One of the most amazing developments in online gambling in the United States in the past few years is the creation of a legal method of gambling online that’s available in all 50 states and even in Canada—sweepstakes casinos.
Sweepstakes casinos work on a simple principle—while in a “normal” online casino (like many of the online casinos that have recently popped up in states like New Jersey or Nevada) you are able to deposit money directly and gamble with real money online, in a sweepstakes casino, you gamble with a currency known as “sweeps coins.”
How does this work? How is this legal? Let’s take a look at how this works.
1- Sweepstakes Casinos Don’t Use Real Money
This is a little complicated to understand, but once you get the principle down, it makes sense.
So in a “normal” online casino, you just use cash—you deposit it and withdraw it just like you would at a land-based casino.
In a sweepstakes casino, you’re not using cash directly. Instead, you’re following what’s known as the “sweepstakes model.”
To put it simply, there are some virtual currencies that you use instead of using cash directly. You actually buy one of the currencies directly, and then you get the other currency as a free bonus.
Most of these casinos use the same system. What you do is you use real cash to purchase a virtual currency called “gold coins.” These coins have no redeemable value—you can’t trade them for real cash.
However, each time you purchase gold coins, you’re given what are called “sweeps coins” as a free bonus.
Sweeps coins can then be traded for cash. You use these sweeps coins (which are not actual cash, but rather have a cash value) to play whatever games are available in the casino.
So yes, you can eventually make your way to getting real money in these casinos, but only in this roundabout way.
2- These Casinos Are Perfectly Legal in All 50 States
While many states have outlawed online casinos where cash is used directly, the casinos that use the sweepstakes model are completely legal in all 50 states.
This is huge, especially given the fact that many states are now legalizing online gambling and allowing anyone within state lines to play for real money.
For most people, unless one of the states that have legalized gambling is directly next door (as in, you live right next to the border), it just doesn’t make any sense to go all the way to one of these states to gamble online.
In fact, it makes a lot more sense to just go to the nearest land-based casino. It would be pretty silly to just drive over state lines, park your car, and then gamble on your phone for hours while sitting in an uncomfortable seat.
With sweepstakes casinos, gamblers are able to gamble directly from home. You can purchase gold coins as often as you want and get the free sweeps coins that come along with your purchases, and you can do so from any state in the union.
3- Most of These Casinos Give You a Sign-Up Bonus
Another huge benefit of sweepstakes casinos is that you get a sign-up bonus just for signing up and creating an account.
To get back to the sign-up bonus—this is a pretty simple concept. When you sign up and create an account on any of these casinos, you get a bunch of gold coins and a few sweeps coins for free.
While the gold coins are essentially worthless, you’re given a ton of them, so if you’re just a fan of online slots, online scratch cards, or online poker, then you can use them as much as you like without any real risk.
The sweeps coins are where the real money is at, and depending on the site, you might get anywhere from 2 to 10 free sweeps coins just for signing up.
You can use these sweeps coins immediately to play games, but because the number of sweeps coins you get is usually so low, it’s pretty hard to actually win much of anything and build up a bankroll this way. You pretty much just have to get lucky.
4- Some Casinos Will Give You Free Sweeps Coins by Mail
Because of the sweepstakes model that all these casinos use, they usually have a strange way of letting players get free sweeps coins—the mail.
The fact that this is a method of getting sweeps coins isn’t exactly advertised by the casinos, but you can usually find out how to do this by looking through their rules—they just bury it so it’s hard to find.
The reason they have to do this is pretty much a legal one. In order to use the sweepstakes model, there has to be a way to directly get free sweeps coins without making any purchase.
While many of these casinos will have contests where you can win free sweeps coins, the mail-in method has to be available too.
That’s right—I said as many times as you want. All of these casinos will give you free sweeps coins for every envelope you send in, although they do put a lot of requirements on how this works.
First, your handwriting must be legible, and whether or not it’s considered “legible” is totally up to them. If they don’t think it’s legible, then you don’t get your coins.
Second, you have to follow the rules exactly. If you don’t follow the rules just as they’re laid out, you won’t get your free sweeps coins.
You also have to wait for the letters to actually show up in the mail and then be processed, but you can send as many letters as you want.
That being said, it does cost you a little money—the cost of stamps and the cost of the envelopes themselves—but that’s usually less than the amount of sweeps coins are worth.
5- Gold Coins Let You Practice Without Risking Real Money
One of the biggest benefits of playing on these sites, especially the sites that have games that require serious skill, like poker, is that you can use those “worthless” gold coins to practice.
Real money online poker is a great example of why you need to do this. When you’re playing poker, you really have to make sure that you’ve got the game down and you know what you’re doing.
If you’re not clear on how the game works and which cards are worth holding or folding, then you’re going to lose your sweeps coins when it comes time to make bets that are worth something.
Those gold coins that you get (either by purchasing the gold coins or as part of your sign-up bonus) have no redeemable value, and because you get a ton of them (many of these sites will give you bonus gold coins every time you sign in or as you complete certain “tasks” (like winning a certain number of hands), you might as well use them to practice.
While you might think that this isn’t a great idea for poker because people are going to play loose with coins that aren’t actually worth something, I’d say think again.
With games like poker, there are always going to be people who want to win for the love of the game, and not because there’s any real money at stake.
For slots, using gold coins is great because you can learn how each slot works and try to find one you think will pay out great when you use your sweeps coins.
Sweepstakes casinos are a fun way to practice your skills at poker, slots, or other games of chance, and they give you the ability to actually make some money gambling.
Thankfully, there are also many ways you can get sweeps coins for free, so you’re not limited to making purchases. For the savvy gambler, that means you can potentially make some real money without risking any money if you play your cards right.
Have you played any games at sweepstakes casinos before? Tell me your favorite game in the comments—I’d love to hear it.