With online sports betting now live in Virginia, are real money online casinos soon to follow? Will the launch of sports betting whet VA lawmakers’ appetites for additional streams of gambling-related tax revenue?
The short answer is that legal Virginia online casinos aren’t likely to show up anytime soon. Virginia is not home to any land-based casinos (yet), and no state has ever authorized online casinos without a land-based counterpart.
That fact, coupled with a looming conflict with the state’s new foray into iLottery sales, means that VA online casinos are likely years away. That being said, there are options for playing casino games online in Virginia right now. Below is a guide for the current state of online casinos in Virginia and what to expect in the future.
For right now, the best option for Virginians who want to play casino games online for real prizes is to visit one of several sweepstakes sites that legally operate in the US under sweepstakes law.
Online casinos are not legal in Virginia at this time. There is no current legislation on the books that allows for licensed online casinos or apps to offer casino games for money within the state lines of the Commonwealth.
Part of the problem is that Virginia is historically off-limits for almost every type of gambling. There are no land-based casinos or racetracks in the state at this time. Gambling is mostly confined to the state lottery and five off-track betting locations across the state.
It’s no wonder that so many Virginia license plates are visible at Maryland and West Virginia casinos each weekend. However, there is some hope for the future. The Virginia legislature and Gov. Ralph Northam enacted a bill in February 2020 to allow five Virginia cities, Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond, to hold referendums about allowing the construction of a casino within city limits.
Still, the fact that casino gambling might be coming to Virginia at all is an amazing change of legislative direction.
If you’re committed to playing some form of real money casino games in Virginia, your safest option is sweepstakes gaming. Several different sweepstakes casinos offer casino games that are, for all intents and purposes, identical to a real online casino. You can even play for a currency that can be converted into real prizes.
If you’re familiar with Publishers Clearing House, you’re already familiar with how legal sweepstakes operate in the US. First and foremost, a sweepstakes contest must give away the prize that it advertises. So, even though Publishers Clearing House may seem never to award its millions of dollars (they do), it must do so to remain a legal entity.
Sweepstakes must also be free to enter, and there can be no way to increase one’s chances of winning through a purchase. That requirement is why McDonald’s Monopoly does not make you buy a burger to play.
How are these rules translated into sweepstakes at online casinos? Casino sites have figured out a rather ingenious way to ensure that everyone can play. Most states have laws to allow sweepstakes to proceed, but the contests must format themselves in the prescribed ways under the law or they risk being categorized as a lottery or, worse, outright gambling.
Sweepstakes casino sites are available in almost every state, including Virginia. By and large, each site can operate because it uses a dual-currency system to break up the possibility of a transaction being required to play.
One of the best examples of this kind of site is Chumba Casino. Chumba, like its sister sites Global Poker, LuckyLand Slots, and FendOff Sports, uses two currencies for play:
Gold Coins are available for purchase and work for every game onsite. However, they are not redeemable for any kind of cash value, so they are for entertainment only.
Sweeps Coins, on the other hand, are redeemable for cash prizes and can be withdrawn and converted. Players can acquire Sweeps Coins for free as they purchase Gold Coins.
However, to remain legal, Chumba does two different things to make it possible for players to receive Sweeps Coins. For one thing, they simply give away a small amount of Sweeps Coins whenever a player logs onto the site and clicks the appropriate pop-up. The Sweeps Coin amount for that day immediately shuffles into the player’s account.
It is also possible to handwrite a letter to Chumba Casino to request that it put some Sweeps Coins into the player account. Though this method is slower, it is a surefire way to get some redeemable chips into your possession.
Buying Gold Coins is a move that you make to speed up the process. There is no prohibition in the law regarding convenience, and you don’t have to buy Sweeps Coins to get your hands on them, anyway.
Chumba Casino is part of a network of sites owned by sweepstakes operator VGW Holdings. All four of the VGW sites are available for play in Virginia. They are:
Several other sweepstakes sites do business around the country. However, outside of the four above, there is only one that bears mention. Funzpoints, despite its funny name, works with the same dual-currency format as the VGW sites, albeit with different names for the currencies.
For the most part, Funzpoints is a slots-only sweepstakes site. However, it is possible to play a fast-draw keno game, if that’s your preference.
There are some online casinos that accept play from Virginians right now. However, those sites are considered “offshore” casinos that are not legal in any way, shape, or form.
You’re taking a variety of risks if you choose to do business with them. For one thing, offshore casinos exist outside of the regulations for US casinos, casino sites, or businesses in general. Their accepted business models and practices may include some elements that we would consider dishonest, shady, or worrying.
Because these casinos are outside the US, they are also not subject to the US legal system, either. So, if you had any kind of dispute with them, you might find your options limited for pursuing any kind of legal recourse. Even if there is a regulatory body associated with the site, you have no idea about its effectiveness or impartiality about mediating complaints against the offshore provider.
Finally, by playing on an offshore site, you could inadvertently find yourself in the crosshairs of US law enforcement. Although it’s extremely unlikely, there’s no good reason to open the possibility that you might receive a knock on your door from federal agents after overplaying a few hands of blackjack.
When and if Virginia online casinos launch, you’ll notice you can play most of the casino’s games in what’s called “free demo” mode. It’s also possible to find several social gaming sites right now that offer free slot and table game play with play currencies.
With these free-play versions, you can test out a game without having to invest any money to decide if you like it or not. If you are new to a site, you may want to consider playing the demo mode for some of the following reasons:
Though some gamblers might tell you that the games are boring without the risk, the truth is that many people hate gambling because of its inherent chance of losing money. However, they still want to try some of these bright and flashy games. Real money casinos with free play offer you the chance to do so.
You can spin a demo version as much as you’d like, so there’s never any risk. For people who just want to relax, that may be just what they wanted.
Casino games that have demonstration modes included are almost the same as the real money versions. The animations, payouts, and frequencies are usually equivalent to the real deal.
So, if you want to play a particular game but are unfamiliar with it, the demo mode is a perfect way to get your feet wet with the payline structure and the format of the game’s operation. Once you’ve had a few spins to see how everything works, you’ll feel much more comfortable putting your own money on the line.
Some casino games can be downright difficult to understand. Many intimidated casino goers have stood by and watched the machinations of the craps table in amazement, commenting about how quickly the game goes.
However, as anyone who has spent much time in a casino can attest, these games slow down and become manageable with some practice. There’s no better way to get used to how a game works if you can play it in a risk-free environment.
Real money casino games have the advantage of counting for both leaderboards and the perks on file for each site’s loyalty club. Sites routinely give away meaningful bonuses and benefits to those players who are most often and active on the site.
The cell phone revolution has meant that most people use their handheld devices as their central nexus for accessing everything in cyberspace. It makes sense, then, that most online casinos offer dedicated apps for both Apple and Android users.
Mobile casino apps are great for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you can play games in almost any location. As long as there is available WiFi, you are connected and playing.
Real money casino apps also cut down on the time that you have to spend at an actual casino. You can hop on and off in under a minute, log in and out from anywhere, and never have to pay any valet or resort fees.
While you don’t always have to download the app to play the games on your phone, it does provide the most optimized mobile gaming experience.
No-download casino games will work on any computer or device, including your phone. Using a no-download casino on a laptop or desktop can also make your playing experience much more ergonomic.
The screens are larger, it’s easier to multi-table or multitask, and you can get into a comfortable body position in a chair or at a desk.
Ultimately, the differences are relatively minimal and you’ll have a similar experience playing via the app or simply in no download mode on your computer. Pick whichever one makes the most sense for you, as there aren’t any wrong answers.
One of the best things about online casinos vis-a-vis land-based games is the opportunity to redeem bonus offers. Because the competition is only a few button presses away, online casinos must always work to attract new customers and keep existing customers happy.
There are many different types of bonuses that online casinos can throw at you. One of the sweetest of these is the no-deposit bonus. As its name implies, you don’t have to pay anything to receive this perk from the casino. Usually, the only requirement is that you sign up for the site.
Other types of bonuses include deposit bonuses, cashback, and leaderboards. All of them have the same goal in mind: put some extra dollars in your account, and keep you on-site.
In general, online casino bonus offers are terrific things. However, make sure you read the fine print before you accept an offer.
Online casinos are not much different from the real-life versions. Except for the lack of cigarette smoke and free cocktails, you can find every element online that you’d need to play.
The biggest difference that you’ll discover is the speed of the games. Because there are no physical elements to manipulate, like cards or slot reels, you will have far more opportunities to play than you would at the same time at a live casino.
Online casino games are always open for you to sit, too. Unlike the limited chair space that a live game may have, you can play whenever you like for as long as you like, and nobody’s going to steal your machine or place at the table.
Here are some of the games that you’ll find online:
Slots are the bread and butter of live casinos, and they enjoy the same status online. Depending on the site, you may find hundreds of real money slot games at your disposal to play.
Online casino slots are not knock-offs of the branded games you’d find in live casinos, either. The game developers themselves have usually programmed the title to fit into the site’s operating system, and it will work the same as it would in a game cabinet in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
One key difference, however, is that you will be able to play for smaller amounts of money than you would live. It is possible to place bets in denominations well below $1, and unlike some penny slots in land-based casinos, you can make the entire bet for this amount.
It is also typical for online slots to maintain a fully-functional demo mode where you can play the full game for free. This functionality is terrific if you want to get a sense of the payout structure and format of the game before you commit your funds to it.
Real money video poker is the last bastion for five-card draw in the world. Though often classified as a slot machine, video poker players maintain that the bit of strategy they can exercise over the game puts video poker into its own class.
Regardless of how you may classify video poker, it is a staple of the land-based casino. Unfortunately, it is much less likely that you will find a wide selection of video poker games online. At best, most online casinos only have one or two variants available for players to use.
Real money blackjack is the most popular table game in the world. If a casino, live or online, has table games, it is almost certain to have blackjack.
Part of its allure is its simplicity. Attempting to defeat the dealer’s hand by drawing cards without going over 21 is accessible to anyone who can count and do basic addition.
Blackjack moves at a much more rapid pace online. You can see many more hands in an hour if there are no actual cards to be dealt with, so you must keep an eye on your bankroll, as it can disappear much more quickly than you may imagine.
Real money roulette is, perhaps surprisingly, the other table game that you will find the most of online. Because there are so many different tweaks that programmers can insert into the game, such as the number of zeroes or side bets, roulette routinely appears in many variants on the same site.
Like other online games, the lower limit for the amount that you can wager on an online roulette spin is much lower than it is live. In a way, it makes sense, since the computer does not require the same wages that a live dealer does.
Ironically, however, online roulette games have a bit less flexibility for the player. Each spin is timed, since there are multiple players at one table, so you may find yourself rushing to make your wagers. If the casino offers a demo or free version, you may want to give it a try to get used to the speed of the game.
The other major table game that live casinos often feature is craps. The dice game captures the attention of so many gamblers because of its unpredictability and exciting volatility.
Unfortunately, craps are not as likely to be featured in online casinos like blackjack and roulette. Presumably, the complexity of both the game’s programming and gameplay makes it a tougher game to host.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to look for craps, Let It Ride, or Three Card Poker if those are your games.
Some of the most exciting slot titles feature progressive jackpots. A progressive jackpot game is a title in which the amount of the top prize is always increasing and grows larger as more players compete for it.
In some live settings, progressive jackpots can stretch into the millions of dollars.
One thing to bear in mind if you want to play for the big score, however, is that the game will compensate for its higher payout potential by awarding fewer small wins. So, be ready for the fact that you will likely lose much faster on a progressive machine if you chase after the jackpot.
Online casinos licensed by the state and partnered with a major casino brand are not a reality for people in Virginia just yet. For right now, your best bet is to explore the various sweepstakes sites.
However, if sports betting explodes and the money begins rolling in, and land-based casinos debut without any problems, there’s no telling what other ideas the folks in the legislature may get.