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How to Spot a Failing Gambling Site Before You Get Burned


Not all online gambling sites are built to last. Many online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks fail at some point or another.

Luckily, most of these operations refund their customers’ money after the fact. Unfortunately, there are some gambling sites don’t repay players.

The bottom line is, you don’t want to take a chance on a failing internet gambling operator. But how do you spot one before it’s too late?

You should look for the following signs and avoid any site that exhibits one or more of these qualities.

Slow Cashouts

The jest of online gambling withdrawals should go like this:

  • You request a cashout via a specific banking option (e.g. Bitcoin, Neteller, bank wire).
  • The site processes your request.
  • Your funds arrive in accordance to processing time and the chosen banking method.

The second step is key in this sequence. The operator needs to process your withdrawal request within a reasonable timeframe.

They shouldn’t need additional verification on every cashout nor hold your money for ridiculous reasons. You must be leery if a site asks you to resend a perfectly good copy of your driver’s license multiple times.

Slow withdrawal processing is one of the biggest signs that an operator is failing. Assuming they can’t pay you on time, then they’re likely suffering from a financial standpoint.

In unregulated markets, financial problems arise due to difficulty in finding payment processors to work with. They can also result from simple mismanagement.

In either case, you don’t want to be left holding the bag when a site no longer pays out. If you see that an operator struggles to make payouts, then you should steer clear.

Bad Customer Support

Not surprisingly, failing gambling sites often feature poor customer service. A bad culture infects every area of the company.

Poor support departments will disconnect the live chat or hang up the phone on players. They’ll also be abrupt with gamblers and even insult them.

The Virtual Casino Group was so bad that they allegedly beat a customer who visited their Costa Rican office. They also exhibited plenty of other poor instances of customer service.

Of course, support departments don’t have to use goons just to be bad. Unresponsiveness and rudeness are more than enough to serve as warning signs.

You should always check out reviews of gambling sites before signing up and depositing. Most reviews cover customer service in detail and will hopefully discuss negative past incidents.

Mysterious Sale and Name Change

Looking through the annals of online gambling history, you’ll find that many awful operations are sold to another company.

Some of these sales are legitimate and can turn around a struggling business. For example, Ace Revenue bought the Virtual Casino Group and improved customer support.

In other cases, sales are nothing more than a convoluted way to trick players. A failing operator may suddenly sell themselves to a third party amidst a name change.

UltimateBet featured an ugly history that included a superuser scandal. The site’s owners met with Absolute Poker’s top brass to discuss sale terms.

Absolute bought UltimateBet and formed the Cereus Network. However, this transaction wasn’t so simple.

Instead, the Cereus Network used shell companies to keep the ownership group protected from legal consequences. After all, American investors didn’t want their identities exposed.

One of the strangest twists is when Cereus’ former parent company, Blanca Games (Tokwiro Enterprises), was sold to Madeira Fjord. The latter was a Norwegian shell company that supposedly purchased Cereus for $250 million.

In reality, Madeira Fjord was just another front to protect the many shareholders in the private company.

The Cereus Network eventually folded after the “Black Friday” incident of 2011. They were one of the major online poker entities that received an indictment from US authorities.

The network failed to repay an estimated $45 to $50 million worth of player funds. Meanwhile, the shareholders and certain site executives were hidden from the public due to the shell companies.

Bogus Terms and Conditions

Most online gambling sites offer bonuses. These deals give you an opportunity to earn extra money through your bets.

Every bonus offer comes with terms and conditions. Gambling operators use terms and conditions to ensure that you play for bonuses rather than immediately cashing them out.

Legitimate sites use clear language in their terms and conditions. Shady operations, in contrast, use convoluted terms to give themselves an out in case you win too much.

Here’s an example:

“Not all games count towards meeting rollover. If you play games that are deemed abusive towards promotions, then you’ll forfeit your bonus.”

This scenario shows an ambiguous term that can be applied to any game with high return to player (RTP). Rather than just listing what’s excluded from rollover, the operator notes “games that are deemed abusive.”

Casinos that feature unclear terms and conditions can do virtually anything they want when it’s time to pay up. Reputable operators, instead, state exactly what you can and can’t do when chasing bonuses.

Revoked Bonuses

Some gambling sites revoke bonuses, whether they’re earned fairly or not. Such operations have even been caught changing terms and conditions after the fact to support their argument.

A legitimate company would never offer a bonus deal and then refuse to pay it under shaky circumstances. Sadly, this occurrence has happened multiple times in the past.

Some casino bonuses come with maximum bet stipulations. You can’t wager over a certain amount with an active bonus.

However, certain gaming sites have revoked bonuses where a gambler never wagered above the max amount. Their excuse is that the player came too close to reaching the highest wager allowed (e.g. $190 bet with $200 max).

If a gambler doesn’t exceed X amount, then they should still get their bonus after not going over the threshold.

Failing gambling sites are the stingiest when it comes to enforcing such rules. They’ll pull out every trick in the book to avoid honoring bonuses when possible.

Non-Payment of Winnings

Non-payment of funds is the absolute biggest sign of a sinking operator. You should completely avoid any site that carries a reputation for not paying players.

You can normally spot such operators with just a little bit of research. Many gamblers begin to complain when they’re not paid.

Such an instance happened with Lock Poker from 2013 to 2015. Players expressed worries in 2013 when they waited months to receive cashouts.

By 2014, customers were complaining that they weren’t getting paid at all. Lock Poker finally folded in 2015 and failed to repay anybody.

They’re believed to have gone down with $15 to $20 million in player funds. Yet, Lock continued to aggressively recruit customers during the same span with large bonus offers.

You should never let a big bonus or excuses from ownership cloud your judgement. A site that can’t pay is a site that can’t be trusted.


Numerous people have been burned by declining gambling sites over the years. Luckily, you don’t have to follow their footsteps.

Instead, you can quickly spot an untrustworthy gambling site through multiple means. Here’s a recap of the signs you should look for:

  • Slow payments
  • Bad customer support
  • Mysterious sales
  • Unclear terms and conditions
  • Unpaid bonuses
  • No payments

Slow payouts are often the initial sign of an operator that’s spiraling out of control. Struggling gambling businesses often dip into customers’ funds to keep themselves afloat.

Delayed withdrawals often bleed into problems in other departments. A site may suddenly use ambiguous terms and conditions to make bonuses harder to earn. Worse yet, they won’t pay the bonuses at all.

Poor customer support is frequently the sign of a poor company overall. Bad management infects customer service reps or hires awful workers to begin with.

Non-payment is the ultimate red flag. Assuming you notice a site that can’t pay players, then you truly know that they’re not worth a deposit.

Some operators attempt to change things around with a “sale” and rebranding. However, a deeper look may reveal that the same shady ownership group is still pulling the strings.

In summary, many quality online gambling sites exist. Therefore, you don’t need to settle for the first site that you find.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. …

View all posts by Michael Stevens

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