This page is our guide to free slot machines—games you can play online without having to risk money of your own. Some of these games offer you the opportunity to win small cash prizes while others are just an exercise in watching the sights and sounds of Vegas without any of the actual sizzle. We provide our opinion on the pros and cons of the different kinds of free slots you can play below, along with links to reviews of specific games, casinos, and software providers.
Our favorite way to play for free is to take advantage of free spins slot machines. Understanding how these kinds of promotions work requires explaining a little bit about the online casino industry and their bonuses and promotions.
The first thing to understand is that online casinos don’t have the tools available to attract customers that land-based casinos have. They don’t have resort style amenities, restaurants, or entertainment. They only have their games. For some hard-core gamblers, that’s all they need to have. These online casinos are able to attract customers just by being there.
But Internet casino operators are a canny bunch, and they realized early on that they could attract more customers by offering free money when players signed up. These offers generally took (and still take) the form of matching funds as a bonus.
A typical online casino bonus works like this:
At first glance, this might make little sense. After all, how can a casino make money by offering free money to its clients?
The reality is that casino gamblers are playing a game where the casino has a huge edge over the players. The casinos also install wagering requirements—you must wager your entire bankroll, bonus and deposit included, a certain number of times, say 25, before cashing out.
In the example above, you’d need to place $15,000 in wagers before being allowed to cash out. Since the edge on a slot machine game is at least 5%, the casino expects you to lose about $750 on $15,000 in wagers. Some players beat the odds and still win a little money, but over the long run, the casino still profits.
If you get $400 for free on a deposit of $200, then 2/3 (at least) of your play on that casino’s slot machines didn’t cost you any money at all. And unlike other kinds of free slot machine games, you actually have a chance of winning money when taking advantage of an offer like this.
But casinos continue to innovate, and so do their bonus offers. Some young executive at some Internet casino decided at one point that casinos could profitably offer real money bonuses to players who didn’t make a real money deposit, and they’d still make a profit.
Here’s how that works:
The casino offers customers a free chip—maybe $10 or $15. They seldom offer more than $25. You’re then able to use that money to try out their slot machine games, and you have a chance to win real money.
But just as you had to wager your deposit plus bonus a certain number of times before cashing out, these no deposit casino bonuses have wagering requirements, too. Usually these wagering requirements are higher than those attached to the standard bonus offers where they match a certain amount of your deposit. Instead of wagering your bankroll 25 times, you might have to wager than 40 times or 50 times.
These offers usually have another restriction. They often have a maximum cashout, usually less than $50. Casinos are willing to accept some financial exposure, but only so much.
Since you’re not risking any of your own money at all when you take advantage of one of these no deposit bonuses, these truly are free slot machines.
But they’ve taken that even further by offering free spins on specific games. Some online casinos choose one of their most popular slot machines and allow players who haven’t opened an account yet to try a particular game for a specific number of spins without making a deposit.
These offers work just like the no deposit bonuses we described earlier, but they have even more restrictions. You can only play a specific game, for example. And you don’t really have any money in your account. You just get the free spins on the game, and if you have any winnings, they go into your account.
These are not your only options if you have no budget and want to play slot machines for free online. But these are our favorites, as you still stand a chance—albeit a small one—of walking away with a little bit of real money for your trouble. We’re not fans of playing slots for free just for the sensory stimulation. Without money on the line, those games seem like a waste of time.
That being said, we have friends and relatives who seem to enjoy these free games even though they can’t win money on them. We’ll talk more about those people and those games in the following sections.
We have an entire page dedicated to free spins bonuses. We cover the subject more comprehensively on that page, in which we include some recommendations for both casinos and specific games available from those casinos.
There is another way to play free slots at an online casino, but it eliminates the possibility of winning real money. Most online casinos offer free versions of their games for purely entertainment purposes. At least, they call it pure entertainment.
The online casinos actually do have an agenda, though. They’re hoping you’ll like the free versions of their games so much that you’ll decide to sign up for a real money account. We don’t think this is a bad deal at all, actually.
Think about it this way. When is the last time you were able to go someplace like the Venetian in Las Vegas and try their slot machine games for free?
Yeah, we haven’t found them accommodating in that regard, either.
But with an online casino, they WANT you to try their games for free. In fact, they don’t even put a time limit on you. Online casino players can literally try the free games at a casino for free for months or even years before making their first deposit, and the companies behind those websites don’t mind at all.
In fact, those companies track massive amounts of data. They know how many players spend how many hours on average playing those free games before signing up for real money. They know what percentage of those players will eventually deposit real money. Once they’ve done all their marketing calculus, they conclude that offering these free games on as many sites as possible is one of the most profitable types of marketing available to them.
We can only see 2 drawbacks to playing these online casinos’ free games:
The free versions of this games aren’t like the ones where you get a certain number of free spins or a nominal amount of cash. They are literally just preview versions of the games that you play for the virtual equivalent of Monopoly money. That’s okay, we suppose, but you need to know that this is what you’re getting into.
If you’re playing at an online casino to try out its free games, it’s hard to get too mad when you get an occasional pop-up on the screen asking you if you want to try their real money games. Depending on the casino and the software, these are available in various levels of intrusiveness. We’ve played at online casinos which have a soft-sell approach. Bovada, for example, doesn’t ask you to try making a real money deposit until you’ve depleted the money in your play money account. We’ve seen other casinos which asked us to sign up for their real money games every 5 spins or so—that was annoying. Other properties fall somewhere in between.
At any rate, there is no shortage of online casino companies who are more than willing to allow you to try their slot machine games for free, no questions asked. You don’t even have to register an account at most of them, although you can do that without making a deposit if you want to. In fact, at casinos which still use a client that you have to download to your computer, this step might be necessary to get access to their games.
On the other hand, most online casinos now make their free games available without a download. You just play in your Internet browser.
For the most part, if an online casino offers a slot machine game, it’s available for free as well as for real money. The only exceptions at most casinos are the progressive jackpot games. The nature of the ever-increasing progressive jackpot makes it impossible to offer that flavor of game in a free money version. You can’t fuel a progressive jackpot if you’re not taking real money wagers. A tiny percentage of nothing is still nothing.
One of the biggest providers of free games of any sort is Facebook. It’s hard to believe that Facebook has been around as long as it has, but it seems as if it’s here to stay. The slot machine games available on Facebook are the 2nd type of game we talked about above—the kind where you’re just playing for the virtual equivalent of Monopoly money. Real money casinos aren’t allowed to market their games via Facebook extensions.
Here’s the thing about free slot machines on Facebook. They serve the same purpose, in a more general way, as the free slots available from online casinos. In other words, it’s a way to engage users so that you can serve some kind of advertising to them.
In the case of Internet casinos, it’s obvious that they’re selling advertising for their own sites. But in the case of Facebook slots, it’s subtler. But nothing in life is truly free, including online slots games. If there weren’t some kind of economic impetus behind these games to make the companies motivated to offer them, you wouldn’t have them to play.
We have an entire section of the site devoted to reviewing Facebook slots. Click on the link provided to find our comprehensive overview of Facebook slot machines.
Some people might think that since they don’t cost anything, free slot machines have no cons—they think it’s all upside. We have a different opinion. We’re not opposed to playing these games at all. But we do think anyone who’s planning to do so should go into it with their eyes open.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of the pros and cons of playing free slot machine games as opposed to real money slot machines:
Free slot machines are here to stay, and there are a bewildering number of ways to get access to these free games. Which method works best for you is probably largely a matter of personal preference.
Our favorite way to play these free games is to take advantage of the free money that’s available in the form of casino bonuses. No matter how small your gambling budget is, you can take a shot at winning big cash with these bonus offers. The odds of winning a significant amount of money—especially in the long run—are low, but that’s okay. We’re still talking about free money.
We also have friends who stick with the purest example of these kinds of games. They’re usually just an excuse for the provider to serve you free advertising of one kind or another. But every activity has its economy. If you’re not risking money, and you’re not getting the chance to win money, maybe the person on the other end of the game has a right to advertise to you. And maybe you’ll even see an ad for a product that will change your life.