The online casino sector is one of the world’s fastest growing and many countries have either already established a thriving online casino industry or are working towards legalizing online gaming.
While online casino gaming is popular around the world, there are still areas where it is not possible to legally play online casino games. This is the case in many US states, including some states in which you can now legally bet on sports. That situation is likely to change over the next few years, but in the meantime, people who want to play casino games have another option.
Sweepstakes casinos are an increasingly important aspect of the online casino sector, offering the chance for players to enjoy traditional casino games such as blackjack and roulette, without having to put themselves at risk by visiting unlicensed sites. These gaming sites combine the concepts of social gaming and conventional casino play, without breaching the rules around casinos and gambling.
So, what exactly are sweepstakes casinos, and how do they work? In this article we provide you with a complete guide to sweepstakes casinos, covering everything from their history to the type of games that you can play at these sites, giving you the information you need to decide whether sweepstakes or social casinos are for you.
Sweepstakes and social casinos explained: How they work
Perhaps the most important factor to remember with social and sweepstakes casinos is that the games on these sites are not played for real money.
To get started at a sweepstakes casino, you need to turn your real money into virtual currency, which will allow you to play the site’s games. There are usually two options for virtual game tokens. You can opt to play with sweepstakes coins or with gold coins.
The main difference is that sweepstakes coins are technically redeemable for real money. Gold coins cannot be redeemed and are purely used for playing sweepstakes games socially. If you are lucky enough to enjoy a few wins while playing with sweepstakes coins, you can withdraw these coins as real money, however, there are strict terms and conditions associated with these withdrawals, particularly if you are playing sweepstakes casino games using welcome bonus coins.
You can obtain sweepstakes and gold coins when you sign up to a sweepstakes site. You will also usually be awarded some of these coins as part of your welcome bonus when you register. Sweepstakes coins are usually more expensive, while gold coins can be purchased in significant amounts. For example, it is typical for sweepstakes coins to be priced at $1 each, whereas a $10 gold coin bundle will usually give you hundreds of golden coins.
Your sweepstakes account will record two balances, one for each type of coin, and you will be able to use either to play the games at a sweepstakes casino. Winnings are added to your account automatically. On occasion, your account will also be boosted by bonuses and other rewards.
Defining social and sweepstakes casinos
As we’ve seen above, the sweepstakes casino is a combination of the conventional online casino and the sweepstake concept, which is a common form of social competition.
There is little difference between social and sweepstakes casinos, and in many cases, you will find that these refer to the same thing. At first glance, a sweepstakes casino will look like a regular internet casino, with a variety of casino games available, including roulette, blackjack and slots. As with standard online casinos, a sweepstakes casino will also allow you to make deposits and withdrawals and will offer bonuses and rewards to new and returning players.
The key difference between sweepstakes and regular casinos is the use of tokens rather than real money. A sweepstakes casino can be defined as a casino site that operates using tokens. This is a crucial distinction as it allows sweepstakes casinos to operate in territories and nations where online casino gaming for real money is not legal.
Sweeping through history: The birth of sweepstakes
The sweepstakes concept long predates the arrival of the internet. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that sweepstakes or similar games were around as long ago as the 15th century. This form of game would involve players putting wooden stakes into the ground, and the winners would collect their share of the stakes, effectively ‘sweeping’ them up.
The modern form of sweepstakes gaming began to be recognizable around the 1950s in the US, when sweepstakes contests became common. This form of game was often used in advertising as a method of encouraging people to buy a product by offering a prize. Taking part in one of these games involved submitting an entry form, often at the same time as proof of purchase of the relevant product. A winner or winners would then be drawn at random from the entries.
Since money did not directly change hands to enter the competition, sweepstakes were not considered to be gambling, although bodies such as the FTC gradually regulated this sector over the years, strengthening the rule that no purchase should be necessary to enter a sweepstakes contest.
Just as traditional casino gaming has moved to the internet, sweepstakes and social competitions have also moved online. Sweepstakes casinos have been developed as a response to the illegality of online casino gaming in many states within the US.
Types of games sweepstakes and social casinos offer
One of the attractive aspects of sweepstakes casinos is that they will offer a variety of game types, ranging from traditional casino games to exclusive social casino and fun gaming options. If you are looking for the regular casino experience, you will find that social casinos offer the full range of gaming experience that can be found at an online casino site including:
- Standard slot games: These are the regular slot games that have been developed from the basic fruit machine model. They now include extremely sophisticated software.
- Progressive slot games: These slots are linked and contribute to a combined jackpot that can be a huge prize in sweepstakes or gold coins.
- Roulette: The traditional and iconic casino game available in multiple variants.
- Blackjack: Another casino classic, and the only pure luck casino game where strategy can make a difference to your winning chances.
- Video poker: Bringing together poker and slots gaming in an array of variations.
- Social poker: Like regular poker, but with none of the pressure of real money.
- Keno: A lottery-like gambling game that is growing in popularity.
- Baccarat: The archetypal casino game, not as popular as roulette and blackjack but a stalwart of real and online casinos all over the world.
All these games can be played without using any real money, either with sweepstakes coins or gold coins. Many sweepstakes sites will also offer fun competitions between players to encourage social interaction and engagement with the site.
Important sweepstakes rules
The rules for sweepstakes and social casino sites are less strict than those for regular online casinos, but there are some important regulations that players should know.
If you are playing at a sweepstakes casino in the US, you must be aged 18 or over, and you may not be able to play in certain states. You will also have to comply with the site’s rules on identity verification, and any terms and conditions that are part of bonus offers. Each sweepstakes site has its own rules and regulations, so it is a good idea to check these through thoroughly before you sign up and start playing.
States where sweepstakes and social casinos are legal
While sweepstakes casinos face fewer legal obstacles than traditional online casinos, there are still some parts of the world where this type of gaming is illegal.
In the case of the US, sweepstakes gaming is legal in most states, but it is not possible to sign up for or play sweepstakes games online in the following states:
In addition to these states where sweepstakes gaming is illegal, the state of Idaho restricts sweepstakes players to gold coins only, which means you cannot exchange your casino tokens for real money, while New York and Florida have a rule limiting sweepstakes casino prize wins to $5,000.
These rules are potentially subject to change as the legal landscape shifts and real money online casinos become more common throughout the US and other territories, but it is important to be aware of the restrictions if you are planning to play at a sweepstakes casino in 2023.
Sweepstakes and social casinos offer an alternative to standard online casinos, enabling people who don’t have access to online casino platforms to play games such as roulette and blackjack. They also offer an attraction that standard casinos cannot: the social element. At a sweepstakes casino, engagement with other players is encouraged and facilitated, and the fact that no real money is involved in playing the games means that everyone can play without pressure.