Sweepstakes are far from a new concept. Publishers Clearing House, which launched in 1953, made sweepstakes famous by selling magazine subscriptions under the banner that you could also “Win $10 Million!”
Even McDonald’s Monopoly game operates through a similar model. It gives you a chance to win prizes whenever you purchase McDonald’s food.
Certain online casinos have adopted the sweepstakes setup too. Thanks to their model, these gaming sites have become completely legal almost everywhere in the country.
If you’re interested in sweepstakes casinos, you can read about how they work and what they offer in the following guide.
How Does Sweepstakes Gaming Work?
Sweepstakes casinos don’t see you bet money to win money like with traditional real money online casinos. Instead, they give you coins that can be used to pick up sweepstakes entries.
You typically receive some coins after completing registration (a.k.a. no-deposit bonus). After receiving coins, you can play online casino games like slots, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and more.
In turn, these games give you an opportunity to win more coins. The latter have no value, which is why sweepstakes gaming sites aren’t considered “gambling.”
However, the coins can be exchanged for other credits. The credits are what allow you to cash out for real money or enter contests with valuable prizes.
Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots are two of the most-popular sweepstakes sites. They provide gold coins that can be converted to Sweeps Cash, which actually has monetary value.
Assuming you run out of gold coins, you can buy more. This is how sweepstakes gaming sites earn their money.
How to Play at a Sweepstakes Casino
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to play at sweepstakes online casinos:
- Sign up at a sweepstakes gaming site.
- You receive coins as a no-deposit bonus.
- Play casino games in an effort to earn more coins.
- [Optional] You can buy more coins if you run out.
- Convert coins to cash.
- [Optional] Withdraw the money.
Sweepstakes casinos feature a social-networking element too. They give you more coins and/or currency for taking part in social media-related contests.
They might ask you to answer a simple question. The casino will then choose five winners, for example, and give out coins or sweepstakes credits.
You’re able to earn coins through other methods too. For instance, you could mail a request to the relevant casino and ask for additional coins.
Assuming you run out of coins at any point and wish to purchase more, you can use one of the available banking options. Visa, Mastercard, and Skrill are common deposit methods at these sites.
The casino offers extra coins when you buy a larger package. If you spend $50 to get 100,000 coins, for example, you might receive another 20,000 coins.
Are Sweepstakes Casinos Legal?
The reason why certain online casinos use the sweepstakes model is so that they can bypass internet gambling laws. They tweak their process just enough to where they’re not offering traditional gaming.
Given that the coins aren’t technically worth real money, they don’t count as gambling. Of course, they do hold value when considering that you can exchange them for sweepstakes currency.
Almost every state recognizes this gaming model as legal. Washington state and Washington D.C. are the only jurisdictions where these casinos are outlawed.
To circumvent most states’ laws, a casino needs to do the following:
- Give out free coins through no-deposit bonuses and mail-in contests (hence the “sweepstakes” aspect).
- Avoid letting players directly gamble money to win money.
- Use a system where players have the option to exchange play-money coins for valuable currency.
Much like McDonald’s and Publishers Clearing House, these gaming sites take advantage of sweepstakes laws. Yes, you’re technically gambling when using these sites.
However, states can’t prove that you’re gambling when considering that you aren’t directly risking money to win cash.
Sweepstakes Casinos vs. Regular Online Casinos
I’ve only described sweepstakes sites up to this point. Now, I’ll briefly cover traditional online casinos just to show the differences.
A standard internet casino shares similarities with a sweepstakes gaming casino. It can offer no-deposit bonuses and features play-money games.
Therefore, you don’t technically need to gamble anything when playing at a traditional gaming site. The key difference, though, is that you’re ultimately risking money to win money.
You don’t just use fake chips or mail into the casino asking for more play credits. Instead, you make a deposit, play online casino games, and hopefully win more money.
As you can see, there’s not a great difference between both models. However, online casinos aren’t legal in as many states as sweepstakes sites due to their slight differences.
Advantages of Sweepstakes Casinos
Sweepstakes gaming has become fairly popular across the US and other countries. Below, you can see what drives this popularity.
Legal in Most States
Again, the state of Washington and Washington D.C. are the only places where sweepstakes casinos are illegal. Every other state accepts, or at least tolerates, these casinos.
As explained before, sweepstakes gaming relies on an iffy model to circumvent laws. But they’re still legal nonetheless. Therefore, you don’t need to question if you’re breaking any laws by playing at sweepstakes sites.
No Deposit Bonus
All sweepstakes casinos offer a no-deposit bonus when you sign up. For example, you might get 10,000 coins after completing registration.
Of course, the casino provides such offers in hopes that you’ll eventually buy more coins. But they at least give you something free to start off with.
These sites offer other promotions too, including the following:
- Free coins daily
- Extra coins when you purchase certain coin packages
- Refer-a-friend bonuses
- Tournament entries
- Mail-in offers
- Social-media prizes
- Leaderboard competitions
Fun Online Casino Games
Like any online casino, sweepstakes sites provide entertaining casino games to stay in business. They offer a variety of slots and table games.
These games typically feature a different look than what you may be used to seeing. Generally, they boast more-colorful and playful graphics.
Less Potential Risk Involved
Sweepstakes casinos ensure that you don’t need to pay anything to start playing. Again, they deliver a no-deposit bonus when you complete registration.
Of course, you may be tempted to buy coins at some point. But these coins tend to offer more play than what you’d get for the same price at a real-money online casino.
Downsides of Sweepstakes Casinos
Sweepstakes casinos have plenty of good qualities. However, they also carry some flaws that are worth discussing.
Real-money casinos feature a straightforward process:
- You make a deposit.
- You play casino games to earn money.
- You can cash out winnings.
You don’t need to worry about trading play credits for real currency, or vice versa. The average person has a much better chance of understanding this model.
Sweepstakes casinos, on the other hand, feature a more-complex setup. They use an odd system solely for the sake of avoiding the gambling distinction.
Most sweepstakes casinos provide a solid variety of games. They feature dozens of slots and a few table games too.
However, this selection pales in comparison to what you’ll find at the average real-money online casino. The latter typically spreads hundreds of online slots and dozens of table games across its site.
Still Requires Money
You can play online for free at sweepstakes gaming sites…at least in the beginning. However, the expectation is that you’ll eventually spend money to continue playing.
I mentioned earlier how these coin packages last for a while. You’re still spending money to play in any case, though.
Understanding sweepstakes casinos isn’t too difficult compared to standard gaming sites. The main difference is that they use a two-coin system to get around online gambling laws.
You start out with free coins that can be used to play games with. If you run out of these coins, you can purchase more with a credit card or e-wallet.
The payoff is that you could transfer these coins into real currency. The latter can be cashed out or possibly be used to enter contests.
Sweepstakes sites also give out coins through mail-in promotions and social media. These giveaways help sweepstakes casinos distance themselves from traditional gaming sites and stay legal.