Real Money Overview
Internet based casinos have come a long way since the first games appeared online more than 20 years ago. The first online blackjack game was introduced by MicroGaming back in 1994, via dial-up internet. These days you’ll find 1000’s of slots, table games played with live dealers and jackpots in the millions of dollars.
Legislation and licensing mean that many players now have access to fully legal and regulated real money casino games. While there is a ‘Wild West’ of unregulated casinos – there are also legitimate brands, licensed by individual states, countries or by respected global licensing bodies.
Here at onlinegamblingsites.com we only cover online casinos for real money which are legal, regulated and certified as fair. You’ll find that even within these strict limits, there are many brands competing for your business. Savvy players can take advantage of this competition by enjoying casino bonuses, promotions and free spins offers.
Free to Play Casino Games
There are literally 1000’s of casino games available online that you can play for free. Some casinos will give you free spins or free chips to try out their games for real money. Many players try out the games with ‘play money’ to find those they enjoy before playing them for real cash.
For most free slots and table games, you simply need to register at an online casino to access their games. The exception is live dealer table games. You can view these at most casinos that have live dealer rooms – though won’t normally be able to bet for play-money chips.
Here are some of the most popular free casino games you can play online:
- Blackjack: This is the most popular casino table game. There are many variations and side-bets available, which share the ‘21’ theme.
- Roulette: With both US and European roulette wheels available (and often the beneficial ‘French’ rules), you can enjoy roulette sessions at all online casinos.
- Casino Poker Games: This is a category of table games often called ‘Carnival Games’ in live casinos. They include old favorites live Caribbean Stud and 3-Card Poker, plus newer games like Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
- Traditional Slots: 3-reel traditional slots are still popular. Many online casinos also offer a range of classic games. Wilds, jackpots and multiple win-lines are frequently used.
- Online Slots: This is the biggest single type of casino game with many thousands of titles now available. Complex 5-reel games with multiple bonus features, big jackpots and often exotic themes can be enjoyed for free or for real money.
Free Spins / No-Deposit Offers at Real Money Casinos
A great way to enjoy free casino games is to take advantage of free spins bonuses or free chips signup offers. These give you a shot at winning money – without any risk.
Usually these are smaller bonuses. Think 10 free ($1) spins, $20 in chips, or $2 in free Sweeps Coins. You’ll also find a cap on winnings is common – along with a play-though (wagering requirement).
For NJ players, Golden Nugget offers a free $20 no deposit bonus, as does Virgin Casino ($30) and Caesar’s ($25). Outside of NJ, US & Canadian players can take advantage of the 2 free sweeps from Chumba Casino.
For PA players, Hollywood Online Casino is offering $25 free on signup plus an additional bonus when you make your first deposit.
I do recommend you take advantage of these deals. Even though they are on the small side, many players get lucky – and win real money at the casino. It’s a great way to try and build your casino bankroll for free. Even if you don’t cash out, you’ll often get a win or two that lets you check out several real money games with the casino’s cash!
Online Casino Software: Who Makes the Games?
Many people are surprised that the same games appear on multiple online casino sites – even those which are supposedly competitors.
The reason is that the companies which make the games, and casino site operators, are separate. There are a few exceptions, and also some ‘exclusive’ licensed games – though on the whole, the slots and table games are licensed from casino software makers by the online casino brands.
Casino games are produced by huge companies. Big names include MicroGaming, NYX, IGT and Net Entertainment. In the past, each casino would have only one type of software. This casino software needed to be downloaded onto your PC.
These days, online casinos are mostly browser-based. This means that an individual brand can license games from many different casino software houses.
Some offer 1000’s of games, while others curate their own smaller list of the best titles. This new format also means smaller software houses have access to the big brands.
You can enjoy many more (often innovative) slots and table games which have been created by start-up companies.
Casino Software on Mobile Devices
While desktops and laptops are ideal for casino gaming at home, a new category of casinos has emerged. You can now access slots and many table games on your iPhone and Android smartphones, plus tablets through a real money casino app.
Most games are created with graphics that respond to the size of your screen. You’ll find some older slots have been adapted later – and so will not work as well.
You will find downloadable apps available. These are faster and smoother on mobile devices. This does come at the cost of a more limited game selection.
The only type of game I don’t recommend for mobile phones is live dealer table games. To get the full experience (and not miss out for any disconnections) you need a larger screen for these.
Are Online Casinos Legal?
Let’s start with the obvious – that the prevailing law depends on your location.
Less obvious, though more important, is the following distinction between playing at a casino and operating one:
- Is it legal for an individual player to enjoy real money games from a specific jurisdiction (state, country, province)?
- Is it legal to operate a casino or to provide payment services for real money gambling in that jurisdiction?
The answer to the first question is almost always that players are not breaking any laws. This includes the US federal laws which don’t criminalize players – very few state statutes make play itself illegal.
The second question is more of a grey area. Some states now regulate (legalize) casinos, as well as many countries. Some countries ban outside casinos, while many jurisdictions (for example Malta, Gibraltar) offer global licenses which exclude certain markets.
Information on casinos you’ll find here at onlinegamblingsites.com covers casinos which are unambiguously legal. These include big brands which are licensed at state level and legal within many different countries around the world.
Below is a more detailed look at the legality of online casinos for USA and then Worldwide players. This covers licensing bodies and relevant legislation at country and state level.
Online Casinos Accepting US Players
There have been major changes for residents of Delaware and New Jersey in recent years. Legal casinos operate within those states – allowing real money gambling within their borders. Nevada allows online poker games for real money. Pennsylvania have passed legislation to regulate their online casino sector. The first PA online gambling sites came online in 2019. Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire are expected to go online during the earlier part of 2020.
Outside of these regulated states there are other legal options. These involves sweepstakes style casinos, where you play for ‘Sweeps Coins’ instead of dollars. At the other extreme, there are states which actively outlaw online casinos. Washington State is a rare example of a jurisdiction which makes it illegal for individual players to enjoy online casino games.
What you will find with state licensed casinos is that each license is given to an existing brick and mortar establishment. These casinos then partner with online casino brands.
This not only brings trust to the process, it gives the B&M license holders and interest in the process of regulation. Without this involvement, it is easy to see how the industry could resist the implementation of internet casino sites.
Online Casinos in New Jersey
NJ licensed online casinos in 2013, with the first going live at the end of that year. While not the first state to license casinos (that was Delaware), this was the first big state. It was seen as a test case, with many others keeping an eye on the process and the tax revenue potential.
There are currently 26 online casinos and poker sites in NJ. Each is a partnership between a big Atlantic City casino brand and an international operator. Here are some of the biggest NJ online casinos:
- Golden Nugget: Licensed to the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, this casino uses NYX software and is the biggest of the NJ online casinos.
- BetFair Casino: This is also licensed to the Golden Nugget, though operates as a separate brand.
- Caesars Casino: This casino also uses the NYX platform, consolidating slots and table games from many different providers.
- Virgin Casino: This is a partnership with the Tropicana and uses a software platform provided by GameSys.
- 888 Casino: Another casino under the Caesars license, 888 have exclusive games and slots as well as games from bigger software houses.
New Jersey also offers online poker games, with the player pools linked to those in Delaware and Nevada. Sports betting is also available, following a protracted legal battle against the pro sports league lobby.
Delaware Online Casinos
DE was the first state to license online casinos and poker. These are all partnerships with the 3 ‘Racinos’. Residents can legally gamble on casino games and slots – with sports betting and poker also available. The Delaware online casinos are basic in comparison to the NJ ones, though offer some great bonuses and a decent selection of slots.
The casinos are all branded by the racetracks. You can choose from Dover Downs Casino, Harrington Raceway Casino and Delaware Park Casino.
Pennsylvania Online Casinos
As with the other states with licensed casinos, B&M brands are partnering with online casinos to create the venues.
Here are the casinos known to be in the pipeline:
- Harrah’s: Partnering with 888 / Scientific Games
- PlaySugarhouse: Operating under the SugerHouse Philadelphia and Betrivers brand. Online!
- Unibet Casino: Partnered with Mohegan Sun Pocono. Online!
- Mount Airy: Partnering with PokerStars (for both Casino and Poker games)
- Mohegan Sun: Partnering with Scientific Games
- Hollywood Casino: Partnered with IGT. Online!
- Parx Casino: Partnered with GAN / Kambi. Online!
2020 will be an interesting year in PA. You can keep up with the latest developments on our PA online casinos page.
West Virginia Online Casinos
West Virginia is the latest state to legalize online casinos and poker. By virtue of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, residents and visitors to the Mountain State will soon be able to wager through apps on their devices.
The five land-based casinos in West Virginia will hold the licenses for online casino development. So, it’s possible that there will be online components for the following properties:
- The Casino Club at Greenbrier Resort
- Hollywood Casino Charles Town
- Mardi Gras Casino
- The Mountaineer Hotel, Casino & Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
The law directs officials to create regulations in 2020. Therefore, the earliest launch date for online gambling in West Virginia is 2020.
Other States with the Possibility of Opening Online Casinos
Many states have explored the possibility of regulating their own online casinos. In some (for example CA), competing interests have caused the process to stagnate. Others are closer to passing legislation. Some states have legislation going through their government. While the chances of this passing into law will vary, here is a list of states which had some kind of movement towards regulation in 2020:
- New York
Worldwide Online Casinos
There is a mixed approach to legislation and regulation of internet casinos outside the US. Some countries require casinos to be licensed by government agencies (for example the UK). Others have a liberal approach to online gambling. An example is Canada. Here people are free to play at international real money casinos, though those casinos can’t be physically located within the country.
With so many casinos ‘licensed’ internationally, I recommend you stick to jurisdictions which are well respected and give you protection in the event of any dispute. Here are the best:
- Isle of Man
You will find many casinos are licensed in the Caribbean or Central American countries. While there are many legitimate brands which have licenses from these jurisdictions, the level of oversight is not the same as for the licensing bodies above. These jurisdictions include Antigua, Costa Rica, Panama, Curacao and the Kahnawake territory.
Country licensing bodies are worth looking out for. Examples include the UK Gambling Commission and ARJEL in France. These bodies have strict criteria for player protection, safekeeping of funds and even advertising guidelines. If you live in the UK, there is no reason to choose a casino not licensed by the Gambling Commission.
Global casinos do not need to partner with brick and mortar establishments. Some of the brands available are huge – even listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Sweepstakes Casinos for USA Players
In states which do not license online casinos, you can enjoy slots and poker games in sweepstakes format. This takes advantage of laws which allow sweepstakes style contests, while offering a casino experience.
Chumba Casino is the best-known example. You can enjoy slots for fun (with Gold Chips). If you buy gold chips, Chumba will give you free ‘Sweeps Coins’. This can also be used to play slots and blackjack. What is different about the Sweeps Coins is that you can exchange it for dollars if you win.
New players are Chumba Casino can grab a $2 no-deposit bonus to buy Sweeps Coins with – a great way to see if you can win without risking your own money.