How to start an online casino in 2024
For over 10 years, Slotegrator has developed products and solutions that help casino operators launch successful projects. But no matter how much we innovate, we keep hearing the same fundamental question: how do you start an online casino?
This article is a comprehensive guide to every single aspect of starting a new gambling business, so get a cup of coffee, get settled, and let us take you through every step of starting an online casino.
Why do so many entrepreneurs want to start an online casino? Well, for one, there’s the inflexible demand: go as far back in history as you’d like; people have never not gambled. There’s also the constant innovation, like running a casino through a messaging app, streaming live dealers in HD straight to players’ mobiles, and offering betting on virtual sports.
But there’s also the fact that the global online gambling market is expected to reach a valuation of $153 billion by 2030.
With that level of revenue, and the fact that you can run a successful casino from anywhere in the world, it’s no wonder so many entrepreneurs come to us for help starting their online gambling project.
Without further ado, here’s how to start an online casino in 7 steps.
Leave it to the professionals
As a leading software developer in the iGaming industry, we are always ready to share our industry knowledge and advise operators on any complicated issues they may face. Moreover, our solutions for developing and launching online projects, as well as our gambling license acquisition services, can save you both time and money. Fill out the form and our managers will contact you shortly.
Step 1: Choose your market
Your market of operation will affect everything. Will you opt for a massive, well-established market or set your sights on a newly regulated one? Offer live dealer games in Asia or slots and bingo in Latin America?
Check out our atlas of international gambling regulations for a quick view of what’s legal and where.
Before diving into planning and research, study player demand and revenue estimations for both online casinos and sportsbooks and choose which route to take.
The global online sports betting market reached $83.65 billion in 2022. Even though the widespread cancellation of live sports events during the COVID years heavily impacted the market, virtual sports and esports stepped up, and at the end of the day real sports returned.
Online casino gaming is also developing fast, especially as new innovations open up new opportunities. Live dealer games, NFTs, and crypto casinos go hand in hand with classic slots and table games, bringing the industry $63.53 billion in 2022.
While iGaming may be a global industry, you can’t be everywhere at once. The next step in your planning will be determining the market of operation. Here’s a quick outline of what to consider.
The regulations governing the gambling industry differ from region to region, from country to country, and sometimes even within countries themselves. Regulated markets are commonly referred to as white markets, and regions where gambling is prohibited are called black markets. Some countries, like India, have a mix of regulations. In gray markets, authorities neither license or prohibit gambling operations.
The degree of regulation will be the first thing you should consider. While some operators choose to pick their way through the volatile landscapes of black and gray markets, Slotegrator recommends going for regulated markets. White markets offer much firmer footing; clear regulations might present a hurdle or two, but knowing what rules to follow ensures your casino won’t be blocked or shut down.
You will also look at regulations when choosing the jurisdiction for acquiring a gambling license, which we will cover in step 3. When choosing a market of operation, operators also keep in mind that every jurisdiction has its own policies regarding gambling advertisement, which will affect your marketing efforts. You can learn more about the latest iGaming regulations news in the Industry news section.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on regulations, it’s time to turn your eye to the players themselves.
Demographics and demand
Learn as much as you can about your target audience. The number of potential players is one statistic, but there are plenty of other lenses to look through to evaluate potential revenues.
Here is what we check when we do our research for our Academy materials:
- Average age and gender of the players
- GDP and GDP per capita
- Mobile connectivity and internet penetration rates
- Crypto ownership and payment methods preferred
- Cultural background, including religion and attitude to gambling, gambling tourism, how liberal or conservative local population is
- Gaming preferences
You’ll adjust bet settings to players’ habits. Some players, like in Western Europe, like to lay down big bets on slots or wagers on football, but only once a week. In other markets, punters tend to make large volumes of low-value bets — such as Kenya, where players will wager only a few shillings at a time, but they do so every day or even multiple times a day.
Knowing the betting habits of the target market will give you a clearer picture of not only what kind of revenues you can expect, but how to deal with bet settings and wagering requirements, as well as what promotions you will wind up using.
Emerging markets have a certain shine; players will be excited about finally having legal options, and competition in the regulated space could still be sparse.
Developed markets, on the other hand, offer a great chance to study the strengths and weaknesses of the brands that are already established in the area. Analyzing their game offerings and bet settings (minimum and maximum bets) will give you an idea of how players in the region wager, and the payment systems they use will tell you how they make deposits and withdrawals.
Looking at their player acquisition and retention strategies, like bonuses, VIP and loyalty programs, tournaments, and other promotions (more on those later), can give you an idea of what players respond to. What’s more, studying what other casinos provide will let you see what they don’t. Once you have a full picture of your competitors’ operations, you can identify the gap in the market and design a unique offering to fill it with.
Step 2: Create a business plan
Gambling is a unique industry in a lot of ways, but there’s one area where it’s exactly the same as every other.
A business plan is not only a necessity for operations, but also for applying for a license and attracting investors. Having a clear, well-thought-out strategy will help you secure the substantial amount of cash you’ll need for your initial investment.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the points you’ll need to outline in your business plan.
In this section you should describe the goals of your business and the needs of the market that it plans to address, as well as the organization of your business.
Make a clear outline of your organization, including the corporate structure (whether it is a partnership, corporation, or limited liability corporation). You should also provide information on the stakeholders and other key persons, as well as outlining expectations for staff size.
The market analysis section of your business plan should break down how your business fits into the landscape of the industry. This section needs to show the demand for your product or service and an analysis of the target market, as well as a breakdown of industry trends. You will also include a competition analysis and an outline of your pricing plan and detail exactly how you’ll market your online casino, including your budgets and marketing channels.
You can give your investors (and yourself) a good idea of the level of success you can expect by working out turnover projections for at least the first three years of operation. Starting with some expectations of what you should be able to accomplish is necessary to keep track of how your business is doing. Normally it looks like a description of three scenarios: pessimistic, realistis, and optimistic.
The financing section will be a chance for you to show off your mastery of spreadsheets. Here you’ll offer a run-through of all the numbers, including your personal financial contribution, annual income projections, a break-even worksheet, projected cash flow statements and a balance sheet.
Gather your capital
There’s no one number for how much start-up capital you’ll need.
You’ll need to cover platform software, licensing, game content, employee salaries, overhead like rent and other daily expenses, and deposits to pay out player winnings, which some regulators require. After that, you’ll need enough to make sure you can effectively promote your brand until you’re in the black. And, inevitably, there will also be taxes.
If you don’t have that kind of capital on hand, you’ll search out investors. Any investor is going to need to see evidence of meticulous financial planning in addition to your pitch for why your casino will succeed where so many others fail.
Establish the right corporate structure
Your corporate structure will depend, in part, on your choice of jurisdiction — you will have to establish a local business wherever your license is issued. Your operation might be a partnership, corporation, or limited liability corporation, depending on the regulations of your licensing jurisdiction and any other jurisdictions where parent or subsidiary companies are located.
The limited liability corporation is a very common corporate structure for online casinos. In this kind of company, shareholders are only liable for the value of their shares, meaning they won’t lose the shirt off their back if the venture goes under.
As an international business, online casinos will often have to navigate restrictions and requirements in various countries, sometimes resulting in highly complicated scenarios. It’s often best to employ third-party jurisdictional services that have a wealth of international experience and can assist you in remaining compliant across borders.
We offer consultancy services and complete package solutions for gambling license acquisition that include:
- Gambling jurisdiction and business advisory
- Gambling business corporate structure incorporation
- Opening of bank accounts
- Gambling license application
Step 3: Getting a gambling license in 2024
The choice of licensing jurisdiction is a critical step in the early stages of an online gambling business. There are a number of jurisdictions around the world that offer online gambling licenses, each with its own licensing process and requirements. Authorities in many countries require operators to have a license from the local regulator.
Why you should get a gambling license for your online casino
Some operators flinch at the cost, complication, and time commitment of getting licensed, instead choosing to cross their fingers and hope they can fly under the radar indefinitely. But unlicensed operations face a list of potential consequences.
This is a simple breakdown of the benefits of a gambling license:
|Banks open accounts
|Banks refuse to open accounts
|Gaming and payment solutions providers like to cooperate
|Providers can stop cooperating any time, if at all
|Players trust you immediately
|Players feel suspicious
|Local authorities don’t interfere
|Local authorities keep a close eye on you
|Operation is not interrupted by blocks or checks
|Operation can be stopped or blocked any minute
The iGaming industry is a community, where every member, including players (end customers), providers of software, games, and payment solutions (partners), and regulators and governments (state authorities). If any member of the community takes issue with an operator’s action, they can be subject to interruptions or even be shut down — an outcome that no operator wants to see after investing significant time and money in a project.
We cover the risks that gambling businesses face — and ways to deal with them — here.
What should you consider when choosing a licensing jurisdiction?
Your level of experience
First-time operators often apply for a license in a jurisdiction with lower costs and simpler requirements, while those who have gained some brand recognition and want to expand into new markets might be willing to spend more.
For example, a new operator might opt to get licensed in Curaçao, which is cheaper than many other jurisdictions. A more established casino with more financial resources looking to conquer new territory might seek a license from the Malta Gaming Authority, which many feel carries more weight.
Some jurisdictions, like Curaçao, offer a single license that allows the holder to offer all types of gambling. However, many other jurisdictions offer separate licenses for each type of gaming. Often these are separated into such categories as casino/RNG, sports betting, peer-to-peer games like poker, and fantasy sports.
Poker regulations depend on whether the jurisdiction in question classifies it as a game of chance or skill. If it’s considered a game of skill, a license might not be necessary. Also, different gaming content providers have different license requirements. They might, for example, require their partners to have a license from either Malta or Curaçao.
Each jurisdiction has its own application, license, and renewal fees, as well as other costs associated with the application process. The amount of start-up capital the operator has on hand will likely factor into the decision. The total cost of the license will also depend on how many types of gambling you want to offer. If the regulatory body in your chosen jurisdiction offers different types of license for different types of gaming, you’ll have to pay a separate license fee for each of them.
And, as always, don’t forget about taxes. While governments in some jurisdictions charge little to no gaming taxes, others can have a complicated schedule of fees depending on revenue. Some offshore jurisdictions also charge little or no corporate tax.
The licensing process
Every jurisdiction has its own licensing process, and they are often highly complex and very bureaucratic. Due diligence checks can be very thorough, sometimes including background checks conducted through international law enforcement agencies, and applicants must usually complete a huge stack of paperwork.
The time frame for licensing can also play a large role in the choice of jurisdiction, as it can vary greatly. Newer operators are often drawn to the six-week process of Curaçao, while more established brands have the resources (and the patience) to wait out the six months it takes to get a license in Malta.
Here are the most popular licensing jurisdictions:
New operators usually engage jurisdictional advisory services to help them navigate the complicated licensing process. You can read about the licensing services we offer here.
Step 4: Hire a team of professionals
A small company or a start-up can survive with just a small team, but the bigger the project grows, the more team members it needs.
Management-level employees will focus on strategic planning while other team members execute daily tasks. You might also want to attract external help from outsourcing — it is usually used for design or marketing — or address service or solutions providers. Large companies have in-house development and marketing, but new iGaming operators or those who wish to save time and effort on creating something from scratch pay experienced professionals.
Step 5: Get platform software
Choosing a vendor for developing a custom online casino platform is a major step in setting up an online casino business. The software provider attends to the core platform features and integrations, so the site’s functionality and the quality of the provider’s technical support are crucial. The scope of the services provided by the supplier will also affect the price of project development and maintenance.
Here is what the functional platform should include:
Sophisticated interactive UX and clear navigation
There are thousands of online casinos and sportsbooks in the world. Such enormous competition makes players picky — they want to find what they need quickly and easily. Registration and deposit buttons should be obvious and clearly marked, as should different sections of your platform, like casino and sportsbook. Game offerings should be organized according to common player preferences, like volatility and game theme. If players don’t see what they came for they are not going to scroll, search, or come back later — they will simply close the tab and open a new one. That is why it’s so important to create a clear navigation and make everything important visible, including newly released games, other categories of games, contacts, licenses, and, of course, bonuses.
Communication and security tools
Customer support should be immediately available through live chats, email, and phone: Players need to be able to trust that their issues will be solved immediately — if they’re left hanging, they’ll head straight to the message boards to leave a negative review, and a casino can’t afford a tarnished reputation. Security is another concern. Unfortunately, online casinos can present themselves as tempting targets for hackers and swindlers. Licensed platform services should come with anti-fraud and anti-hacking security measures. Know Your Customer (KYC) measures, such as manual reviews of ID documents, are critical for preventing bonus abuse and other kinds of fraud, as well as underage and problem gambling. Many licensing jurisdictions require operators to follow KYC guidelines and AML (anti-money laundering) policies.
Functional and convenient CRM system
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems enable operators to track any process connected to players, including registration, verification, history of games and bonuses, preferences, etc. And all the important KPIs (like churn rate, GGR, NGR, unique players, active players and many more) should be presented in the platform’s back office. Your CRM offers all the statistics and data you need for your strategic planning.
Besides having visual appeal, attractive bonuses, and localization, the platform should adhere to regulators’ requirements and offer technical solutions.
For years, Slotegrator’s turnkey online casino solution has catapulted entrepreneurs into the iGaming industry. Our developers released an updated version of the platform in 2022, and the new platform includes everything mentioned above. Its five modules are:
- Casino Builder, which offers several pre-made UX layouts created by experienced designers who know the customer journey and what players normally look for;
- The KYC module, which monitors payers’ registration and verification, and segments them by their activity. The KYC module complies with the requirements of the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (CGCB) and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA);
- The bonus module, which enables creation and setting of bonuses, cashback campaigns, loyalty programs, and tournaments, as well as adjusting bonuses to categories of players by their experience and preferences.
- The risk management module, which allows to group players and do such bulk actions as banning, enabling or disabling bonuses, blocking, or removing duplicate accounts — this is a great tool to avoid bonus abuse or gambling of minors.
- The business intelligence module (BI) is the most useful tool to collect important information about your business performance from the platform itself: unique players, active players, average bet sum, average withdrawal sum, average FD sum, profitability, CPR and others.
The new platform from Slotegrator also uses AI to compare your business’s performance with that of your competitors, as well as managing affiliate programs. Read more about the platform here.
Another solution that our clients love is Telegram Casino, which presents an alternative front end where the popular messenger’s bots make the gameplay easy and intuitive, and a special way of encryption makes the whole process secure. Read more about how the Telegram casino works and what are its advantages in this article.
Quality game content
And now, the essence of a casino platform — the game content.
Players don’t look for a so-so gaming experience; they want to be completely absorbed in the fun. Game developers are constantly competing with each other to create the next big hit in the world of iGaming, and the upshot of all that competition is a marketplace filled with fantastic games to choose from.
Your casino should have a wide variety of games based on the tastes of the target market. Players in different regions have different preferences for game themes and volatility settings when it comes to online slots, so make sure your offering matches players’ desires. The same goes for sports betting — demands vary across markets, so make your sportsbook as complete as possible while catering to local preferences.
But the world of iGaming goes far beyond slots and sports betting. Other casino games all have fans who deserve to play from the comfort of their own home. Classic card games like baccarat, blackjack, and poker will probably never go out of style. American and Europeanroulette, as well as dice games like Sic Bo, are highly popular in a number of different markets.
No modern casino is complete without live dealer casino games, where streaming technology brings games hosted by real dealers in a studio to a player’s laptop or mobile screen. Live dealer studios usually offer live versions of the classic games mentioned above, but also feature money wheels, lotteries, bingo, and other inventive new gaming products.
Giving players options for new gaming experiences will increase player retention by making sure there’s always something new for them to bet on. Once your operation is up and running, make sure to stay up to date with new releases in order to keep your platform fresh.
Cooperating with the industry’s top licensed and certified game developers will also grant your casino more legitimacy in players’ eyes. To ensure your players will always find a game that suits them, you’ll need contracts with a number of different game providers.
If you arrange each agreement separately, your development phase will drag on while your costs quickly add up — a single contract can take 1-2 months to conclude. Save time and money while maximizing your game content offering by using a game content aggregator to integrate games from several game developers into an online casino in a single session by signing only one contract.
Tailoring your content offering to your target market is essential. Check out our ebooks for a close look at game preferences by region.
Verified payment systems
Fast, smooth, and reliable payment processing is a must-have for an online casino. Deposits and withdrawals should be as speedy as possible to maintain players’ satisfaction and the casino’s good reputation.
As mentioned above, part of your research into your target market will include restrictions that players have when it comes to payment processing; it’s critical that you support the most commonly used payment methods in your target market.
In addition to handling multiple fiat currencies, you should accept bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — more and more players are preferring to use their crypto wallets. In fact, the crypto casino niche, where platforms exclusively accept bitcoin, ethereum, or some other coin, is surging. In short, employ as many verified payment service providers as you have to in order to make sure your players never have a problem making deposits or withdrawals.
While operators will still conclude an agreement with each payment service provider, a payment service aggregator can integrate a wide range of payment services into an online casino in a single session, providing a secure technical solution for payment processing.
Step 6: Market your brand
As an online casino operator, you’ll have two main missions: finding new players and keeping them. There are several strategies that have proven to be effective.
Check out our ebook on online casino and sportsbook marketing, to get an understanding of the main tools, and a brief summary is provided here.
Affiliate marketing is both the easiest and hardest strategy around. Affiliates, often gambling bloggers or streamers, develop a large following and then direct their audience towards online casino platforms for a commission.
Here are the affiliate partnership models that are used in the iGaming industry:
- Revenue Share
The operator pays the affiliate a percentage of the profits generated by the players that the affiliate directs to the site.
- Cost Per Acquisition
The operator pays the affiliate for each player the affiliate directs to the site who makes a deposit and starts playing.
- Hybrid model
This is the combination of two models mentioned above that has lower payout rates.
Bonuses play a big role in the player acquisition and retention strategies of almost every casino out there, which entice players with welcome bonuses, deposit bonuses, and reload bonuses, as well as free spins, free chips, and free bets.
When offering bonuses, it’s vital to structure the terms and conditions clearly and explicitly. Bonuses should come with wagering requirements, commonly known as rollover, that require the player to risk the amount of their initial deposit and bonus a certain number of times before they can make a withdrawal. Bonuses also frequently have withdrawal limits.
Wagering requirements and withdrawal limits can seem unfair to players, but there is a very good reason for them. Bonus abuse is rampant in online gambling, with entire forums dedicated to helping fellow bonus abusers cheat the terms of their bonuses by withdrawing their bonus cash without truly risking it. It’s also common for players to try and establish multiple accounts in order to abuse one-time-only offers like welcome bonuses.
The turnkey platform from Slotegrator offers a bonus module, enabling creation and adjustment of bonuses depending on a player’s habits, history, and preferences. It also allows you to establish VIP and loyalty programs to reward loyal players.
While bonuses can draw players in, you’ll need other strategies to retain them.
Loyalty and VIP programs
Rewarding players for their long-term commitment to your site is a great way to keep them coming back. To that effect, many casinos have loyalty programs, which offer benefits and rewards for players who spend enough time and/or money on the platform.
Players who like to make regular deposits and bet big are a critical segment that operators should care about — that’s where VIP programs come in. These tiered loyalty programs offer increasing rewards, benefits, and perks as players climb the levels of the program.
Some game developers offer slot tournaments where players compete with each other for a prize. Tournaments can be combined with free spins — operators unwilling to offer a cash prize pool can offer free spins instead. With proper promotion, tournaments have proven to increase player engagement.
Adding game-like elements to the overall casino experience is one of the biggest current trends in the iGaming industry. Features like player avatars, experience points, and tailoredandstaggered offers create a more personalized, fun experience and give players a reason to have a lasting relationship with a casino.
Online casinos need a highly responsive support team, available 24/7 and trained in how to handle the most common customer complaints. It’s also a good idea to have a separate department providing personalized care for VIPs. Additionally, your customer support staff should be multilingual — at the very least, they must speak the same language as the target market.
Step 7: Grow your gambling business
So far, you’ve gathered information about the industry and chosen the right market of operation, decided whether we want to launch an online casino or sportsbook, created a business plan, acquired a gambling license, opened bank and merchant accounts, developed a platform, filled it with games, connected payment systems, hired a team of professionals, and developed a strong marketing strategy.
Once you’ve blazed through the above list of steps and launched your online casino brand, it’s time to make sure you’re optimizing every process in your business.
This is a list of materials we recommend you to get familiar with:
- To have a better understanding of whether your business performs as expected, learn to make and read different financial statements here and how to analyze them here.
- Get inspired by the most innovative technologies and learn what NFTs, AI, and cryptocurrencies can bring to your gambling business.
- Learn more about launching a sportsbook in this comprehensive guide.
- Take care of your project’s cybersecurity with this article.
- Be ready for possible risks and learn how to manage them, find out what problems and mistakes you might face.
How can Slotegrator help open an online casino?
Incorporating a business and navigating foreign bureaucracies are only the beginning of the hoops you’ll have to jump through. Platform development is no easy feat, and the due diligence checks you’ll encounter every time you want to partner with a new game content or payment service provider will be a constant administrative headache.
Many operators choose to cooperate with a software aggregator like Slotegrator to save time and money, avoid unnecessary struggles, and eliminate the possibility of making mistakes. Instead of negotiating a new contract and dealing with a new raft of due diligence paperwork every time the operator wants to add a new game developer, a single contract with an aggregator equips the casino with a full spectrum of games.
Cooperating with Slotegrator also streamlines the due diligence process by maintaining relationships with game content developers, who often require less documentation from our clients.
We also recommend you consider Telegram Casino — an alternative front end of a traditional online casino platform integrated into one of the most popular mobile messengers in the world.