Golden Palace (www.goldenpalace.com)

Chances are that if you’ve heard of Golden Palace Casino, you’ve probably heard something strange. The website has a way of finding bizarre methods of advertising that can often incite controversy. Some of these methods include sponsoring a serial streaker during his escapades at sporting events and paying boxers to wear temporary tattoos supporting the site. Hosted by Mohawk Internet Technologies, the site has also undergone controversy for refusing to pay players who appear to only be playing for bonus rewards rather than for entertainment. This resulted in software provider Microgaming pulling out from an agreement with Golden Palace.

If all of this isn’t strange enough, Golden Palace is also well known for buying unusual items on internet auctions ranging from a grilled cheese sandwich that supposedly displayed the image of the Virgin Mary to the naming rights for a new species of monkey. If eccentricity is your thing then the Golden Palace may have something to offer you.

Promotions

A large number of promotions are available at Golden Palace and, once again, the website does things to the extreme. The welcome bonus is actually 11 bonuses; your first 11 deposits will receive bonuses that could eventually add up to £5150. Unfortunately the excessive style continues into the terms and conditions and Golden Palace reserves the right to insist you wager your initial deposit and bonus 50 times before you will be able to withdraw it. While this may seem a bit of a burden, it’s a system that matches the scale of the bonus and Golden Palace tends to enjoy doing things big.

In addition to the welcome bonus Golden Palace also has a VIP system with a flamboyant level system (with higher levels carrying titles linked to precious stones, the highest being diamond). You gain points by playing on the site and as you gain points you gain levels- the higher the level, the better the bonuses. One downside to a lot of the promotions on offer at Golden Palace is that many require that you contact the customer service department in order to claim.

Casino

The Golden Palace Casino website is appropriately over the top with a gold and green style and plenty of adverts trying to draw you into the fun. Navigation is still relatively easy as everything is where you’d expect it to be; a download link for the casino is clearly placed on the home page and a link for an in browser version is also available.

Signing up is managed either in the online browser casino or within the downloaded software- not on the website itself. The registration process is fairly quick and split into three steps; a few unusual questions are asked like your current job, work number and fax number.

Once you’re logged in you’ll be ready to get going. You can choose whether you’d like to play for cash or for fun before you get started. The downloadable casino is, unsurprisingly, quite dynamic. The welcome page features an image of a bustling casino with an animated background but you won’t find yourself lost amongst all the hubbub- a large games link will lead you to the next section. The main lobby is a well organised set of lists including a favourite games section. It’s easy to find the game you’re after and you’ll soon be playing.

There are plenty of games to choose from at Golden Palace with main categories filled with variations on casino classics. The game interfaces themselves are generally well designed and don’t go overboard with the Golden Palace style. It’s easy to get used to the attractively animated games and you’ll find comprehensive help available to get you back on track if you have any problems.

The in browser version of the casino is similar in design but lacks the aesthetic improvements offered by the downloadable program. The game interfaces are similar with slight variations in style- they are still easy to use and quite pleasing to the eye. The software for Golden Palace is provided by Playtech.

Payment Options

Golden Palace accepts a good range of deposit options; cards taken include Visa, MasterCard, Solo and Switch. The online alternatives available to you are Moneybookers, Neteller, My Citadel and Click2Pay. There are wider selections out there but this is certainly sufficient. Accepted currencies include the US dollar, the UK pound and the euro.

Conclusion

Golden Palace is a great casino with some very strange twists. The promotions on offer are huge but they also incur some extensive wagering requirements in order to unlock them. The website style is bright and dynamic and the games are fun to use. The help service on offer is a good one featuring a 24 hour phone line and an email centre. If you don’t mind some of the eccentricities of Golden Palace then you will find an exciting casino here.

Tick Box

  • Safe: Yes
  • 24/7 Support: Yes
  • Demos: Yes
  • Download Required: No (but optional)
  • Live Betting: No
  • Mobile Gambling: No
  • Promotions: Yes

SBOBET (www.sbobet.com)

About Sbobet.com

Sbobet is an online sportsbook offering bookmaking services, a casino and side games. The site was founded in 2004 and it has grown in content and popularity since, now offering over 500 sporting events each week. Claiming to offer live soccer updates, immediate winnings confirmation, quick payouts and easy access, Sbobet caters to a wide range of betters from the casual player to professionals. Based on the Isle of Man, Sbobet is the sponsor of West Ham United and Cardiff City. The site has enjoyed a reasonable amount of success, having been named the Asian Operator of the Year in 2009.

Promotions

Incredibly, Sbobet makes no offer of any promotion, welcome bonus or other incentive upon registration. This is not a good start for Sbobet, with no attraction for new players the site is throwing away an opportunity. Beyond this it doesn’t say much for the overall experience- some of the fun of a good gambling site is the ever changing set of promotions to keep the action fresh.

In lieu of welcome bonuses and promotions is a meagre list of reasons to choose Sbobet. These include some bold claims about the best prices, fastest payouts, wide event selections and easy payment methods on offer. Unfortunately these are poor substitutes for a good set of promotions and so Sbobet doesn’t really get off on the right foot with new customers.

Sports Betting

Onto the website itself and the story initially looks to be improving. The layout is clean and modern with everything where you’d expect it to be. There is one small problem- the help and live chat options seem to all but disappear when you sign in (you would imagine that most users who need help will do so while being logged into the site).

The real problem emerges in the reliability and stability of the website. Sbobet has some truly awful problems when it comes to navigating the site. Both on Internet Explorer and Firefox the site invariably fails to load pages and the Live Chat function on offer is completely non-functional at the time of testing.

These issues carry over into the registration process. Signing up is limited to a page of questions; all the usual suspects are here ranging from address details to user preferences. The problem is that this relatively simple process is turned into a chore by the unreliability of the site. On testing, the registration entry took several retries before it finally established an account. After this you’ll be asked to go to your email to confirm the sign-up process. Once this is done you’ll nearly be ready- the site will ask for a deposit (which you can skip if you wish to) and you’ll be in. Just be sure not to leave it inactive for too long or the session will timeout.

The actual betting facilities are of acceptable quality with a wide range of events available to bet on. The usual selection of sports is on offer along with a small entertainment section. Betting rules are also available for those who prefer to get acclimatised to the system before diving in.

In addition to the normal sports betting page, Sbobet also offers a World Cup 2010 section for those who are interested in betting on the big event of the year. This page comes packed in a very different style to the normal Sbobet website and offers live features, a list of venues, a gallery for those who want to soak up the atmosphere of the game and news on events.

Casino

Frustratingly the username and password you use to register with the bookmaking service won’t work on the casino and so you’ll have to work through the sign-up process again (which, thanks to the frail website integrity, will take some doing). On the bright side, the form for the casino is much simpler and more efficiently set out than the sports betting version.

After sign-up you can choose between a demo or paid for casino. The interface for choosing your preferred game is simple and it’s easy to find your way around. The selection of games on offer is not really all that competitive but all of the classics are there. The game interfaces themselves are acceptable, with some good designs but minimal animations.

Payment Options

By contrast to the generally low quality website and lack of promotions, the payment options available are relatively good. Options include credit cards, debit cards, eWallets, vouchers and bank transfer. Card based methods include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Maestro, Solo and many others. There is also a reasonable selection of currencies up for use including the UK pound, the US dollar and the euro.

Conclusion

Sbobet is a well presented website at first glance but after closer inspection the site is woefully flawed with some serious reliability issues. Behind the problems posed by the technical difficulties is a decent betting service and a mediocre casino. A Live Chat service is offered but seemingly broken (at the time of testing) and a 24 hour helpline is there to offer needed support. The real nail in the coffin for Sbobet is the complete lack of promotions, making this a very unimpressive gambling service.

Tick Box

  • Safe: Yes
  • 24/7 Support: Yes
  • Demos: Yes
  • Download Required: No
  • Live Betting: Yes
  • Mobile Gambling: Yes
  • Promotions: No

Stan James (stanjames.com)

Based in Gibraltar, it provides sports and other betting for selected European nations and Canada. Stan James not only offers competitive odds on all major sports, but there’s also quality poker, casino, games, skill and their all new In-Play service on sports. All of which can be accessed online and by iPhone app.

Betting

You can see the very latest racing, football and other current events neatly listed down the right-hand side of the three column page. Every sport including handball and table tennis is listed down the left-hand column text descriptions of upcoming events spread between across the middle.

It all adds up to a free-flowing, never-ending list of sports betting opportunities. Sign up is straightforward, allowing you to choose preferred odds view and currency and from then on, you don’t need to worry about anything else but nailing the right event at the right odds. New sign-ups get a free matching bet of up to £25 when you make your first paid wager.

There are several types of account, Top Up Daily takes money from your bank account and returns your completed winnings at midnight, while Manual accounts let you add money to your Stan James account and let it and your winnings accrue. Twenty-four hour phone support is available, should you experience trouble with your account.

The odds seem very much in line with comparable sites, and you can also keep an eye on them and the latest sporting news via the site’s Twitter feed. Stan James offers a huge range of bets on any event, you can bet on the first goal, number of corners, goal time, half-time score and so on. Click on the Diary button, top left and you can see every event from every sport listed, a vast improvement on some of the click-journeys required to find information on some other sites.

Added to all this is the new In-Play section which details all the events currently in action, with live odds and quick and easy access to placing you bet. The left side column also outlines the upcoming main events for the day ahead for all sports (local and international), with starting times. Plus the events coming in the following few days. All odds for these events easily accessible by a simple click. It really couldn’t be easier to find the event you want to bet on and then bet on it.

Poker

As with other sites, Stan James also cordially invites you to gamble on poker games (instant Web play, or you can download a poker application provided by Microgaming for a richer experience). You need to sign up to play, even at the free tables, which is a little disconcerting, but hardly out of the ordinary.

Once there though there’s a whole range of variety on offer. From progressive jackpots, freerolls, Big Money Sunday, private tournaments, amongst others. You’ll also receive loyalty points each time you place a wager, giving incentive to return and become a poker master.

In Tournaments you earn 15 points for every $1 in tournament fees you pay. While in Ring Games (Cash Games) you earn points when you contribute to the pot in a raked hand. The amount of points you earn will depend on the table stakes and game type that you are playing at.

If you’re a newcomer you can be eligible for up to a $500 welcome bonus, depending on how much your initial deposit is. As usual it’s not as simple as it sounds. For example if you deposit the full $500 you need to earn Loyalty Points 18 times the value of your initial deposit to be eligible for the welcome bonus.

Casino/Games/Skill

The Casino itself offers many types of Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Jacks or Better and a few other diversions to keep you interested. The tables are neatly animated and you can play these for free without registering to get a feel for the place. On the next tabs there are a whole host of Slots, games of chance, scratch cards as well as traditional games like Backgammon and Dominoes. There’s plenty of quality games to kill time on, each one allowing minimum expense with a nice potential pay off if you win. These are now now nicely broken down into Casino type games, general games and skill games for easy access to your preferred type.

StanJames also offers mobile betting for Java mobile phone handsets and now as an app download to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, so you can place bets from anywhere, any time without needing to be at your PC. There’s also the welcome news for Android owners that the Android app is coming soon. So whatever your phone type StanJames is there to make it easier.

The Punter

Each month, Stan James also publishes an issue of their online magazine, ‘The Punter’. The magazine is available free to customers both new and old and can be accessed through their website. It is packed full of betting odds, as well as interesting features dedicated to sports and betting.

The whole Stan James package is aimed at the keen punter, with minimum hassle. The site is designed to make it quick and easy to place your bets and get as much information as you need. Stan James really looks like the place to go for keen sports fans, poker players and games enthusiasts, what’s not to like? It’s a name we trust, offering all the services we need.

Tick Box

  • Safe: Yes
  • Free Demos: Yes
  • 24/7 Support: Yes
  • Download Required: Optional for Poker and Casino
  • Promotions: Yes
  • Live Betting: Yes
  • Mobile Betting: Yes