For Illinois residents, the phrase “sweepstakes casino” may seem like two random words run together. However, sweepstakes casinos in Illinois allow you to play casino games of chance.
Illinois is home to 10 casinos scattered across the state, including the Chicago area. Anyone in the Prairie State who likes to gamble could probably tell you where to find the closest “home” casino. However, for whatever reason, you may need a casino option that doesn’t require you to leave the house.
Sweepstakes casinos are, at the least, a good solution until Illinois decides to legalize real money online casinos. You can play slot games, table games and even poker against other players.
If you’re interested in checking out what the best sweepstakes casinos have to offer, keep reading. We will walk through the way that sweepstakes casinos work, how you can play and what bonus offers you can use to put money into your account.
The notion of playing casino games for cash prizes probably sounds too good to be true. You may be understandably skeptical that any site like that would be legal in Illinois.
However, because sweepstakes casinos are classified as sweepstakes, they remain in compliance with the law. Most states allow their inhabitants to play sweepstakes games. In some cases, they allow these types of games even when outright gambling remains illegal.
To be considered sweepstakes, an operator must abide by specific rules. Failure to do so could result in the site or giveaway being classified as gambling and be subject to legal problems. So, all legal sweepstakes, casinos or not, have to conform to the same basic requirements.
The first rule for a sweepstakes game is that it must be free to play.
Whenever you’ve seen sweepstakes contests, like McDonald’s Monopoly or the PCH Prize Patrol, you can invariably find fine print that states no purchase is necessary to participate. That term is not there because the sweepstakes organizers feel generous; they have to ensure that anyone can play without making a purchase to remain in compliance.
A corollary to this rule is that it must also not improve one’s chances through a purchase. So, a sweepstakes cannot have some preferred entry system to give preference to paying customers.
The second rule for a giveaway like this is that whoever runs the sweepstakes must give away the prize as advertised. An operator cannot hold a contest and then declare that the prize won’t be awarded because of participation levels or because it simply doesn’t want to award it.
The third rule is that there must be a specific timeframe for the giveaway. In other words, even if the site planned on giving prizes away eventually, that’s not good enough. It has to explicitly state when participants will receive their prizes.
So, perhaps the most amazing thing to know about sweepstakes is that those envelopes you receive from Publishers Clearing House or American Family Publishers (and Ed McMahon) are legitimate. They do give money away to people, and it’s free to win. It’s just not likely.
Now that we’ve clarified what makes a contest a sweepstakes contest, it may not be as clear how a casino operator could wedge itself into that kind of category. After all, casino games move at speeds much faster than any mail-order giveaway, so it could be difficult to see how winning a bet or a jackpot would translate into a prize giveaway.
In most cases, the answer lies with how the sweepstakes casinos handle the money. Sweepstakes casinos have remained out of legal crosshairs because they have figured out how to distinguish the items you purchase on the site and the cash that can be won, lost or withdrawn.
They accomplish this by using two virtual currencies on their sites. You can use both currencies to play their games. However, you can only buy one type of currency, and you can only cash out the other.
Let’s say the two currencies are “funnybucks” and “realbucks.” The sweepstakes casino would allow you to buy the funnybucks, but you would not be able to cash them out. At the same time, you would receive an amount of realbucks for free, and you could cash out any winnings you received from playing games with realbucks.
Technically, this means you’re never buying a currency that has real-world value; you are always receiving it for free. However, it’s not enough to offer a single avenue to acquire realbucks.
As an additional way to acquire the currency, sweepstakes casinos will employ a request system so that you can ask for realbucks directly. It’s completely free to do, but it’s also a pain.
A third route is via social media. You may find the sweepstakes casinos on, e.g., Facebook. You can pick up some realbucks through various contests on social sites.
Fourthly, you may receive a bonus for each day you log on to the site. The bonus will usually be a combination of both types of currency. The amount you receive may increase according to the number of consecutive days you logged in to your account.
Lastly, most sweepstakes casinos will give you a few realbucks for registering on-site. Although there is no way to get the withdrawable currency without doing some work, it is possible to enrich yourself without spending a dime (outside of postage and stationery).
Needless to say, there are several sweepstakes casinos out there that you can play. However, in our experience, four stand out as particularly noteworthy:
VGW Holdings owns the first three, which are sister sites.
With regard to currencies, all VGW sites use “Gold Coins” as their play money and “Sweeps Coins” as their cash prize. You can buy the Gold Coins directly, but you will have to use one of the methods above to receive the free sweeps coins.
Funzpoints has a similar scheme as VGW sites. Its two currencies use slightly more simple names, though. They are just Funzpoints and Premium Funzpoints. However, they function identically to Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins.
Regardless, you cannot go wrong with any of these providers. Let’s discuss each of them in more detail.
There is little debate that Chumba Casino is the best sweepstakes casino available. No other sweepstakes casino can offer a wider diversity of games or a closer approximation of the offerings you’ll find at a real online casino.
Chumba Casino provides a vast selection of slot titles. There are dozens of games to play, and you never have to wait in line to play them. In addition, Chumba also has several table games on tap. You can choose between blackjack, video poker (Jacks or Better) and two versions of roulette.
Registering for a Chumba account is quick and easy. You need your email address and a choice of password. Alternatively, you can connect with your Facebook account, too. If you’re heading to Chumba, though, make sure you click through our secure link. Doing so will also make you eligible for the current promotions.
Chumba Casino, like all VGW products, is completely browser-based. There are no apps available for either Apple or Android devices. However, the site is optimized for play through your web browser. Generally, there are few difficulties in navigating around the site through your browser.
All Chumba games are available to you as both Gold Coins- and Sweeps Coins-compatible options. If you want to play a new game to you, we highly recommend that you use Gold Coins first to get a feel for the game.
Another excellent home for your sweepstakes casino play is LuckyLand Slots. As evidenced by its name, LuckyLand is a slots-only site that favors quality over quantity.
In fact, one of the starkest differences between LuckyLand and its sister site Chumba is LuckyLand’s graphics. Each game is exquisitely rendered and seems to almost pop off the screen. Like Chumba, LuckyLand uses Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins as its currency.
Although LuckyLand is easy to navigate, we strenuously suggest that you take the time to use Gold Coins first. The graphics on LuckyLand are quite something, and the different displays might require an adjustment period.
Global Poker is not specifically a sweepstakes casino site, but it deserves mention. It is more accurately a sweepstakes poker site, and its primary function is to facilitate peer-to-peer play.
Global Poker is part of the VGW portfolio and operates with the same dual currencies available on Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots. You can play games of poker with either Gold Coins or Sweeps Coins.
Interestingly enough, Global Poker offers poker players a chance to play with more Americans than true online poker sites. Most states allow for sweepstakes, so you can find yourself matching wits against US players from coast to coast.
Global offers three games for you to play. Obviously, the most popular game is Texas Hold’em, but you can also find Pot-Limit Omaha (high only) and a three-card hold’em variant called Crazy Pineapple.
These three games are available in a variety of formats. You can play straight cash games, scheduled tournaments, sit and gos, jackpot sit and gos or fast-fold games. Games are also available at many different buy-in levels. You can get into the action for as little as one sweeps coin, but there are games with thousands of Sweeps Coins at stake, too.
Despite its poker focus, there are a limited number of other casino games on Global Poker. There are a couple of slots, a blackjack game, and, unusually, a Caribbean Stud variant.
If you want to give Global a try, use our link above. Your first $20 purchase can get you bonuses valued at 60 Sweeps Coins, and you’ll be on your way.
If you want a similar system but a change of pace from Chumba or LuckyLand, Funzpoints could be the place for you. Its dual-currency system, which consists of Funzpoints and Premium Funzpoints, allows it to remain a sweepstakes site.
Like LuckyLand Slots, Funzpoints emphasizes its sharp and vivid graphics. However, Funzpoints games tend to be simpler in their realization, while LuckyLand’s approach is more cartoonish. That’s not to say that one is better than the other, but they have a different feel.
One thing to note is that Funzpoints wants to encourage using its premium currency as much as possible, so you will find that your game options are severely limited if you want to play for free.
Funzpoints also keeps a free-to-spin wheel that allows you to shoot for more Funzpoints or Premium Funzpoints. This wheel refreshes every three hours and bears the potential for you to win up to $350 in Premium Funzpoints.
New accounts receive $2.50 in Premium Funzpoints when you register. You can also use our link above to trigger a 100% deposit bonus of up to $20.
Funzpoints is mostly slots-only. There are no true table games available for play. However, there is an option for a variant of keno; another one appears to be in development.
Well, now that we’ve got you excited about the possibilities at sweepstakes casinos, let’s talk about the financial aspect of them. To be clear, you do not have to spend money to win on a sweepstakes casino.
However, the reality is that most people are willing to pay extra to expedite the process. You need to know how to get out the sweepstakes money that you win.
Like most online merchants, sweepstakes casinos have a vested interest in making financial transactions pain-free. So, as much as they can, they will offer several options for you to purchase both Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins.
With that said, the options are not as plentiful as if you were playing on a true online casino. Mostly, they boil down to a few options.
The first and most reliable way to deposit into your sweepstakes casino account is with a credit or debit card. Because sweepstakes are not illegal to play, you may find fewer hurdles than if you were to try to deposit at an online casino. However, be ready if you get some pushback from your bank.
The other major way you’ll find to deposit is through an electronic wallet. Skrill, PayPal and Neteller are sometimes accepted by sweepstakes casinos, although it’s rare to find more than one company as an option. If you are comfortable with using one of these types of services, an e-wallet may be the way to go.
No matter how much you end up depositing, you need to have a way to get your money out, plus any winnings, of course. Generally speaking, the same deposit methods will work for withdrawals, so the sweepstakes casino can send your money back onto your card or into your Skrill or PayPal account.
However, before any withdrawal, you must verify your account more extensively. You will likely have to provide two items to complete this task:
The method of transfer for these pieces of information will vary from site to site. If you’d prefer to send the information electronically, contact the sweepstakes casino’s customer service team.
After verifying your identity, you should be able to proceed with your withdrawals.
Hopefully, you’ve got a preview of how you can still play versions of some of your favorite casino games online, even if you live in a state with no real money casinos online. With any good fortune, the next few years will see further expansions of gambling in the state, and some enterprising lawmakers will make a serious push for Illinois online casinos.
In the meantime, sweepstakes casinos are not a bad option.