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The expansion of legal gambling options is a hot trend in the US at the moment. It hasn’t yet reached every corner of the country, however. Before you gamble, you need to know what the safe and legal forms available in your state are.
Unfortunately, real money online casino gaming is only available in a handful of states at the moment. A few others offer instant iLottery games that scratch a similar itch. But what if your state doesn’t have either?
The good news is that there’s another option, which doesn’t involve either abstaining from playing, or turning to illegal offshore casinos. These are what are known as sweepstakes casinos. There are even similar sites which will allow you to play poker on the same terms.
Sweepstakes casinos and sweepstakes poker rooms give you a chance to play your favorite games and win real money, 100% legally. You can even get in the action without spending a dime, if that’s what you want.
A sweepstakes casino is a type of online casino that blends play money action with cash prizes. These sites do this in such a way that they fall under sweepstakes law rather than gambling law. This makes them legal in most states, even ones that haven’t passed an iGaming bill.
We’ll explain the legal aspects in a moment. In practical terms, however, the most important aspect of sweepstakes sites is that they use a two-currency system. These are usually called Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins, though some sites use alternative terminology.
Officially, both currencies have no cash value. However, the Sweeps Coins can be redeemed for cash prizes. Typically, the dollar value of a prize will be equal to the numbers of Sweeps Coins you’ll have to trade in to receive it. That one-to-one ratio makes it easy to keep track of the current value of the prizes you could claim if you elect to stop playing and trade in your Sweeps.
You can’t directly deposit at a sweepstakes site. Rather, you make a purchase of the play money Gold Coins and receive, as a bonus, an amount of Sweeps Coins that corresponds to the value of your purchase. You can then play whatever games you like, using either currency. Playing with Gold Coins is just for fun, while using Sweeps Coins is more like a traditional casino experience.
Instead of withdrawing, you then redeem your Sweeps Coins for cash prizes. All of this means there are a few extra steps relative to a regular casino, but the once you’re playing, it’s almost the same thing.
Yes! Unlike gambling law, which is mostly left to the states, the federal government has laws in place to cover promotional sweepstakes. Sweepstakes casinos and poker rooms structure their product so as to fall under these laws, which makes them legal nationwide by default. Theoretically, individual states could pass their own laws against them, but this hasn’t happened to date.
To qualify as a sweepstakes, rather than a gambling site, these casinos need to do two things.
First, they have to separate the money they collect from the money they pay out. This is the reason for the double currency system. Gold Coins have no cash value because they can’t be redeemed, only purchased. Sweeps Coins meet the same definition, but for the opposite reason: they can be redeemed for prizes, but aren’t available for purchase. Rather, you receive them as a gift when purchasing the Gold Coins, in the same way you might get a game token along with your fast food order.
Second, they have to allow participation in the contest with no purchase necessary. This means that there is a second way to receive some Sweeps Coins, which is to send the site a hand-written letter requesting them. The amount the site will offer this way is small, but it fulfills the legal obligation.
These are the same basic requirements for any company giving away prizes as an incentive for customers to buy its product.
Because they hinge on the particularities of the law, sweepstakes casinos are largely a US phenomenon. Many also serve Canadian customers, as Canadian sweepstakes law is similar.
There are a number of such sites to choose from, though many are owned by the same company, Virtual Gaming World (VGW). Here are the biggest and best among them.
Chumba Casino is one of the VGW sites. It dates back only to 2017, but has become among the most popular sweepstakes sites. Among other things, the Chumba Casino bonus for new users is quite generous: 2 Sweeps for free on signup, and a 67% discount on your first $30 package. In other words, you’ll get 32 Sweeps for just an initial outlay of $10.
As far as its products go, Chumba is fairly straightforward. It has an array of slots based on standard themes that may remind you of some you’ve played at conventional casinos, whether brick-and-mortar or online. Because of the site’s popularity, the progressive jackpots on some of these slots can get quite large, sometimes into the millions of Sweeps.
Chumba’s offerings aren’t limited to slots. It also offers blackjack, roulette and video poker. If you’re not looking for anything specific, it’s a good general-purpose sweepstakes casino for first-time players due to its welcome bonus, big jackpots and decent selection of games.
Like Chumba, Luckyland is a VGW site. Its bonuses are structured differently, however. The no purchase signup bonus is more generous, offering 10 Sweeps for free, rather than just two. The first purchase bonus costs less too, though the reward isn’t as high. If you buy a $4.99 package at signup, you’ll get a $10 package added free. Thus, in total you’ll get 25 Sweeps for $5.
As the name implies, Luckyland is purely a slots site. These are, however, more modern and of higher quality than Chumba’s. Also, whereas Chumba is browser-based only, Luckyland gives you a choice. You can certainly play in your browser, but there is also a Luckyland Slots Android app you can download directly from its website.
Luckyland is the better option if you’re only interested in slots, or if you want to take advantage of the free play but don’t intend to make a purchase. Of course, you can also play on both sites to take advantage of both introductory offers.
Funzpoints is even newer than Chumba and Luckyland, having opened in 2019. Its currency system looks a little different from those other sites, but is effectively identical. Standard Funzpoints are equivalent to Gold Coins, while Premium Funzpoints are the equivalent of Sweeps.
Note that Funzpoints cash prizes work on a different system from the VGW sites; here, you’ll need to trade in 100 points for every dollar in prize value you claim. Thus, if you’re comparing Funzpoints to Sweeps, you’ll want to knock a couple of zeroes off the Funzpoints.
The Funzpoints welcome package consists of 250 Premium Funzpoints up front, and double Premium Funzpoints on your first purchase, to a maximum of $20. Thus, if you make a $20 purchase to maximize your return, you will end up with 4250 Premium Funzpoints for a $20 outlay.
This is pretty similar in terms of added value to Chumba Casino, and the product is similar too, right down to the lack of a mobile app. However, where the two diverge significantly is in terms of ongoing promotions. Funzpoints Casino has a lot of special features that allow you to win extra money or Funzpoints, like jackpot draws, booster games and the Sunday Funzday weekly reload bonus. Check out the review page for full details on these.
As the name implies, Global Poker is primarily a sweepstakes poker site. However, it now does feature casino games as well.
The Global Poker signup bonus is the best of the three VGW sites. You’ll get 20 Sweeps just for signing up, and a $40 package free with your first $20 purchase. This means a total of 60 Sweeps for a payment of $20.
That said, unless you’re primarily interested in the bonus, Global Poker only makes sense if you actually want to play poker. The casino games at the moment consist of just three slots options, and two versions of blackjack. If you’re not going to play poker as well, those limited options might get stale pretty quickly.
A new site, OnlineLotto, is trying an interesting take on the sweepstakes casino format. Despite the name, it isn’t an iLottery site.
Like the VGW sites, it uses two currencies, Gold Coins and Sweepstakes Coins, with the latter being redeemable for cash. However, the latter can’t be acquired directly, not even as a free bonus with the purchase of Gold Coins. Rather, they’re available as prizes you can win by entering draws using your Gold Coins.
The site also has casino games – only slots at the moment, but with table games coming in future. These take, and pay out, only Gold Coins. However, since you can use those coins to enter the draws, you can indirectly increase your chances of winning a cash prize by racking up Gold Coins at the slots first.
That said, OnlineLotto has not yet implemented the second currency, or cash prizes. For the time being, it is purely for fun. Keep an eye on our OnlineLotto review page to stay up to date on any developments on this front.
The good news is that you can get 5000 Gold Coins upon signup – almost equivalent to a $10 purchase – so you can start playing for free while you wait.
Aside from the legalities, one of the biggest differences between real money casinos and sweepstakes sites is their platform focus. Most real money gambling operators these days prioritize their mobile apps. The current crop of sweepstakes casinos, on the other hand, are primarily browser based.
Neither Apple nor Google will allow the products in their respective app stores. Some sweepstakes casinos have an Android app you can download directly from their website, but for the most part, you should expect to be playing in-browser. The good news is that there’s no need to download a geolocation plug-in like there is for real money casinos, and the signup process is easier because there are fewer regulations that apply to sweepstakes sites.
Just click one of the Play Now buttons at the top of this page or on the review page for the site you’ve chosen. You’ll either be taken straight to the sign-up page, or a login page with a Register button. Registration will be very similar to creating an account with any other online merchant. You’ll have to provide a bit of personal information, and that’s about it.
If you want more Sweeps (or equivalent) than you received from the sign-up offer, you’ll need to make a purchase. The link to buy should feature prominently on the site. Remember that what you’re buying is the play money currency (Gold Coins or equivalent) but what you want to pay attention to is the amount of Sweeps (or equivalent) you’ll get as a bonus at the same time.
Navigating the sites is usually quite intuitive, and the games are simple. Remember that most games can be played either with play money or the redeemable sweepstakes currency. Typically there will be a tab within the site, or a choice upon loading a game, which will allow you to choose between the two.
Technically speaking, you don’t deposit and withdraw from a sweepstakes casino. Rather, you purchase the play money currency, and receive free sweepstakes currency along with it. When you want to “cash out,” what you will really be doing is redeeming that sweepstakes currency for cash prizes.
Because of this, you won’t necessarily be receiving your money the same way you sent it, as is usually the case for a real money casino.
The most common (and sometimes only) way to makes purchases at a sweepstakes casino is with a credit card. Most will accept Visa and Mastercard. Some will also accept certain digital payment solutions like Paypal or Skrill, but there will typically be fewer options that you’d have for a real money casino.
Receiving prizes is usually through ACH or similar bank transfer.
Important: Many sweepstakes casinos will ask you for additional personal info the first time you want to redeem your sweepstakes currency. In particular, they’ll need your bank info in order to send the payment. It’s therefore important when you’re signing up to anticipate providing this information eventually, and make sure your signup information is accurate.
There’s nothing more appealing to a gambler than a freeroll. That being the case, one of the nice aspects of sweepstakes casinos is that there’s always a way to get into the action without spending a cent.
Typically, there are four ways to do this:
Virtually all sweepstakes casinos, including all the ones we’ve featured here, will give you some free currency to play with when you sign up.
This typically isn’t very much, with offers ranging from $2 to $20 or so. On the plus side, you’d have to sign up to play anyway, so you’ll get your free Sweeps (or equivalent) with no additional effort.
One catch, of course, is that this is a one-time offer. You’ll have to provide proof of identity when cashing out prizes, so don’t try to cheat the system by registering multiple accounts. There is also typically going to be some sort of play-through requirement, but this might just mean wagering your free Sweeps one time. This is simply to discourage people from signing up, collecting some free money and cashing it out immediately, without any intention of even trying the product.
One of the conditions to qualify as a sweepstakes is that participation is on a no purchase necessary basis. If you ask the site – through proper channels – to provide you with some free Sweeps, they have a legal obligation to do so.
Naturally, they don’t want players exploiting the system by repeatedly requesting free coins, so there are some hoops to jump through. Typically, you’ll have to go through the following steps:
For instance, Chumba Casino requires you to send specifically an unfolded, 6″ x 4″ piece of white paper in a hand-addressed #10 envelope. It lists a number of pieces of information that must be hand-written on that card, along with the following statement word for word:
“I wish to receive Sweeps Coins to participate in the sweepstakes promotions offered by Chumba Casino. By submitting this request, I hereby declare that I have read, understood and agree to be bound by Chumba Casino’s Terms and Conditions and Sweeps Rules.”
If you follow all those instructions very carefully, they will reward you for your effort with 5 Sweeps Coins. It’s your call whether this is worth your time and the stamp, but it is an option. Note that, like the other bonuses, the free Sweeps you’ll receive this way come with a playthrough requirement and can’t be redeemed for prizes right away.
Depending on the specific casino, there may be ways to earn free Sweeps from within the site. For instance, Chumba Casino has a Daily Bonus which you can claim simply by logging in once every 24 hours, waiting for a pop-up to appear, and clicking the Claim button.
Other operators may have any number of other similar promotions. Browse the site reviews to see what’s on offer.
Many sweepstakes casinos also have a social media presence on Facebook or other social media sites. Those that do will often host giveaways for their followers, in order to encourage engagement with their page.
These are typically opt-in, and require you to be paying attention to the page. When one shows up, it will include instructions for participating, which might involve commenting on or sharing the post, for instance.
This depends on the site, but there are some commonalities between the current options.
Most of the current crop of sweepstakes casino sites have a slots focus. Some, like Luckyland Slots, offer slots exclusively. Others, like Chumba Casino, feature slots predominantly, but have some other options mixed in.
Those sites that aren’t based exclusively around slots often have a few table games mixed in for variety, though they’re rarely the top priority. Blackjack and roulette are the most common options, just as they are for real money casinos. You may occasionally find some other choices, like baccarat.
Video poker is popular at real money casinos, and you can find it at some sweepstakes casinos as well. It has high potential payouts, like a slot machine, but a skill element similar to blackjack. Video poker titles often have a very good return to player if played correctly, but using the wrong strategy can prove very costly. There are lots of resources available online to help you play optimally, so be sure to look up the specific version of video poker you’re trying before you start to play.
Some sites offer the equivalent of draw lotteries. OnlineLotto.com is based around this concept, but Funzpoints, despite mostly being a casino site, also offers periodic jackpot draws. This is in keeping with the “sweepstakes” nature of the sites, as many conventional sweepstakes use a draw mechanic for awarding prizes.
The only sweepstakes site currently offering player-vs.-player poker is Global Poker. However, it is probably more correct to call it a sweepstakes poker site (see below) which also offers a few casino games. Poker is a complicated product, so none of the sites that emphasize their casino games have poker available as a secondary option.
Because the sweepstakes model circumvents gambling laws, there are few restrictions on what types of game such sites could offer in theory.
Indeed, sweepstakes poker sites and sweepstakes sportsbooks exist as well, though the latter are outside our wheelhouse here at OnlinePokerReport.
Currently, the only sweepstakes poker site serving American customers is Global Poker. With the game’s limited popularity relative to casino products, and the rise of legal real money poker in the US, there may not be enough of a market to support much competition.
Even as the only game in town, Global Poker doesn’t have enough of a player base to offer much variety. Game types are limited to Texas Hold’em (no-limit and fixed limit) and Omaha Hi (pot-limit only).
As for formats, Global Poker offers mostly cash games (6-max and full ring) and sit-and-goes. It does have a multi-table tournament schedule, but overall site traffic is low enough that they don’t get a lot of entries.
The good news is that professional poker players tend to relocate to legal markets, or play on illegal offshore sites (which we do not recommend). That means that the competition at Global Poker is relatively weaker than you’ll find elsewhere.