An illegal online casino is one that accepts players from almost anywhere in the world – despite being in violation of local laws. For example, it’s illegal to play at a real-money online casino in New York State, but offshore betting sites offer the option anyway.
Unfortunately, only four states in the US (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia) offer a robust, legal online casino market. That means all other Americans have to play casino games one of four ways:
- In-person at a brick-and-mortar casino.
- Legally at a sweepstakes casino site.
- By visiting a state with the best online casinos.
- Illegally at an offshore online casino.
Of those four options, only one is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs: playing at an illegal online casino. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Rigged Games
Legal online casinos need to have all games approved by their governing body. No unapproved, unaudited games are allowed on the legal sites and apps.
The same is not true for illegal online casinos. There’s nothing stopping these (largely unregulated) sites from, for example, claiming that a game has a return to player (RTP) percentage of 98% – even if the game’s true RTP is closer to 70%.
Some offshore auditing companies do exist, and a few are legitimate. But just because eCOGRA or iTech Labs audited the website once doesn’t mean the games remain random and fair.
That lack of oversight means players just have to take the online casino’s word, which is nowhere near good enough.
2. Hidden Terms And Conditions
One of the most appealing aspects of an offshore online casino is the welcome bonus. Some of these sites can have 200% first-deposit bonuses up to $5,000. That’s better than anything you’ll find in the US – except for the hidden terms and conditions.
The most common way these sites get you is with the playthrough requirements. While legal US online casinos can have playthrough as low as 1x, such as BetRivers Casino, most have a playthrough between 5x and 10x for welcome bonuses.
At illegal sites, it’s not uncommon to see playthrough requirements as egregious as 50x the deposit plus bonus amount. That means if you were to deposit $100 and receive $200 in bonus cash, you’d have to bet $15,000 before you can withdraw. On a $100 deposit, that’s beyond absurd – it’s predatory.
3. Lack Of Security And Privacy
When you join a legal online casino, you know the platform has to meet extremely strict security and privacy requirements. These sites are also based in the US, which means they’re beholden to American web privacy laws, much of which is far more strict than elsewhere in the world.
But when you join an illegal online casino, you’re not given the same assurances. Many likely have a high level of security, but what about their privacy practices? These are illicit sites that operate outside of the law, and there’s nothing stopping them from selling your personal information.
Imagine giving a random person your name, address, and banking information. It seems unimaginable in that context, yet many people hand it all over to these illegal sites.
At the very least, there’s a good chance that your information was sold to a third-party. This might be for advertising purposes or something more nefarious. But the moment you hand over your email, phone number, or any other contact information, you’re putting your trust in a sketchy company.
4. Other Sketchy Practices
The list truly goes on when it comes to illegal online casinos. Beyond rigged games, hidden terms, and bad privacy practices, these sites also notoriously:
- Disappear without warning, taking all your money with them.
- Impose weird limits on the amount you can withdraw (in case you get a big win).
- Spam you with offers even after you unsubscribe.
- Change terms and conditions frequently and without warning.
- Make claims about fairness or transparency that simply aren’t true.
- Block you from the site or disable your account after a big win.
- Become unresponsive during a dispute resolution.
The sketchiness of an illegal casino is only limited by their imaginations. If you’re going to join one despite all these warnings, keep an eye out for these red flags – you may be able to cash out and delete your account before there are too many repercussions.
5. Sweepstakes Online Casinos Are Underrated
A common misconception about sweepstakes casino sites is that you’re playing to enter prize drawings. That is not the case. Instead, you play for “Sweeps Coins” that can be directly exchanged for cash prizes.
Chumba Casino, Funzpoints, and LuckyLand are three safe, legitimate sweepstakes casino sites where thousands of players win cash prizes every day. Global Poker, one of the most popular poker sites in the world and Chumba’s sister company, also offers a few slots, blackjack, roulette, and more.
The best part is that making a purchase is optional. Not only do you receive a good portion of free Sweeps Coins just for creating an account, you also receive Sweeps Coins each time you log in.
In terms of pure number of options, Chumba Casino is the best of the best. Beyond table games, Chumba has progressive jackpots that can result in million-dollar jackpot prizes.
Luckyland and Funzpoints offer a nice selection of games, but both are slots-only sites.
6. Betting In-Person Is A Good Way To Play It Safe
The only way to guarantee success at any casino is through Responsible Gaming, or limiting the amount you bet to avoid problem gambling. Effective strategies include:
- Limiting the amount you spend on betting.
- Setting a time limit each time you sit down to bet.
- Never betting when you’re bored, angry, or drunk.
When you visit a brick-and-mortar casino, it’s a lot easier to set limits than having access to an online casino. Because online casinos are available whether they’re legal or not, there’s no good argument for not regulating them in the US. But they can make it difficult to stay accountable.
For example, people are more likely to notice problematic betting practices if you’re at a casino for multiple days on end. If you’re simply playing on your phone, loved ones can have a much more difficult time detecting the fact that you’re playing all day, every day.
7. You Have No Legal Protection At Illegal Sites
What happens if an illegal online casino steals your money or sells your personal information? Unfortunately, you don’t have any real legal recourse for one key reason: you were breaking the law too.
It is unlikely that you’ll get in trouble for playing at an illegal online casino. Law enforcement is usually more focused on stopping the websites than they are busting average players. But filing a complaint with the US government about knowingly joining an illegal website will be a tough sell.
Also, you should always report net gambling winnings for the year, even if you’re playing at an illegal site. While the feds won’t come after you for playing some online blackjack at an offshore site, they will absolutely bust you for failing to report large gambling winnings.