the U.S. dollars to your bank account.

I have a separate article that explains all about Bitcoin.

3. Instant Check (aka, e-Check)

Some casinos let you easily deposit money by just typing in your bank account number.  They withdraw the money from your account as though it were a check.  You might be rightly wary of giving an offshore online casino access to your bank account, which is why you should do this only with established, trusted casinos.

Before Bitcoin was on the scene, I used this method successfully at Bovada.

As I mentioned in the Credit Cards section above, U.S. banks try hard not to handle online gambling money.  So there's a good chance they'll reject the transfer, and there's a good chance that your online casino of choice won't even offer this deposit method in the first place.


4. Western Union (aka "Money Transfer")

Don't use this method.  It's cumbersome, Western Union charges hefty fees, and they have pathetic customer service. 


5. Online payment services

No longer an option!   Everyone used to use PayPal, then PayPal stopped handling gambling transactions.  Then we switched to Neteller, but the feds subsequently forced them to stop serving U.S. customers, too.  A number of smaller processors sprang up, but the feds smacked them all down as well.  Even if you can find such a processor, they won't last long, and you risk losing your money if the processor is holding it when they get smacked.

Cashing out

Okay, that's how you get money in.  How do you get money out when you win big?  The easy way is to have the casino send it to you as Bitcoin, but most casinos are also willing to mail you a check.  Note that the casino might require that you fax them a copy of your ID before your first withdrawal.  Don't freak out, that's just standard security protocol at many online gaming sites to make sure that no one else is pretending to be you and trying to steal your money.  Also, be prepared to wait a couple of weeks or more for your check.  If you're not prepared to wait that long, use Bitcoin.

Note that if you deposited with e-Check, you'll have to wait for that deposit to clear before your payout request will be processed.  It can take up to two weeks for an e-Check to clear.

DISCLAIMER: Gambling laws change all the time, and I'm not a lawyer besides. You are strongly advised to check the laws relevant to your jurisdiction before you gamble online.

Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

I like Bovada's practice games the best, because you can play right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's why Bovada is the only online casino that gets space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

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