If you live in New York state, you can access a great selection of land-based casinos to play your favorite video slots and classic slot machines. However, the story is different online.

New York is racing ahead with legalized sports betting and bigger land-based casinos. Conversely, online casino slots for real money are still illegal.

In 2019, you have two choices if you want to play online slots in New York state: Sign up to a sweepstakes casino or one aligned with a land-based NY casino.

How do online slots work?

If you have ever visited a casino in New York, you’ve seen the banks of slot machines that dominate the gaming floor. Online casinos have adapted many of the familiar and popular games.

You play video slots on a series of reels containing columns of symbols. When the symbols match up on horizontal lines, you win a prize according to a fixed pay table.

Most modern slots offer bonus features and special jackpots.

  • Choose your stakes: First, you choose your bets. At a social casino or real-money online casino, you select coin denominations. The more you bet, the more you can win.
  • Select your paylines: Many online slots let you choose the number of paylines before you spin. Other slots involve a fixed number of win lines. Paylines contain horizontal combinations of symbols. The more paylines you select, the better your chance of hitting a winner. However, choosing more lines means paying more in bets.
  • Read the pay table: The slot pay table displays the full list of symbols and payouts in the game. You can also find details on any bonus features or wild symbols.
  • Understanding the RTP: It’s vital you study the pay table to get a grasp of the game’s return-to-player percentage (RTP). The RTP indicates the average long-term payouts you can win. For example, if a slot carries a 96% RTP, it pays out $96 for every $100 staked; the remainder goes to the casino. The higher the RTP, the more you can potentially win over a long session.
  • Understanding variance: The volatility of online slots can differ from game to game. Volatility, or variance, is the frequency with which a slot pays out.

You can win lots of small and regular prizes if you play a low-volatility slot. A high-volatility slot may pay out bigger prizes less frequently.

Volatile slots tend to carry significant bonus features and jackpots. An online slot with a progressive jackpot is highly volatile.

Check out the pay table when you visit a NY online casino to gauge a slot’s volatility. A sign of high volatility is a large gap between the top paying and lowest paying jackpots.

Real money casinos vs. social casinos

Many US casino players play slots via social casinos. It’s essential to understand the different ways social slots and real-money slots work.

The RTP in social, free-play slots is higher than in real-money slots. It’s easy to think that a free-play title reliably pays out big jackpots. You then get a nasty shock when you switch to a real-money version of the same game.

RTPs are regularly audited and checked at online casinos to ensure that the mechanics and software of the slot are reliable and fair for all players.

If you hit the jackpot, or a big win, in a social slot, you usually unlock a new level that lets you access more popular slots with exciting features.

Slot bonus features and jackpots

Most slots you can find online come with the same bonus features as their land-based cousins. Five-reel online slots offer scatters, wilds, and sometimes – progressive jackpots.

Most offshore online casinos carry a selection of progressives, but they don’t offer the same mega jackpots you can find at land-based casinos in New York State.

  • Wilds: Wild symbols act like jokers. They substitute for all regular symbols in a slot to help you complete a payline. You win a jackpot for filling a whole payline with wilds. Some slots reward you with a multiplier on your win every time you use a wild.
  • Scatters: Scatter symbols pay out regardless of where they land on the reels. Scatter symbols typically have a prize attached. If you hit several scatters at the same time, you trigger a bonus feature.
  • Free spins: Free spins are the most common slot bonus. You trigger free games by landing three or more scatters anywhere on the screen. You can also retrigger some free spin bonuses when you land extra scatters.
  • Progressive jackpots: You can find progressive jackpots at offshore real-money casinos. A small portion of each bet goes towards a linked jackpot. You can trigger it by lining up special symbols or activating a bonus round.

Best slots games and developers

Social casinos in the US used to house substandard slots with poor gameplay. In 2019, however, you can enjoy free-to-play slots from the biggest developers around.

It’s useful to see the kinds of slots being spread in neighboring New Jersey. If New York state legalizes online casinos, you can expect to see a similar range of titles and developers.

Scandinavian developer NetEnt is one of the world’s leading slot providers. They hold a New Jersey license to provide real-money slots to online casinos in the Garden State. You will also discover NetEnt games at some free-to-play online casinos in NY.

Slick five-reel NetEnt games like Blood Suckers and the crime-themed Jack Hammer are popular with players the world over. You can trigger free spins and a host of bonus features in both games.

Most NY casinos feature online variants of existing land-based slots. You can play your favorite offline slots from major US brands like IGT and Bally. In most cases, the gameplay and graphics are the same.

Look out for top titles from IGT like Cleopatra, Wolf Run and Wheel of Fortune, or classic Bally titles like Hot Shot and Quick Hit.

Currently, most social casinos only offer five-reel games. Once online casinos become legal in New York, you should expect to find more three-reel and progressive slots.

Finding a good NY online slot casino

New York state lawmakers are racing to catch up with neighboring states like New Jersey, where real money slots are legal. If you live in NY, however, you can still enjoy slots at various social and free-play casino sites.

Casinos like Chumba Casino let you purchase “gold coins,” a virtual social gaming currency used to play slots. Coins hold no monetary value and you can’t redeem them for cash prizes.

Play-money casino slots are supplied by some of the biggest operators in the world and enjoy regulation from major jurisdictions like Malta. Social play casinos don’t offer the same popular titles as big Vegas casinos or licensed overseas sites, but the gameplay and layout are similar.

Best play money slot sites in NY

Many land-based casinos in New York also operate play-money online casinos.

Here are three of the best:

Del Lago Casino: The del Lago Casino in Waterloo, NY, owns a social casino on the Play4Fun Casino network. You can play dozens of free-play slots on desktop or tablet and even test out games before you sign up. You can play for free or purchase additional virtual credits to play more high-profile slots.

Del Lago’s online casino works as a true social casino. A handful of slots are available for you to play upon sign-up. You unlock more slots as you hit winning spins and earn achievements.

At Play4Fun Casino, you can find some big-name slots typically played in Vegas and NJ for real money. There are Bally favorites like Quick Hit and Hot Shot alongside WMS classics like Zeus III. The casino adds new titles regularly.

Akwesasne Casino: New York boasts a tradition of tribal casinos, and some offer social casinos online. Play Mohawk Casino is the “Home of the everyday winner,” and can be played on desktop or tablet.

If you live near Akwesasne Casino, you can also merge your land-based loyalty card with your online account.

When you sign up to Play Mohawk Casino, you receive 1,000,000 chips that you can use to play slots. Starter deals are also available and allow you to purchase cheap extra chips.

Play Mohawk Casino provides two rooms of slots – Diamond and Emerald – and games from developers like AGS and Amaya.

Play Mohawk Casino also runs regular slot tournaments. These cost from 500,000 to 5,000,000 credits to enter, and you can win up to 45 million credits to add to your account.

Empire CityEmpire City in Yonkers owns an online social casino with slots and table games to play for free. The site is based in Nevada and does not support real-money gaming.

The more you play at Empire City Casino, the more Empire Points you can earn. If you are an Empire City Casino cardholder, you can earn extra online points by playing in Yonkers. Conversely, you can redeem Empire Points you earn online at the land-based casino for comps.

Empire City offers more than 100 free-play slots, including major titles from major developers like NetEnt and Bally.

Sweepstakes vs. traditional online slots

Sweepstakes games, or sweeps, are available at some play-money casino sites like Luckyland & Chumba. To play, you must acquire “Sweeps Cash,” an alternative-stake method.

You typically receive sweeps cash when you purchase gold coins, and the amount is proportionate to the number of coins you acquire. You may also need to share information on social media platforms to qualify for free cash, or you can mail into Chumba to get free Sweeps.

To win, use your Sweeps Cash to play the slot. As long as you win, you bag more sweeps cash. You can convert sweeps cash into US dollars and wire it to your bank account.

The beauty of online sweepstakes casinos is that they are legal in most US states, including New York.