As bitcoin continues to prosper as a banking method for online gambling, hundreds of BTC gambling sites are beginning to pop up online, all eager to entice bettors into depositing. While most of these sites may have good intentions, (admittedly, some are trying to scam players from the get-go), running an online gambling site, whether it be a poker room, online casino, or sportsbook, is a tough business and even honest operators can go belly up.
On this page, we’ll profile some of the bitcoin-based sites that have gone rogue and either aren’t paying players in a timely fashion or have run off with player funds. Many of these sites are still operational, while others have closed up shop.
Infancy of the Industry
Online gambling has been around for about 20 years, but the vast majority of bitcoin gambling sites are still under two years old. While the crypto-currency has gained plenty of mainstream acceptance, even with large online retailers such as Dell and OverStock.com, the vast majority of these sites just simply haven’t been around long enough to trust.
Many tradiational fiat-based online gambling sites, especially the ones that are most trusted by players have been around for a decade or more. Even in the much-maligned, US-facing offshore gambling industry, there are plenty of operators that have stellar reputations stemming from a decade or more of timely payouts and positive feedback from bettors.
On the other hand, when we look at the bitcoin betting market, we’re dealing with a lot of sites that have been in operation for less than two years. Newer BTC gambligng sites are popping up constantly too.
It’s almost impossible for us to recommend a site that has been in operation for just a few months, even if players are reporting excellent support, fast withdrawals, and an overall excellent experience. One of the best ways to put a scam into action is by taking the guise of being a legit shop. Some BTC sites have seemed legit only for the owners to suddenly shut up shop and make off with players bitcoins overnight. Bitbook.biz and BitcoinLiveBets are two infamous examples that come to mind.
Bitcoin gambling truly is the Wild West of online gambling at the moment, but as more sites become established and begin to build a reptutation over time, that will change.
The near-anonymity of bitcoin technology is excellent for players who don’t want their personal information being handed out to online gambling sites. This also allows players to forgo the authentication process (which is required at fiat-based gambling sites) of sending in their ID documents and other standard verification procedures.
However, bitcoin’s anonymity is a bit of a double-edged sword. The operators of most sites are just as anonymous as the players, if not more so.
While many offshore sites do not publicize their employees on their website, the head bookmakers and upper management are known by industry insiders. But in most cases, no one has any idea who is operating bitcoin gambling sites.
Also, since bitcoin transfers are one way, meaning there can’t be a chargeback and the funds can’t be seized by a third-party, this means that there is no chance of players getting their funds back if a sportsbooks goes bust or simply decides to not pay them.
Of course, this is also why we love bitcoin. BTC can’t be seized or controlled by a government or by other outside forces. However, this also attracts dishonest operators who are eager to attract players with lucrative offers, only to disappear with players’ funds once things go wrong.
Avoiding Bitcoin Scams
There’s no surefire way to avoid a gambling site that is a scam or predict if an operator is going to go rogue, but there are plenty of signs that players can look for to avoid such an issue.
This is something I highlight frequently, but I’m going over it again because it’s so critical. The longer a site has been around and has been paying players consistently, the more likely it is that they are not a scam.
This isn’t fool proof, however, because operators could be “playing the long-game” and hoping to get as many deposits as possible before going rogue. And again, running a gambling site is a tough business. Operators may go bust and decide not to take the virtuous route and refund player deposits and instead will close their doors without refunding.
Playing at sites with an extremely short track record can be dangerous. Even sites that have operated for two years or more have disappeared overnight. The reality is that most bitcoin gambling sites should have a banner that says, “play at your own risk.”
Beware of Unrealistic Bonuses, Odds, and Offers
Huge bonuses without much of a rollover or odds that look too good to be true should be huge red flags for players. Sportsbooks that offer poor lines will be hit without mercy by sharp bettors. Whether the book pays out or not is another story, but a shop that continually posts poor lines cannot stay in business very long.
The same goes for promotions. If a site is offering reduced juice, a large deposit bonus or excellent teaser and parlays odds, buyers should beware. For casino gaming, look for casinos that are certified provably fair and that have a strong reputation.
I’m not saying to avoid sites with promotions or to beware if an operator offers some advantages when looking at their betting markets. Instead, use your best judgement;, an online gambling site won’t survive long if they are giving money away. I would feel much more confident at a book with a small bonus with 10x rollover requirements than I would with a huge bonus with low turnover requirements to clear.
Use The Community
The best thing about bitcoin technology is that people want it to succeed. There are several communities built around bitcoin and one of the best online is the BitcoinTalk forum. They have a sub-forum devoted solely to gambling. Just about any bitcoin gambling site worth depositing at (and many that are not) have a thread on the gambling forum.
This is a great tool for players to ask questions and request support and allows sites to promote their product and promotions to potential customers. If a site is getting poor feedback from the community here, it’s an operator you should almost certainly avoid.
BitcoinCasinoPro.com is another site that has taken a role as an industry watchdog. They post scam reports and deal with disputes between players and Bitcoin gambling operators. They also have fair ratings unlike many other sites that are obviously just shills for advertisers.
It’s often the first place that players will find out if a site is treating their customers poorly, is slow on payouts, or if it has shut down altogether. Use it to your advantage when deciding which bitcoin gambling site to use.