Real money 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 online casinos for real money 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 federal government has left it up to individual states to decide if they want legal online casino gambling. So far, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan have all legalized and regulated online casinos. Indiana and Illinois have had discussions around regulating as well.
For everyone else, the only legal option you have is by joining a sweepstakes casino. You can still play online slots, blackjack and video poker at a sweepstakes casino.
Many players like the idea of playing casino games online 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 casino 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 one of the top online casinos to try out the casino games online 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.
Real online gambling is available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and now Michigan. That means you can play online slots, video poker, electronic versions of traditional table games, like real money blackjack.
We’ve put together a list of some of the very best USA online casinos.
|Casino||Legal States||Bonus Offer||Play Now!|
|DraftKings Casino||MI, NJ, PA & WV||$1,500||Play Now!|
|BetMGM Casino||MI, NJ, PA & WV||$1,000||Play Now!|
|FanDuel Casino||PA & MI||$200||Play Now!|
|Golden Nugget Casino||NJ & MI||$1,500||Play Now!|
|Chumba Casino||All Except DC||2 Free Sweeps||Play Now!|
|Luckyland Slots||All Except DC||10 Free Sweeps||Play Now!|
|Funzpoints Casino||All Except DC||$2.50 Free||Play Now!|
|bSpot Casino||All Except DC||$20 Deposit Bonus||Play Now!|
New Jersey online casinos started it all, launching the first legal and regulated US casino games in November 2013.
There are now more than two dozen licensed online casinos available via computers and mobile devices, online and mobile sports betting, and online poker rooms, all running across the state. The online casinos run a huge variety of slots, video poker, electronic versions of traditional table games, and live dealer games.
In 2019, Atlantic City casinos posted $3.469 billion in revenue, close to a 20% increase from the year before. More than $482 million of that came from online gambling operations, representing a better than 61% increase from the year before. Since 15% of gross internet gambling revenue is paid to the state in taxes, New Jersey itself earned more than $72 million from online gambling in 2019, as well.
It took a while, but online casinos in PA came next, launching its first legal online casino games in July 2019. There are now multiple legal online casinos in the state, plus a variety of sportsbooks, and one online poker site.
The online casinos run slots, video poker games and electronic versions of traditional table games. Live dealer games are expected to launch soon. Although the number of games available pales in comparison to New Jersey, it is growing every day.
In 2019, the five PA online casinos up and running by the end of the year generated gross revenue of more than $33 million. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s tax rate of 54% for online slots and 16% for online poker and online table games, the state walked away with more than $13 million in tax revenue. Of course, the next six months saw even more growth. By the end of July 2020, there were numerous online casinos across the state. These real money sites have generated more than $54 million in total revenue and $23 million in tax revenue for the state in July 2020 alone.
West Virginia casinos came next, launching regulated online casino games in July 2020. There are just three licensed online casinos in the state, plus a handful of online sportsbooks and apps. The real money WV casinos run slots, blackjack, keno and three-card poker.
The online gambling sites have taken in an average of more than $11 million in bets and averaged close to $220,000 in revenue every week since launch. Thanks to a 15% tax rate, more than $365,000 in tax revenue for the state was generated in less than the first three months.
It took some time, but Michigan online casinos are up and running. Ten apps launched in January 2021 including some of the biggest brands in the country. DraftKings Casino, FanDuel Casino, BetMGM Casino, and WynnBet Casino all made their entrance on the same day.
Michigan’s population and reasonable tax rate (20 – 28%) made the state a desirable target for some of the biggest online casino operators. The state has neared $80 million in total online casino revenue in its first month, and it’s expected to keep growing.
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 Coins” 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 Coins 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 Coins for real money.
This might seem complicated, but once you play at a sweepstakes casino for money, you’ll find the experience seamless.
Yes, if you choose a regulated casino. Government regulation ensures the safety of online casinos in states where they are legal. State government regulators license the operators behind every online casino, and most of these operators are longtime land-based casino companies with solid reputations for fairness and safety.
Of course, there are offshore online casino operators that try to attract US players. Unfortunately, these offshore sites don’t have the same oversight to ensure fairness, safety and security that legal operators can. They don’t have state government approval, state government regulators aren’t checking up on them, and they aren’t backed by reputable US gambling companies like MGM or Caesars.
Government regulation means casino players have somewhere to turn to if things go wrong, they have a complaint, or something doesn’t seem right. With offshore casinos based in Panama or Antigua, you have nowhere to turn to.
Things to look for when choosing an online casino:
Almost all USA 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:
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.
These days, all of the online casino USA sites 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.
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.
Most apps have fewer online casino games than you’ll find on the websites, but your favorites are probably there. Plus, these casino apps offer the same deposit, withdrawal and account management functions.
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 top studios which gives you the best online casino experience. This includes SG Games, Bally and Konami. Atlantic City slots and free Vegas style slots are great examples.
This creates a welcome problem. The best real money 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.
You might discover sports betting and online poker included on some sites. These are separate areas, though can be linked via an ID and single wallet.
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.
The most popular real money games are slot machines, with blackjack coming in a close second. It doesn’t stop at just blackjack or slots. Online casinos have multiple games available for you to choose from with bets ranging from 0.01 up to a few hundred dollars.
This list outlines the most popular real money casino games followed by a detailed summary of how each casino game works:
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 online slots and exclusive lists for each casino you visit.
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 for craps) 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.
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.
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:
Many of these games also feature side bets, and some of them have huge top prizes.
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. Real money online 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:
Once you have selected a legitimate casino, you’ll need to get fund your account to play casino games. Regulated casinos offer plenty of secure deposit options. These are the same brands you’ll use to make online purchases.
The banking 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 online casino deposit and withdrawal options:
Making sure you get a fair deal and that your money used at online casinos 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.
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.
Here’s where regulation really shines and why you should only play at a legit US online casino.
Government regulators ensure online casinos in the US have reachable, trained and friendly customer service departments that will handle any issue you have. Most can be reached by phone, email and live chat online.
You can even fly your complaint up the flagpole and talk to government regulators themselves. Rest assured, they will get to the bottom of any legitimate complaint you have.