VPNs are fast becoming essential tools for people who want greater freedom, security and privacy when using the web. But what exactly are they, and how can they help us when having a punt online?
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What is a VPN?
VPN is short for ‘Virtual Private Network’. It is a special type of digital application that adds an extra layer of security to any public or private data connection, such as the internet, WiFi hotspots, or 4G mobile.
This kind of system is widely used by major corporations and online businesses to protect sensitive data and financial information. In recent times, however, VPNs have gained popularity among individuals who wish to shield their web activity from nosy government snoopers and any other third parties.
As the internet is now the world’s primary avenue of communication, information and entertainment, VPNs have a wide variety of practical applications in everyday life. The question is: can they be used to enhance a punter’s online betting experience?
Betting at Australian bookies when overseas
While the internet is fundamentally an open space where users can roam from one corner of the virtual world to the other in a matter of mouse clicks, it is not without its restrictions and prohibitions. There are certain parts of the web that governments do not want their citizens to see, for instance, and others that people and companies do not want their governments to see.
One common hurdle is ‘geo-blocking’, which is when visitors in certain regions are prevented from accessing all or part of an international website and its features. If you are an Australian resident and you have ever attempted to view online video content from the US or the UK, then you know this pain all too well.
The reverse is also true: many AU websites are unavailable to people browsing from overseas. This is quite often the case with online bookmakers, as betting operators licensed in Australia are only permitted to offer their services to customers who reside within particular jurisdictions.
That is where Virtual Private Networks come in handy. If you are travelling or living abroad and want to use your online betting account at an Australian bookie, a VPN will cloak the location of your data connection and thus allow you to sidestep any geo-blocking and regional access issues.
Choosing a VPN software provider
This is probably the most daunting part of setting up a VPN. There are hundreds of providers out there, and at first glance it is difficult to tell what distinguishes one from another.
The first thing you need to decide is whether to go with free VPN software or a paid service. For everyday uses such as streaming, downloading and using overseas websites, there are dozens of reliable, no-cost VPN providers that fit the bill. There are some iffy ones, however, so it pays to do a bit of research before diving in.
You also have to make sure the software you choose is compatible with your device. Most VPN programs work across all major platforms, including Windows PC, Mac OS, Apple iOS and Android, but some are only optimised for certain operating systems. Again, a glance at the fine print never goes astray.
Below are a few of the most popular VPN services that offer free installation. Please be aware that while some of these require no payment whatsoever for data usage, others come with daily, weekly, or monthly limits that must be topped-up when exceeded.
VPN Gate – Completely free service developed by volunteers at University of Tsukuba, Japan.
Freelan – 100% free open-source VPN software, ideal for tech-savvy users.
TunnelBear – Top performance, easy to use, 500MB free per month.
Windscribe – Generous 10GB monthly allowance, extra 5GB available if you Tweet about it.
WiFi Hotspot Free – Ideal for connecting to public networks, big 750MB daily limit.
How to set up a Virtual Private Network
With the hardest part out of the way, downloading and launching your chosen VPN requires only a few simple steps. The installation process can vary from software to software, and some options are not ideal for first-time users (Freelan can be a bit tricky, for example), so bear that in mind when selecting providers.
- Connect your device to the internet
- Download your chosen VPN software
- Launch the VPN app to start installation
- Follow the setup instructions
- If required, create a user account
- Enter username and password to sign in
- Run VPN to create a private network
Many VPN apps will give you the option to choose the region in which you wish to anchor your data connection. For example: if you wanted to stream videos from US Netflix, you would set your VPN to the United States. Thus, if you plan to bet at an Aussie bookmaker from abroad, you should choose an Australian IP address.
Tips for online betting with VPN
Having a good VPN and using it wisely are two different things. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Only turn on your VPN when you need it – Unless you are on a public network at a cafe or a bar or what-have-you, there is no real need to use a VPN for basic browsing. Save that free data for the important things, like having a flutter on the footy or the cricket or the Melbourne Cup whilst reclining poolside at your hotel in Chiang Mai.
Be careful when requesting withdrawals – If you try to withdraw cash from your betting account while connected to an overseas server, the bookie may deny your request on the grounds that you are using the service from outside an approved jurisdiction. If you must take out your winnings, make sure your VPN is set to Australia and your banking details are all in order.
Read the terms and conditions of use – Fine print is tedious, but ignoring it altogether is a surefire way to land yourself in a spot of bother down the line. Find out what the service offers, where it can connect to, what charges may apply and all that jazz to ensure the software you have chosen really is the right fit.