These days, there isn’t any reason to risk your bankroll at a shady offshore casino. There are legitimate, safe online casinos available in an increasing number of states.
Outside of the newly regulated states, sweepstakes gambling laws allow you to enjoy real money slots and table games online.
We share how to find a reputable casino and which casinos are available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere in this guide. We also explain how significant a risk you’d be taking to play offshore. Lastly, we cover the trusted banking options and what to expect in terms of games.
List of the safest online casinos for USA players
What makes an online casino safe?
There are two primary factors to look out for when you assess the safety of an online casino.
First is the fairness of the games.
You’ll need to trust that the shuffle of cards, the roll of dice and the spin of slot machines and give you a fair shot at winning.
For online casinos, the special software, called the RNG, controls it. This random number generator should be independently audited, and the outcomes of millions of tests should be compared to the published returns for each game.
Second is the safety of your bankroll, which includes whether you’ll get paid after you win and try to withdraw. It also consists of any risk that the casino will confiscate or lock your funds — or disappear, taking your money.
Regulated, legal casinos give you recourse in the event of a dispute via your state gaming commission. However, if an offshore casino takes your funds, you’ll have nowhere to turn.
Along with these significant factors, there are other things to look out for when deciding whether a casino is fair. These include playthrough requirements for bonuses. How long you have to clear bonuses also counts because if the time limit is too short, you may not have time to get the benefits.
Harsh terms and conditions, for example, voiding a bonus for playing a few spins on the wrong slot, are also worth checking out.
Simply sticking with legal, regulated casinos will help ensure the gameplay is fair. If your state has yet to license online gambling, then sweepstakes casinos are both legal and safe.
There will be more on those below, but first, let’s take a look at the regulated online casinos in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Safest gambling sites in New Jersey
New Jersey was the first state to regulate online casinos.
Gov. Chris Cristie signed bill A 2578 in 2013. This law outlined a framework for online casinos, poker rooms and sports betting. Licensing is handled by the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement (NJDGE), with the brick-and-mortar casinos able to bid for licenses.
Fast-forward to today, and there are a number of New Jersey gambling sites. With the reputations of the live casinos at stake, these are the safest and most trusted places to play.
Furthermore, most of the casinos in New Jersey operate in partnership with the biggest names in casino gaming. These include 888, Virgin and Betfair.
Top casinos online in NJ
Here is a list of the safest, licensed casinos currently available in New Jersey, together with their license-holding live casino partners:
- Golden Nugget Casino (Golden Nugget)
- Betfair Casino (Golden Nugget)
- SugarHouse Casino (Golden Nugget)
Safe gambling sites in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is the second major state to regulate online casino gambling.
Licensing is under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). They deliberately took a slow approach, preferring to ensure that everything is 100% tested and compliant before allowing the operators to go live.
List of the top online casinos in Pennsylvania
A handful of casinos are live. These are:
We expect other significant partnerships between the live casinos in Pennsylvania and big online operators before the end of the year. These will join the online PA betting sites, and eventually online poker sites in the Keystone State.
Are sweepstakes casinos considered safe?
While we wait for other states to complete their regulations and licensing processes for online casinos, sweepstakes-based sites make for a legal alternative.
These casinos are legal in most states and offer a range of slots, plus limited table games and video poker. These casinos use sweepstakes contest laws to operate. They effectively turn each spin of a slot or hand of blackjack into a short sweepstakes contest.
There are some workarounds needed to run these games, as direct real-money deposits can’t be used to buy chips.
The first is ‘“gold chips,” aka “gold coins.” You can buy these with your credit card, though they do not have any redeemable value; you simply use them for fun play.
The other currency is “sweeps coins.” You can’t buy these; however, the sweepstakes casinos will give it to you for free. Either you can buy gold chips, enter contests on social media or write the sweepstakes casino a letter.
You play games with sweeps coins, and then exchange any winnings for dollars, which you can withdraw. Note that you’ll need $100 worth of sweeps coins to make a withdrawal.
While this model sounds odd to many players, it is legal, safe and has been growing in popularity around the US since being introduced in 2016.
Both casinos include a colorful and modern range of online slots. If you’d like to check out the games, then Chumba Casino is offering $2 worth of sweeps coins for free. There are other Sweeps type sites. These include Global Poker (for online poker) and Fendoff Sports (for sports contests).
Offshore casinos: A big risk
Safe and legal options are available in most states, with regulation continuing to expand. There is little need to risk your casino bankroll at offshore casinos.
Many brands are operating from Central American countries or Caribbean islands which offer online casino games. However, these do not pass the necessary tests of safe operators.
Depositing and withdrawing are difficult, with federal laws blocking mainstream deposit options like cards and bank transfers.
There is also little oversight. So, this means nobody to complain to in the event of a dispute. If these casinos decide to withhold your winnings–for whatever reason they come up with–you will have no recourse.
Finally, the software used is not subject to the rigorous testing that state-regulated casinos need to go through to ensure that the RNG is fair.
What games to expect from safe online casinos?
Online casinos have a vast range of slots, table games, video poker and live dealer rooms to enjoy. Whether you play for micro-stakes or big money, there are thousands of titles to explore.
Below is an overview of the main game categories you can enjoy at legal online casinos:
- Slots: The biggest list of games at any legal online casino will be the slots. Bigger casinos can have 600 or more games. Some of these are online versions of live casino slots, while others are for online play. Expect some fantastic graphics, exotic themes and big jackpots. Traditionalists will also find simple retro video slots and even online versions of mechanical three-reel games.
- Software-based table games: You can play a lot of table games at legal online casinos. These range from blackjack and roulette to casino games based on poker hand rankings. With no dealer to pay, you can enjoy these games for small stakes. You’ll often find interesting variations of well-known games, so look out for the jackpot side bets.
- Live dealer casino games: Bigger casino brands have studios in their brick-and-mortar casinos where games are dealt in real-time. You then bet on them via the casino software. Live dealer games remove any doubt that the deal is unfair. Blackjack, roulette, online baccarat, Casino Hold ’em and three-card poker are the most popular live dealer games.
- Video poker: This game is popular due to the low house edge. You will find classic games, like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild, at regulated online casinos. There are plenty of variations to enjoy, including bonus poker variants.
- Keno and bingo: These games often have colorful themes. Some have the opportunity to win large sums if you get all of your numbers to match.
Other types of games
These games available are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to options. Many don’t fit neatly into any one category.
Examples include Slingo (a slot-bingo hybrid) and virtual betting games based on horse racing or soccer.
Key to ensuring that you can enjoy these games in a safe environment is to stick to legitimate, licensed sites. This will make sure that the published returns from each game match the expected returns from each game.
Is it safe to deposit to a legal online casino?
Depositing and withdrawing winnings from an online casino is an area where many players need extra assurances. After all, when you ask whether online casinos are safe, you are primarily concerned with avoiding being ripped off.
There are a lot of ways to deposit onto state-regulated casinos. While most of these are available everywhere, some casinos will only accept certain brands of cards or electronic wallets.
Your options for depositing funds at sweepstakes casinos are smaller. Here, credit cards are the primary option.
These are the many ways you’ll be able to deposit at legal, regulated state casinos.
- Credit or Debit Cards: Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted.
- Branded Debit Cards: At the more prominent casino brands.
- Cash: Pay at the license holding casino’s cage.
- PayNearMe: This cash payment option works at 7-Eleven stores.
- E-check: Otherwise known as ACH transfer.
- Bill Pay: Utility bill style payments via major banks.
- PayPal: Fast and secure electronic wallet payments.
- Skrill or Neteller: These wallets work like PayPal and are widely accepted.
- Bank Wire or Money Order: Traditional banking; it is slow but secure.
When you withdraw from a regulated casino, they will first attempt to pay your winnings back to the account using the same method that you funded it.
Safe online casino bonus offers
All casinos offer welcome bonuses, with many also having long lists of ongoing promotions and deals.
You will find that the best deals and the worst look similar on the surface.
For example, two casinos might both offer a 100% matched welcome bonus of up to $500. When you check the terms and conditions, casino bonuses start to look different.
The first thing to check to ensure your bonus is safe is the playthrough requirement, which is the number of times you need to bet to clear the bonus into your cash account.
Higher requirements can be 50x or more, while the best are in single figures. You should also check for whether your favorite games are “weighted.” While this is common for low-edge table games, the contribution to playthrough varies dramatically.
As a final check, make sure you have enough time to complete the wagering required.
It only takes a minute to check the terms of casino bonus offers. Once you start doing this, you’ll see there are some significant differences between the deals.
Regulated casinos and responsible gambling
Reputable online casinos always take responsible gambling seriously. They do so by protecting minors and anyone who feels they may have a gambling problem.
Safe, state-regulated casinos are required to offer a suite of tools to protect problem gamblers. Registration at these casinos involves using the last four digits of your Social Security number to prevent underage players from joining.
Other responsible gambling areas should always include the following:
- A self-assessment questionnaire.
- Links to local and national help charities.
- The ability to set limits on deposits, time on site and amount bet.
- The ability to take a timeout or self-exclude completely.
If you find a casino that does not offer these, then we recommend you look elsewhere.
Wrapping up: Where to find safe online casinos?
By sticking to regulated and legal online casinos, you can enjoy online casino games safely.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania already have online casinos, with more states expected to follow soon. The local brick-and-mortar casinos hold licenses. Furthermore, state gaming control boards oversee these operators.
If your state has not yet regulated, then sweepstakes casinos make a safe and legal alternative to the offshore operators.