Online casino gambling remains illegal (or in a legal grey area) in many US states. For the majority of would-be punters, good old brick-and-mortar casinos are the most consistent option. In Illinois, Sports betting was legalized in 2020, but games such as slots, blackjack, and roulette are still out of reach. At least when it comes to real money online gambling, that is. That said, online sweepstakes are not affected by any law or regulation, and Illinois players can enjoy them at any time.
Sweepstakes can offer a viable alternative to regular online gambling by circumventing the use of legal tender. But how does it work? How does one enter sweepstakes in the first place? Let’s find out!
How Do Sweepstakes Work?
Let’s start with the basics. Sweepstake is a very broad term and can refer to almost any sort of contest or game with a prize. Originally, sweepstakes were a kind of marketing tool used to promote a product or service. The idea was simple – every purchase of an item also counts as a sort of “ticket” to a lottery-like drawing contest. You would then have a chance to win something down the line, increasing the attractiveness of the original product.
However, the FCC quickly found that the practice was often just a “cover” for unlicenced, unregulated lotteries. In other words, people used sweepstakes to enter gambling games with real money rewards. In short, because players are buying a product and not putting up money as a stake, these lotteries lacked “consideration.” In gambling terms, that simply means that you’re not actually betting any money.
In practice, though, whatever products were used to enter sweepstakes were largely purchased strictly for the lottery. Considering prizes were often paid out in cash, there was no doubt that the lotteries were a form of gambling. Unsurprisingly, the authorities quickly cracked down on such shady skirting of the law.
Nowadays, sweepstakes contests strictly avoid using any sort of actual currency. As such, they are not considered gambling according to most laws and regulations across the globe. Sweepstakes are thus widely available throughout the US. Some are still used in marketing, while others can be played at so-called sweepstakes casinos.
Here’s another fun fact – in some countries, entrants are required to fill out some sort of rudimentary puzzle or very basic math problem. The idea is to involve “skill”, which, according to some gambling laws, means that it’s not technically gambling.
Online Sweepstakes Casino Sites
Before we go into the details, there are two things we should mention.
First of all, we assume that you at least have a basic understanding of how online casinos work. If not, you can find a wealth of information at Casino Bloke, a premier website for all things related to online gambling.
Secondly, we should also point out that sweepstakes are still used in a myriad of ways. Some are legal, some less so. After all, the first question many players ask is – are sweepstakes casinos legal? Largely yes, and in most places that don’t see them as actual gambling. However, some online sweepstakes casinos often blur the line. Moreover, laws surrounding sweepstakes online can be often quite specific and confusing.
Sweepstakes casinos are generally lotteries – sites that offer online bingo and similar gambling games. Some even allow you to play blackjack or even poker. However, you won’t be betting real money. Not directly, at least. Instead, sweepstakes sites often use site-specific coins or tokens. Depending on the sweepstakes site you’re using, these are either purchased or received for free.
As you play, these generally act as “points” rather than actual currencies. Collect enough points through the lottery, and you can exchange them for a reward of some sort.
A sweepstake winner can also sometimes exchange these tokens back into fiat currency. If that’s an option on a particular site, be very careful about how you proceed. Free entry sweepstakes are generally the “safer” option, though they’re obviously not as rewarding.
All of this may sound a bit shady, and we understand your concerns. However, the fact that sweepstakes online sites don’t use actual money means that you have a lot less to worry about while betting. Especially compared to a classic off-shore online casino.