Online casino games have come a long way in recent years.
You’ll find a growing list of states that are licensing online casinos, and sweepstakes casino games covering many other areas. The selection and quality of slots, table games and live dealer casinos have exploded with hundreds of entertaining options.
This guide to real money online casinos takes you through everything you need to know to get started. You’ll find out how these casinos work, what games are available and how to get your money on board and winnings back out. The table below outlines the best online casinos in your state.
Top online casinos accepting US players in 2019
Free casino games vs. real money games
Many players like the idea of playing casino games with real cash, though they are not sure where to start. Online casinos give you an option to try out these games for free.
This can be entertaining in its own right. While the excitement levels for free games will never truly match up with real money bets, you can enjoy bonus rounds, side bets and gaming action for free.
You’ll usually need to register for an account at an online casino to try out the games for free. Registering will give you access to hundreds of slot titles and table games you can play against the software.
Although live dealer casino games are not usually available to try for free, you will be able to watch these games to get an idea of how they work.
As you will see, casinos offer free cash to their new players with no deposit. This gives you a no-cost opportunity to play free casino games and a chance at winning real money.
How to play online casino games for real money?
Before you play any casino game for real money, you need to choose a legitimate site for your location.
For other states, online casinos that use a sweepstakes model like Chumba Casino can legally allow casino gaming for cash prizes.
After verifying that the casino is reputable (see our casino reviews for legal options), you’ll need to create an account and make your first deposit.
Now you can choose from a wide range of casino games. Most of these are slots, many of which have large progressive jackpots.
While playing online casino games with real cash is easy, many factors can improve your returns. These include taking advantage of online casino bonus offers, receiving comps and rewards, and choosing games with the lowest house edge.
How do sweepstakes casinos work?
Outside of the regulated states, online casinos legally offer real money games using historical sweepstakes gambling laws. Examples include Chumba Casino and Luckyland Slots.
As a player, a sweepstakes casino appears to work in the same way as an online casino site, though the difference is how you deposit and gamble.
Since sweepstakes casinos can’t legally accept your money directly for real chips, you can buy “gold coins” aka virtual money. These funds are for entertainment only and have no direct monetary value.
What sweepstakes casinos do is give you “Sweeps Cash” free with every purchase. You can use this virtual currency to enter sweepstakes contests with real money prizes.
Now, every time you use your Sweeps Cash to spin on a slot or bet on a table game, you are entering a mini-sweepstakes contest. If you win, you’ll be able to exchange your Sweeps Cash for real money.
This might seem complicated, but once you play at a sweepstakes casino for money, you’ll find the experience seamless.
New players can get free Sweeps Cash to try out these games:
- Chumba Casino’s offer: $2 free (no deposit needed), plus $10 more matched to your first deposit.
- Luckyland Slots’ offer: Make a purchase of $4.99 and receive $10 in Sweeps Cash and gold coins (Your first purchase is half price.).
Maximizing free cash bonus offers
Almost all online casinos for real money offer you free cash solely by signing up.
These free cash bonus offers usually involve small amounts ($2-$20, typically). There are often terms and conditions. Smart players can take advantage of these offers, using them to start a casino bankroll.
Here are some things to look for when you are comparing no deposit casino bonuses:
- Look for deals with the smallest playthrough, aka wagering requirement.
- Check whether you can withdraw the free cash or whether it is only for play (with the winnings withdrawable).
- See if there is a cap on the amount you can win.
- Verify if you can win a progressive jackpot with your free bonus cash.
- Find out if you can play table games or if the money is only for online slots.
The best free cash bonus offers have a small playthrough requirement with the bonus, plus any withdrawable winnings when it is complete.
Keep in mind, ongoing rewards at a real money online casino are even more important than these no deposit bonus deals. The best online casino sites have regular promos and loyalty rewards for their regular players. These will keep your bankroll topped off long after the initial free cash is spent.
First deposit casino bonuses and how to clear them
After you have checked out a casino with a no deposit bonus, you will be ready for the biggest bonuses of all: matched welcome offers.
These match your first deposit, which is usually at 100%. You’ll receive bonus money, and you will need to ‘clear’ it by betting on casino games and slots. It then moves to your real money account, where it can be withdrawn or used for further play.
On the surface, many of these bonuses look similar. For example, several casinos offer a 100% match casino bonus of up to $100. When you look into the details, there are some significant differences.
A key factor to look out for is the playthrough requirement to clear your bonus. This condition is the number of times you need to wager your bonus money before you can withdraw it.
Here are some examples to demonstrates this:
- Casino A: A 100% match of up to $100 with a 5x playthrough requirement. If you deposit the full amount, you need to wager $500 to clear this bonus.
- Casino B: A 100% match of up to $100 with a 20x playthrough requirement. Here you need to wager a full $2,000 to clear this bonus.
If you are playing a slot machine with a house edge of 4%, the requirement to gamble $2,000 can have a significant effect on the money you will have left. Of course, you might hit the positive side of variance, and end up with a big win.
Many games are weighted for bonus clearing. Here is a typical weighting system:
- Slots, scratch cards and keno: 100%
- Casino table games: 20%
- Video poker: 10%
- Craps and American roulette: Zero
If you want to clear your bonus playing table games, you’ll need to wager 5x as much. Using the two casino examples, Casino A would require $2,500 in bets, and Casino B would need $10,000.
Playing excluded, or zero-rated games, will not clear your bonus at all. At some real money casinos, this might even cause your bonus to be withdrawn.
Finally, matched welcome bonuses have time limits, so make sure you get the wagering done before it expires.
Real money casino apps
These days, all online casinos work within your browser. This means the casino website responds to the size of your screen. You’ll get the full-size version if you access the casino via your desktop, and a mobile-friendly version if you access it with your smartphone.
That said, there are dedicated casino apps available from many regulated brands. Where you download these from depends on your device. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can head over to Apple’s app store.
Android users will not find any casino apps in the Google Play store. Instead, you can download these directly from the casino website. Note, you’ll need to OK prompts warning you about downloading from an “unknown source.”
Online casino apps do have some advantages. You’ll find you’ll have full account management and cashier functionality. With the graphics held on your phone, slots will initiate faster compared to the browser games.
The disadvantage is that the game selection can be smaller – significantly smaller in some cases.
How to deposit at a real money casino site
Once you have selected a legitimate casino, you’ll need to get your initial bankroll on board to play casino games with real money. With regulated casinos, there are a lot of secure deposit options. These are the same brands you’ll use to make online purchases.
The real money deposit method you choose depends on your preference. Some players are happy to use their credit cards, and others prefer a third-party system to keep their bank accounts and the casinos separated.
Here are the most popular real money casino deposit options:
- PayPal: You can use this popular wallet at sweepstakes casinos and many brands in regulated states. The buyer protection, its simplicity and familiarity more than make up for the small fee.
- Credit and debit cards: You can use Visa and Mastercard at most online casino websites. Most banks allow these transactions, though a small number of payments will be declined. Prepaid cards (some branded by the casinos) are an alternative when this happens.
- ACH transfers: Writing an e-check via ACH typically requires three-plus days for funds to clear. Casinos get around this by using a third party (for example, VIP preferred). You go through a simple verification process, then you can instantly transfer money using e-checks.
- Bill pay and bank transfer: Some state casinos offer deposits via your bank in the same way you would pay a utility bill. A list of approved banks (including all the big brands) is available.
- Live casino cashier: In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you can take cash to the casino cage of the brand associated with each online casino.
- PayNearMe: You can also take cash (along with a barcode from your casino) to a 7-Eleven convenience store in regulated states.
- Wire or cashier’s check: For larger amounts, these traditional and sometimes slower deposit methods are also available at some regulated casinos.
Online casino software and game options
These days, all casino software is online and accessible via your web browser.
In the past, you would have to download software packages that tied you to a single studio. Having the games based on your browser allows the casinos to pick and choose games and slots from the best studios. This includes SG Games, Bally and Konami.
This creates a welcome problem. The best online casinos have so many games that you need some way to find your favorites – or at least to explore the list of your preferred game type.
Most software uses high-level categories: slots, table games, live dealer games and so on. Then, each page has a list of filters that can help narrow your selections by the studio, by type or whether they include a jackpot.
Apps use a similar navigation system, though as mentioned above, don’t have the full selection of games that you will find in browser software.
With so many games to choose from, new players will need some time to experiment and find their favorites.
The sections below give you an overview of what to expect from the broad categories of real money casino games.
At every casino you visit, real money slots will outnumber other games by a considerable margin. These games have come a long way since the norm of lining up bars and cherries over three reels. Not only are new casino slots visually impressive, but they also have a depth of gameplay that will keep you entertained for hours.
New slot machines have wild symbols, scatter wins, bonus games (sometimes on the reels, other times not). Themes range from classics like Zeus and Texas Tea to television and movie tie-ins and musicians.
Some slots have progressive jackpots. These pooled prizes can reach huge amounts. Even without a jackpot, the big line hits of today’s casino slots are impressive.
If you are used to live casino slots, you’ll recognize many of the online titles. Recent developments by studios like IGT, Bally and WMS mean that many of their titles are available online.
Innovation is rife in this area. I recommend you keep an eye on both the new and exclusive lists for each casino you visit.
Video poker online
Video poker still has a big fanbase. You’ll find this has made the smooth transition from bars to online casinos allowing you to play video poker for real money online.
Some popular variations join the standards like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. You can enjoy bonus poker and variants of that as well as multi-hand games.
While some casinos produce exclusive video poker games, others use those from popular terminal producers. Look out for Game King next time you are online.
Compared to the other popular casino table games, craps is limited at regulated real money casinos.
You will find some games that bring a virtual equivalent of the lively dice-game to you. Online craps can be a great way of getting to know the different bets before you hit a game in a live casino. You can try out betting strategies – and will always have the advantage of being the “shooter.”
In a live craps game, betting on the “don’t pass” (has slightly better odds) will often have you betting opposite to the rest of the table. When you play craps online, you’ll be playing alone – meaning you are free to make the bets with the best available odds.
Blackjack is the single most popular card game at online casinos. Now, you can play real money blackjack with live dealers (see below) as well as against the casino software.
As well as the basic six-deck game, there are multiple blackjack variations to enjoy. Most of these involve different side bets (involving 7s or Perfect Pairs, for example). You can also find single- and double-deck games.
Remember to check the details of the rules and to adjust your strategy to match. Those details include whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17, whether there is a surrender option and how many times (if at all) you can double after a split.
If you want to add some excitement, multi-hand blackjack will let you take multiple spots on the virtual felt.
Real money roulette
Roulette is another popular choice which is now available with live dealers.
Roulette tables at regulated online casinos are mostly the double zero version with a single and double green zero slot.
It’s recommended that you look for a casino that features European roulette. These wheels have only a single zero, making the odds a lot better for the player.
There is a big difference: US roulette has a 5.24% house edge, while European roulette is 2.7% in favor of the house.
Casino table games
The phrase “casino table games” covers a lot of different table games you’ll find in live casinos. Different online casinos will feature different variations, though some modern standards appear frequently.
Here are popular examples:
- Three Card Poker
- Caribbean Stud Poker
- Hi-Lo variations
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Pai Gow Poker
Many of these games also feature side bets, and some of them have huge top prizes.
Live dealer games at real money casinos
Playing games against the software has been steadily declining in popularity. This is due to the growth in live dealer casino gaming.
The concept is simple. Casinos have live studios where real croupiers deal cards or spin roulette wheels. You can then bet on these via the online casino, dragging and dropping chips onto the felt. At the end of each hand, the bets are settled automatically by the software, and the countdown begins until bets are closed for the next hand.
There are some significant advantages to live dealer casino games. The social element appeals to a lot of players (you can chat to the dealer and other players). By seeing the deal in real time, you can also be sure that the casino is giving you a fair shuffle.
Keep in mind, if you time out (either through distraction or disconnection), your hand could be folded or you could miss the next hand.
Here are the games commonly offered at live dealer casinos:
- 3 Card Poker
- Casino Hold ’em
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Playing progressive jackpots
One of the big appeals of playing online slots for real money is that you are only one spin away from landing a huge progressive prize. The biggest progressives online reach seven figures; there are even eight-figure prizes at some international casino brands.
Most casinos display the current progressive prizes alongside the tiles showing each slot title. Some casinos also have these listed on a separate page or at least sortable from the main slots list.
Keep in mind, playing for progressive jackpots online is a tradeoff. The average returns for this type of slot machine are lower overall. That extra money to seed the jackpots has to come from somewhere.
Before you play for any progressive, make sure you read the rules of each game. Some slots require a minimum betting level before a progressive jackpot is enabled.
How to cash out
If you win real money at the casino, you’ll need to get it back into your bank account.
With regulated, legal casinos, there are several methods to achieve this. Which you choose will be partly determined by which deposit method you chose, and partly determined by what each casino offers.
Here are the most common options:
- PayPal: If you made your deposit with PayPal, you could also withdraw.
- ACH transfer or bank transfer: An e-check can be wired electronically to your account.
- Paper check: This is a handy default option where your deposit method does not allow for withdrawals. Checks are mailed to you and are welcomed by the banks.
- Cash at cage: In the regulated states, you can collect your winnings at the cage of the sponsoring, license-holding casinos.
- Debit card: This withdrawal method is for the regulated states, though only for some casinos with branded prepaid cards.
Fair gaming and security
Making sure you get a fair deal and that your money is safe is the No. 1 reason to choose legal USA casino sites. If you venture offshore, you are taking a risk and will never be entirely sure that you are getting a fair deal.
Fair gaming involves software known as a Random Number Generator. Legitimate casinos will have this software (that controls the spin of slots and deal of cards) tested by third-party auditing companies. Look out for certification, if you have any doubts.
Security of your deposit and account details is important. Look for https in the URL of your casino before you submit any credit card data.
By sticking to the biggest and best-known brand names, security and fair gaming should not be a concern. Those brands have a lot to lose should their reputation be tarnished by issues in these areas – and take security very seriously.
KYC: What is it and why is it important?
Know Your Customer, aka KYC, is a security process which is implemented by banks and financial services, as well at the top US online casinos.
The idea is to prevent fraud and money laundering by implementing ID checks on all players. These checks protect you as well as the casinos. By keeping the industry clean, KYC helps make it possible to offer these games.
You should expect casinos to request ID documents and a proof of address when you deposit. Depending on which deposit method you use, you might also need to provide a screenshot or copy of your card.
Conclusion: Legal real online casinos are available
Regulated and legal casino gaming is now widely available.
States are licensing casino brands and Sweeps Cash casinos cover many other jurisdictions. To get the best from real money casinos, you need to understand how the terms and conditions affect bonus offers. Weightings and playthrough requirements vary between casinos.
Once you get a bonus and deposit money, a lot of different gaming options are available. With hundreds of real money slots, video poker, table games and live dealer casinos, there is plenty of action to keep you entertained.