I've told a few of my close friends about my new little hobby - how I found online casinos and how much fun I have playing a few rounds of blackjack or video poker online each week. Most of my friends come back at me with the same set of questions - isn't online gambling illegal in the US? Aren't all of those online casino sites just scams? How do you know how to find a reputable online gambling site?

The short answer to those three common questions: no, no, and "Use common sense."Finding the Best RTG Casinos The idea that all forms of Internet wagering online are illegal in the US is totally false, and reputable online casinos exist (and have existed for years) that practice a totally fair and safe business. The trick is to know how to answer that third question - how do you find a good casino?

For me, finding a good casino means looking at their regulation and licensing information, looking into how long they've been doing business, doing a little searching around to see if they're on any online casino blacklists, and taking a look at how they run their business. One reason I turn to RTG casinos again and again is that Real Time Gaming has a solid reputation in the online gambling industry, and any company that does business with them automatically earns a little of that pedigree.

So how do you find the best online casinos? Here's a quick three-step process that will lead you to sites that do honest business, offer great games (that you like), and make sure that you feel comfortable making financial transactions with an online casino.

1. Look Out for Fly-By-Night Casinos

If you have any trust issues when it comes to placing online wagers, the first step is to only do business with sites that are legitimate. Online casinos that have been operating for years and have a loyal client base are naturally safer than those that just opened yesterday. When I want to find a new RTG home for my casino play, I make sure a site has been around for a while.

2. Contact a Casino's Customer Service Department

Once you have your heart set on one or two Internet gambling sites, a wise consumer will get in touch with their customer support team. The easier it is to access a site's customer service department, the more likely they are to respond quickly to questions, concerns, and account changes. Look for sites that offer support in multiple versions: live chat, telephone, email, etc. Contact the site and let them know that you want to open a new account; their response will tell you a ton about the way they do business.

3. Play A Few Free Games at the Site

Even though I'm pretty well familiar with all of RTG's casino game offerings, I still make it a point to poke around at any new site I'm considering. I look at their list of games, the variety of RTG casino titles they offer, and I play a few "free-money" rounds of the games to get a feel for how they run. If I like what I see, I know I'll be comfortable with the site. Choosing an RTG casino for your online bets is important - I move my own online gaming accounts around from time to time myself. Taking a few steps before you make a deposit can save you from getting ripped off by a black-listed site, and will make you more comfortable when it comes time to really set the reels in motion and start gambling.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I get the occasional strange look from my friends when they find out that I gamble online - for real money. I'm a retired insurance agent - shouldn't I be out yachting or playing golf or doing something, you know, sensible with my money? I keep my gaming mostly to myself - though I do brag to friends when I get a nice win at an RTG craps table - but I've decided it's high time I come out and talk about how I got involved with Internet betting in the first place. It will also explain my love for Real Time Gaming casino software. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.How I Fell in Love with RTG Casinos

I was never much of a gambler before I found casinos on the Internet. Once every three years our insurance agency had a big to-do in Las Vegas, and my wife and I would dutifully attend, mostly spending time with each other or taking in live shows. My experience with real-world gambling is actually limited to a single half-hour session with a slot machine once when I was waiting for my wife to get ready for dinner - I put in a $10 bill, and half an hour later I had enough to pay for a much nicer dinner than we'd anticipated. So I had a good early experience with gambling in general, though the bug didn't catch me and I never played again.

About a month into my retirement, after I'd tried my hand at gardening, bird-watching, and even crocheting, I was in a bit of a rut. Work had occupied all my time - what was a guy to do? My son-in-law casually mentioned that he played poker online in an email, and my interest was piqued. Investigative guy that I am, I set my mind to finding a legitimate online casino that offered games like the one I'd played that one time in Las Vegas. What can I say, something about the thrill of placing wagers scratched an itch in me that nothing else could.

My search led me to a company called Real Time Gaming, a name that had been a part of the online real-money wagering industry since its beginning. The first RTG-powered gaming site I had the courage to point my browser at immediately offered me a few games to play totally for free, and I thought "If it's truly free - who can it hurt?" I was hooked. I tried out every free game this site offered, then pretty soon after that I had my own bankroll and set about learning the ins and outs of Internet betting.

I've stayed pretty loyal to RTG software casinos since then, mostly because of familiarity. The sites I do business with have never been difficult to contact, and have always paid out winnings in a timely manner.

About those winnings - I have a set budget, an amount I'm comfortable with losing for a given month, and I only ever bet 1% of that amount (at most!) on any one gamble. That way I've actually profited a little from my RTG love affair. Not enough to buy a new car or (God forbid) a yacht, but enough to keep me interested. That's how I fell in love with RTG casinos - it's an inexpensive way for me to have a few hours of fun each week.

I did my research when I got the online gambling bug - I wanted to do business with a reputable online casino and I wanted the games to be, well, just the way I wanted them. I have occasionally played at online gaming sites that aren't run by RTG, but I always come back to my favorite online casino software designer.

RTG & the Early Years

One of the things that drew me to RTG as an online casino customer is the fact that they've been doing business since 1998. Real Time Gaming wasn't the first company toA Brief History of Real Time Gamingoffer online casino game and back-end software, but they were early in the game, since the first real-money bets weren't even taken until 1995. I liked the fact that Real Time has been around for just about as long as the industry itself - the company's slogan ("taking gaming seriously") and the sober look and feel of their website went a long way in convincing me that this was the company I wanted to gamble with.

Quick Success & Software Changes

Between releasing their first suite of software games in '98 and the year 2003, RTG won all kinds of awards, including best new casino software in its early years. Real Time Gaming fast became one of the most successful designers, in terms of the number of customers running their software - the company was a household name among online gamblers within five years of the company opening its doors. Some of their best-known clients include two of the longest-running casinos on the Internet with the largest customer bases, both signs that a company is not just stable but consistent.

Changes to software have also been consistent - RTG makes a point on their site to say that they're constantly on the lookout for the world's best software developers to keep up with the changes to the gambling industry and come up with new ways for their customers to play. The early years saw the introduction of things like multiplayer poker and progressive jackpots to their software, both of which have become standards in the years since. Big changes to the software came in 2006 and 2007 as well, with major changes in terms of player interaction and the overall look of their games. Their schedule of constantly improving and increasing the variety of their gaming software is a big reason they have so many member casinos, and a big reason why I think I'll be a lifetime RTG customer.

The Future of RTG

As an industry leader, Real Time can pretty much control its own destiny. As RTG moves, so move other, smaller designers. Since the next big thing in online gambling appears to be mobile access - using a smartphone or tablet to spin the roulette wheel or play a round of poker - it's common sense to expect RTG to increase the availability of mobile games. The future for Real Time Gaming is probably more of the same - no doubt the company will try to draw more casinos into their family, spreading their software even farther and wider than it already is. Look to RTG not just for big changes in their own suite of available casino games, but for the future of the gambling industry as a whole.