Big Fish Casino UK (formerly Card Ace: Casino) is an iOS game from Big Fish Games, Inc. It is a particularly noteworthy app at present for being one of the first mobile social games to allow real-money gambling, thanks to Big Fish Games’ partnership with Betable. Due to the differing laws regarding online gambling around the world, however, the game’s real-money gambling incarnation is currently only available from the UK App Store — though a version of Big Fish Casino without the real-money component is available worldwide.
Big Fish Casino offers a variety of casino games for players to challenge — specifically, several slot machines; Word Ace, which is a word-creating variation on poker; Texas Hold’Em Poker; video poker; blackjack; and roulette. At the time of writing, only one of the virtual slot machines offers the facility for real-money play to UK players — all other games use in-game virtual currency.
Opting in to the real-money aspect of the game requires the player to sign up for a Betable account as well as setting up their in-game profile — and signing up for Betable also requires the player to make an initial real-money deposit. Betable offers a variety of bonus packages for new players, effectively doubling their initial deposit in most situations. There is actually no obligation for players to pay for an initial deposit, but the app does not make this particularly clear. Without real money in one’s account, however, it will be impossible to play the real-money machines — the minimum bet for the real-money slot machine is £0.01, and Big Fish Casino’s separate in-game currency chips cannot be exchanged for a real-money stake.
When playing any of the games within Big Fish Casino, there’s a synchronous multiplayer component, even in traditionally “solo” games such as slots or video poker. It’s possible to see what other players are winning and also to chat with them at any time, giving a pleasing sense of “community” to the experience. The game’s profile system also allows players to choose three different images to reflect positive, neutral and negative moods and switch between these at any time, and tapping on another player’s icon in the game offers the facility to add them as a friend, “Like” them, give them chips, give them gifts or report their profile for inappropriate content. It’s also possible to look at the player’s past records in all the different games on offer to see how well they have performed and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Big Fish Casino does a competent enough job of providing some basic casino games (and a few fun variations) for players to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean the app is without its flaws. It supposedly offers Facebook connectivity for profile creation, but when attempting to make use of this the app simply threw a “Big Fish Casino is misconfigured for Facebook” error message and refused to allow me to go any further. The app also does not seem to store all its graphical assets permanently, for some reason — frequently, when switching to a new game, there is a moment or two while the game loads in the graphics for the various buttons and interface elements, giving the game a rather sloppy and amateurish feel at times.
Big Fish Casino is off to a relatively solid start with its real-money gambling component, then, but the whole app needs a little more polish to make it worthy of recommendation without hesitation. Those looking to gamble their real money via their phone would also probably appreciate the option to do so in games other than slots, and with higher stakes, too — but this will likely come with time as Big Fish and Betable examine the uptake for the currently-available £0.01-stake option and determine how much to expand. For now, then, Big Fish Casino UK is one to keep an eye on, but it doesn’t look like the online mobile-social gambling revolution has quite started yet.
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A tentative step into real-money gaming in the UK, but an app that still needs a bit of spit and polish to be truly worthy of recommendation.