How to start your online casino: The ultimate guide

5 October 2020
Are you considering setting up an online casino but not sure how to go about it? The process can be somewhat daunting and for startups and entrepreneurs, knowing where to start can be a challenge. In this guide, we will take you through the main steps from beginning to end.
It is no secret that the online gambling market is thriving.

It is no secret that the online gambling market is thriving. (photo by Flickr)

It’s no secret that the online gambling market is thriving. While this is good in lots of ways, it does mean that there is a lot of competition when it comes to operating an online casino. Before taking any further steps, you need to sit down and carefully consider your goals, your target demographic, what your potential clients want and need, what you will give them, and how you will be different from your competitors.
First, you must decide what your goals are and how you will achieve them. What kind of casino games do you want to offer and who do you want to play them? You need to drill down into the location of your target audience, their age, gender, financial status, and interests to offer them a selection of casino games that will suit their preferences.
At this stage, you should also be checking out some of the big-name online casino operators to see what they are already offering. Take note of what they do well and what is missing from their platform. You should also consider regional and local competitors, not just the big names, to make sure you get a clear picture of what gaps in the market exist.
Once you have figured out your niche, you need to pick a name, make sure the domain is available and secure it.
How much have you got to spend on the set-up process and when do you need it to go live? These are two important questions you need to be able to answer very early on in the process. Setting up an online casino can be costly when it comes to licensing, game agreements, and integrations, so make sure you know how much you can afford, and when you need to start bringing in revenue.
As a part of your business plan, you should have already given some consideration to a budget. You need to incorporate all the startup and ongoing costs into this budget and put it in place for at least one year, ideally two.
Start-up costs
If you are going to operate an online casino, you need to have an online casino license. The licensing process usually includes an application fee, legal fees, and corporate service provider fees.
You need to factor in the following:
  • Company incorporation fees
  • Corporate service fees
  • Hardware and licensing
  • Software licensing
  • Gaming licensing
  • Required capital
  • Human resources
  • Web design and hosting
  • Payment provider set up costs
  • Bank account fees
  • Office rental
  • Utility bills
  • Marketing
  • App development
  • Compliance fees
  • Random number generator certification fees
This is not an exhaustive list and many other costs can pop up along the way when you first open your online casino company.
Ongoing Costs
Once you have set up your online casino platform, there are some costs you need to consider on an ongoing basis. These include ongoing rent, utilities, and staff costs, as well as renewal fees for your licenses, company, and various certifications.
You may also want to expand your business in the first 1-2 years so should consider fees related to bringing more games to the platform, increasing marketing efforts, and ensuring you have enough liquidity to payout prizes. Remember, you need to be insured for the protection of both you and your customers so be sure to factor this into your number crunching.
Incorporate all the startup and ongoing costs into a budget and put it in place for at least one year

Incorporate all the startup and ongoing costs into a budget and put it in place for at least one year (photo by Flickr)

SET UP A BUDGETWhen you start working on your budget, you must consider how much profit you are likely to make. While we would all like to be millionaires in the first 12 months, you need to be realistic so you can effectively balance your outgoings with the revenue that’s coming in. Estimate how many transactions you will make, how many customers you hope to have, what currencies you will accept, and what the average value of each transaction will be.
Stay level headed at this stage and be conservative in your financial goals to ensure you don’t end up out of pocket or overspending.
You need to look for a partner that has worked specifically with online casino companies for at least a decade, if not more. When picking your provider, you also need to consider which jurisdiction you want to get licensed in. If you aren’t sure, a good service provider will be able to point you in the right direction.
You should be looking for the following:
Experience: A minimum of ten years in iGaming and corporate services as well as hands-on experience in the jurisdiction you want to work in.
Transparency: Go with the advisor that is open, transparent, and tells you upfront what you’re getting, what you’re paying for, and why.
Tailor-made solutions: Each online casino set up will have different requirements so you need a provider that can offer customization in the services they provide.
Customer service: Pick a provider that answers your enquiry quickly, responds in a timely and polite manner, and generally bends over backwards to help. Don’t accept anything less.
Once you’ve done all the background work, you need to incorporate your gaming company. In collaboration with your chosen service provider, you need to pick the jurisdiction that suits your budget, time frame, compliance, tax, and corporate needs. It should also allow you to offer your online casino services to your target demographics legally and without obstacle.
Be sure that you’re clear on the requirements for operating an online casino from that particular country. Do you need a license? Is it regulated? How long till the company is open? And what will it cost?
The most popular places to open an online casino are Curacao, Kahnawake, and Malta. Each with different requirements, benefits, and features, you should be sure to weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision.
At the company incorporation stage, you should also be starting the online casino licensing process. This will involve submitting several documents along with an application form and various other bits of information to the regulators of your chosen jurisdiction. As a part of the process, you will also be required to pay an application fee and other fees relating to the process.
Be sure to compare different licensing jurisdictions to evaluate the differences in cost, time frame, requirement, limitations, taxes, and other considerations. This process should always be undertaken with the professional guidance of an experienced service provider. This means you can pass through the process quickly and easily as well as standing a greater chance of success.
Now it’s time to pick your software. You need to make your online casino as appealing as possible, ensuring you stand out from the crowd. There are plenty of game providers out there with hundreds of games to suit each budget and requirement. Take a look at what you can afford to spend and listen to the advice of your service provider to select reliable game studios that can provide your customers with the games they want.
Are you going to offer downloadable games? Mobile games? Desktop games or a combination of all three? Then you need to pick a selection of game types. Popular online casino games include blackjack, slots, poker, roulette, craps, bingo, and baccarat. You may decide to focus on one or two of these or offer a selection of them all.
Keep in mind that it’s important to strike a balance between quality, quantity, choice, and price to ensure you and your players are happy.
Of course, it's not just casino games you need to consider when it comes to picking software. You also need to choose a CMS, CRM, game management system, bonus management system, payment gateway, accounting and reporting software, customer service software, security software, and an email platform, amongst others.
Taxes are an inevitable part of doing business and even if you are in a tax-free jurisdiction, you may still have to pay taxes elsewhere or at least register with the authorities. Speak with your corporate services provider to find out what is expected of you and how to ensure you are complying with the applicable tax authorities.
Online casinos are popular targets of hackers and nefarious cybercriminals who are just dying to get their hands on your data. Keeping you and your customers safe from such digital attacks must be a priority.
As well as putting in place technical safeguards, you need to employ professionals to deal with fraud, suspicious transactions, Anti-money laundering, compliance, and technical security. Attention must also be given to ensuring that those using your online casino are over the legal age and are not at risk of problem gambling.
Your online casino website is the first thing a potential client will see and whether it looks good or not will decide if they become a paying customer. If you get this wrong in any way, the user is likely to go elsewhere and probably won’t come back. First impressions count and you shouldn’t be sparing any expense with creating the perfect online casino website.
Sick design- the site should look slick and professional. It should be free from unnecessary graphics, clutter, or flashing images.
On brand- choose your brands colors, fonts, and logos and stick to it throughout the entire website. Too many colors or different texts can look messy, unprofessional, and even a bit suspicious.
User friendly- Visitors to your site should be able to find their way around easily and intuitively. If signing up and accessing games is a long and difficult process, they will soon get bored and go elsewhere.
Bug-free- You need to periodically check that everything on the site works. Games, links, buttons, menus, and banners should always all be free from bugs and functioning.
Easy to navigate- You need to make tech support, customer service, FAQs, terms and conditions, game categories and the help section easy to access.
As well as creating a website, you should consider having an app as well. The design of your app should be in line with the website and use the same branding. The above principles also apply to the layout and function of your online casino app.
It’s no good having paying-customers if you don’t have a way to receive their deposits. Part of setting up your online casino includes opening a settlement account, partnering with merchant and payment providers, and getting someone to take care of the accounts.
You should be offering multiple payment methods, including different currencies and platforms, and even cryptocurrency. The more choices you have, the more clients will be able to play at your casino. By partnering with a corporate services provider, you can also benefit from better rates and terms, negotiated by them.
In terms of accounting, depending on where your online casino is located you may have certain obligations. These can include auditing, financial statements, and annual reporting. It’s best to get a professional to take care of this so they can make sure no deadlines are missed and no mistakes are made. Being able to understand the financial health of your online casino is also important so you can make important business decisions going forward.
So, how are you getting the word out to promote your online casino? To make yourself stand out from the rest, you need to be savvy about how you will get the attention of your clients. Here are some suggestions:
Content marketing: Promoting your brand through blog posts, link-building and articles is a great way to generate traffic. You can also send out press releases, do interviews with key staff members, announce the release of new games, post reviews and guides on a number of different platforms.
Social media: There are some restrictions on advertising online casinos on social media but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a presence. Through B2C demand generation marketing you can create a buzz around your platform, games, and the perks you have to offer.
VIP and Loyalty plans: Be sure to reward your regular players by setting up VIP and Loyalty programs. These can offer free chips, free spins, gifts, bonuses, and specials to big spenders. This will help you increase player loyalty and entice them to keep playing in your online casino.
Use your CRM: Your CRM system can tell you a lot about your customers. It tells you what games they like best, how much they spend, what are their betting patterns, their age/gender/location, and other useful information that can be utilized by you. This information can be used to create targeted marketing strategies for specific audience segments.
Affiliates: Partner up with affiliates that can give plenty of exposure to your online casino. Make sure to maintain a good relationship and communication with them. Make an extra effort to provide your best affiliates with specials targeted specifically to their audience, and always keep good track of your campaign performance.
You need to make sure your online casino is staffed by professional, qualified, experienced, honest, and fair people. At the very least, you need to employ people in the following areas:
  • Operations
  • Customer Support
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Compliance
  • Legal and Licensing
  • Tech Support (internal and external)
  • Website Management
  • Graphic Designers
  • Affiliates
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
One of the most important things you need to consider is how you will serve your customers. If you do not offer efficient customer service, you will lose credibility and your customers will not return. If possible, you need to offer round the clock service, 365 days a year. These services should be available by web chat, mobile, email, customer service platform, and possibly social media.
You also need to conduct periodic reviews of customer service processes and feedback from clients. Fix any issues and keep your staff trained and up to date on best practices.
On your website, make sure that the help section, FAQs and contact information are displayed clearly and can be accessed with no hassle.
Treat every customer fairly, be transparent and honest with every single interaction. Remember, if you don’t satisfactorily serve them, there are plenty of other online casinos out there for them to play at.
As you can see, the process is somewhat long and has many points to consider. Partnering with an experienced service provider can enable you to pass many of these tasks to them. While you may have a great idea and the ability to execute the formation of a new online casino, a good agent can make sure everything is done in line with the law, on-time, and on-budget.
Fast Offshore has over 22 years of experience assisting clients in applying for online casinos licenses. We can help you select the right jurisdiction for your specific business needs. We are familiar with every requirement and have great relationships with regulators and authorities and a vast network of international partners.
In addition, we are able to provide a full portfolio of supporting services, including company registration and associated roles, business plan preparation, compliance collation, license applications, assistance with setting up a bank account, and a range of other ongoing services. Contact us today to get your business started.

Ron Mendelson

Ron Mendelson is the Director of Costa-Rica based business and financial consultancy firm, Fast Offshore. With over two decades of experience in corporate services, iGaming, international business, finance, licensing and legal matters, he advises a number of international clients on their business needs in the Americas, Europe, and beyond.