Online Casino Games: How Similar Are They To The Real Deal?

Online casinos feature the same games that you would find walking into a land-based casino. Usually, you’ll find a lot more at the online casino than you’d find within the limited confines of a building. 

But how similar are the online versions to their real-world counterparts? The answer depends on the game, and it all begins with random number generators (RNGs).

What Is A Random Number Generator (RNG)?

RNGs are algorithms built into digital casino games that generate random outcomes. Each potential outcome has a certain likelihood of occurring, and the RNG algorithm reflects that likelihood each time you play a game.

For example, if you’re betting black on European roulette, the ball has a 48.6% chance of landing in a black pocket, a 48.6% chance of landing in a red pocket, and a 2.7% chance of landing in the single green pocket. The RNG reflects those probabilities to mathematical perfection.

Can Online Casino Operators Manipulate Games?

No, online casino operators cannot affect the RNGs on their games. Once the state regulator approves a specific game, that game must be made available to players as is. If the operator wanted to adjust the odds to make the game more difficult or easier to win, they would have to get it re-approved by the state regulator.

Usually, online casino games are provided by independent software providers that license their games to online casino operators. That’s why you’ll often see the most popular slots, like Gonzo’s Quest and Divine Fortune, at most online casinos. Online casinos will then offer those games to their members, which means they don’t control the outcomes at all.

Are RNGs Used At Brick-And-Mortar Casinos?

All modern slot machines feature RNGs. But so too did old-school mechanical slots, with gears and motors that generated random outcomes each time you pulled down the arm.

Today, video slots rule the brick-and-mortar casino floor, which means playing slots online is the same as playing them in-person. The only difference is doing so from home instead of a casino floor.

Another common digital game is video poker, which is built into bar tops across Vegas, Reno, New Orleans, Atlantic City, and beyond. At many US online casinos, you can find the exact same “Game King” video poker machine that features several variations in one, such as Jacks or Better and Joker Poker.

Online Slots Vs. Slot Machines

Because both online slots and slot machines at land-based casinos use RNGs, they’re the same. That’s why you’ll see a lot of the same games online and on the casino floor, particularly at online casinos with land-based counterparts. 

For example, WynnBet features many of the same games as Wynn Las Vegas. The same is true for Tropicana Online Casino, BetMGM, Golden Nugget Online, and Caesar’s Online Casino. 

However, online casinos aren’t limited by space. That means you’ll usually find significantly more slots online than you would at a brick-and-mortar casino. New Jersey’s online casinos will often feature over a thousand different slots, and you don’t need to get up and walk around to peruse them.

Feel free to shop around for the slots with the best return to player (RTP) percentage, with some slots offering 97% payback, which is comparable to the RTP of blackjack and other casino games with the best odds

In states with legal online casinos, there’s no law against joining more than one platform to find the games that pay back the most – or have the highest progressive jackpots.

Online Table Games Vs. Physical Tables

Technically, online table games have the same odds as their land-based counterparts. However, you could argue (and many have) that only online roulette is the same as physical roulette, and most other table games are best-played in-person.

In fact, the online version of roulette is better because you can usually find European roulette and French roulette at an online casino without high-roller table minimums. In Vegas, European roulette can require a $50 to $100 minimum while BetMGM, Tropicana, and WynnBet feature European roulette for $1 a spin.

Here’s the problem with online card games: all decks in the shoe are shuffled after every hand. 

That means card counting is impossible, and we don’t necessarily mean professional-grade card counting. When a shoe has a high concentration of cards valued at 10 points, the player can have a better chance of winning than the house. It’s moments like that when you can really go on a hot streak – and not just because of random luck.

The same is true for baccarat, casino poker, and other card games. For the most serious players that go beyond basic strategy, the online version of card games just isn’t the same.

Are Live Dealer Games Legit?

Yes, live dealer games are legit. These are games where a real-life dealer is live-streamed in from a studio, where they deal cards or spin the wheel at physical tables for online audiences. Players can place bets from home while “sitting” at the real table.

Many online casinos in New Jersey and Pennsylvania offer Live Dealer rooms, including BetMGM, BetRivers, and more.

Because dealers use a multi-deck shoe that is not shuffled between each hand, just like at a brick-and-mortar casino, playing live dealer blackjack is essentially the same as playing blackjack in-person. 

Unfortunately, Michigan and West Virginia do not have online casinos with live dealer games. According to state laws, online casinos that want to offer live dealer games must open streaming studios inside the state. So even if the online casino in Pennsylvania or New Jersey offers live dealer rooms, they need to open a separate studio for Michigan players.

In January 2021, Michigan had the most successful launch of online gambling products in US history, and New Jersey online casinos topped $100 million in revenue. Our guess is that there will be Michigan online casinos that launch live dealer rooms by the end of 2021 or 2022.

Unfortunately, West Virginia may not have the online casino gaming market sizable enough to merit opening an in-state live dealer studio. But it’s not impossible.

Bottom Line

Online casino games use random number generators (RNG) to produce outcomes that are completely independent of the online casino operator. These games reflect the same odds as their physical counterparts, making them as legitimate a way to win money as going to a brick-and-mortar casino.

Good luck, have fun, and be sure to play responsibly.

About the Author

Mike Epifani

Mike Epifani (shown here at Caesar's Palace Las Vegas) is a highly experienced online gambling writer who specializes in online casinos and sports betting sites. From the nuances of bonus offers to winning strategies and beyond, his insights have helped countless remote bettors keep more of their money while having fun and staying safe.