Sweeps Casinos vs Online Casinos, What’s The Difference?

Free-to-play Sweeps Casinos are booming in popularity across the USA and Canada. They tend to be far more accessible than traditional online casinos and offer a host of other benefits.
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Sweeps casinos are changing the landscape of how people play casino style games online in the US and Canada. These sites let you sign up and play games from some of the top casino software designers in the world, totally free. 

Even better, you can do this perfectly legally from 49 states in the US (Washington is the sole exception at the moment), regardless of whether online gambling is legal or not. 

So what gives? If sweeps casinos aren’t regular real money casinos, what are they? Can I win real cash prizes? Can I play the same games that are available at real money casinos?

We’re answering all of these questions and more right here, with our guide to differences between sweeps casinos and online casinos. 

Key Differences

Let’s kick off with what sweeps sites ARE NOT. They are not the same as traditional real money casinos. You can’t deposit money into your sweeps casino account, and you don’t win money, in the traditional sense. They also don’t require a casino license to operate. 

Instead, sweeps casinos operate under sweepstakes laws. The games are not considered gambling, but rather a form of sweepstakes contest. 

You don’t play the games for money, rather for one of two types of virtual token known as Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. 

Gold Coins are like play money. They only exist as tokens to play games on the sweeps casino, and can’t be withdrawn or converted into cash. 

Sweeps coins are also tokens used to play games, and don’t have any inherent value. However you can redeem your Sweeps Coins winnings for cash prizes. 

You receive both Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins for free when you join a sweeps casino. If you want, you can purchase additional Gold Coins too, which normally come with some FREE Sweeps Coins. 

All of this is very different from real money casinos, where you simply gamble on the games using regular dollars and cents, and keep what you win. 

Finally, sweeps sites arguably have a different vibe to real money casinos. The ability to play for free means that plenty of people are attracted simply for the love of the games and to be a part of the wider community – in a way that feels distinct from real money gambling. 

Redeeming cash prizes is great for sure, but it’s just one part of what attracts people to social casinos and sweeps sites. 

Availability

Sweeps sites are the clear winner in terms of availability. 

Since they are not considered gambling sites from a legal point of view, they can safely and legally operate in 49 states in the US (not Washington) and Canada (with the exception of Quebec).

That said, we encourage you to always check your local laws before signing up to any sweeps sites. 

In contrast, traditional real money online casinos are still relatively sparsely available in the US – although it’s true that, in general, the US is trending towards relaxing gambling laws. 

By the end of 2022, regular online casinos were legal in six US states: Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A handful of others are expected to launch legal online casinos in the near future. 

Games

Traditional real money casinos definitely have a deeper selection of games on average, but the situation at sweeps sites is improving rapidly. 

When sweeps casinos first appeared, they almost exclusively offered slots – often produced by their own in-house design team. 

Today, the number of slots at sweeps casinos has rapidly multiplied, and has been joined by sweepstakes versions of other classics like roulette, blackjack, video poker, keno, bingo and more. 

Perhaps more excitingly, sweeps sites have started hosting their own versions of classic real money slots designed by top gaming software providers like NetEnt, Playtech and Pragmatic Play. You’ll find familiar formats like Megaways games, cascading reels, progressive jackpots, and more.

To sum up, there’s no denying that real money casinos do still have more gaming options than sweeps sites. But the gap between the two is definitely narrowing. 

Payments

It’s a similar story with banking methods.

Real money casinos lead the way but sweeps sites are improving all the time. 

In-app purchases using your play store account or one off payments with a bank card remain the most popular way that people purchase Gold Coins at sweeps sites. Depending on the site, you can also often pay via bank transfer, certain e-wallets like Skrill, or certain types of prepaid cards. 

It’s a decent selection, and it feels like sweeps sites are adding more methods all the time. 

Still, they are lacking the depth of options at real money sites, including methods like Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, PayNearMe, cash deposits, and certain other e-wallets to name a few. 

Where Are They Regulated?

Sweeps casinos are not subject to the same legal requirements as real money casinos, and don’t require the same type of gaming license. But they are certainly not operating independently of the law either. 

In fact, sweeps sites are extremely careful to work with local regulators to ensure that they are fulfilling all the requirements to be legally considered sweepstakes contests. And while they don’t need state by state gambling licenses, many sweeps sites do have gaming licenses from other jurisdictions – which is always a positive sign. 

Chumba Casino for example is licensed and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority. 

In contrast, real money casinos require separate licenses from the gambling authorities in each state, and are still only legal in six states in the US.

Identity and Geo Requirements

This is one area where sweeps sites and real money casinos are very similar. 

Sweeps sites are legally required to verify the identity of their players before they will allow them to redeem any cash prizes – just like real money casinos have to verify their players.

The verification process is similar too. You’ll need to send a copy of some personal identification, like your driver’s license or passport, and normally wait a couple of days. 

Both sweeps sites and online casinos also use geolocation software, to make sure you are physically located in a jurisdiction that allows you to play legally. 

Conclusion

There you have it.

In some ways – from the software of the platforms themselves to the actual experience of playing the games – sweeps casinos can feel extremely similar to real money casinos. It’s what makes them a great alternative if legal gambling is not available in your area.

But sweeps sites are pretty different too. The Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins model is unique, and it means the atmosphere at sweeps casinos can feel less about winning and losing money, and more interested in enjoying the games and sharing the experience. 

The rise of sweeps sites and social casinos has been an exciting development for fans of online gaming, and their popularity looks set to just keep growing. 

Author: Ciaran Breslin
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