Gambling in Illinois


In political and circles, Illinois is seen to be a microcosm of the America, reflecting the hopes, dreams and gambling behavior of the average American.

While Illinois isn’t the Wild West of gaming, they do offer plenty of riverboat casinos, traditional casinos and a state lottery with both online and land-based retailer options.

Illinois hasn’t always been this liberal in its gaming regulations, however, they’ve gradually loosened the reins on government regulations since the 1970s, when the state’s lottery and horseracing industry were initially created.

Surprisingly, for a state with online gaming options in sports betting just like New Jersey, horse racing, the lottery and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), Illinois curiously has outlawed online gaming. The irony is heavy and we’ll examine closer why the Land of Lincoln does not yet have anything resembling NJ’s Online Casinos.

Illinois Casino Gambling

In 1990, Illinois’ Riverboat Gambling Act became law, and Illinois opened its first riverboat casino in Alton in 1991. Riverboat casinos were once required to move along the waterways whilst gambling took place, however, the law changed and casinos were allowed to be permanently docked in 1999.

Illinois has 10 casinos (Riverboat Casinos) at which you’ll find more than 11 100 slots and gaming machines. As at August 2018, there are a total of 252 table games. Interestingly, maximum bets in Illinois Casinos can run as high as $100 000, as compared to the $100 maximums in some nearby states.

The Rebuild Illinois Law passed in June 2019 authorized six new land-based casinos to be built. The first of these is scheduled to open in late 2022.

Online Casinos in Illinois

Illinois has not yet implemented the introduction of legal online casinos.

However, the signs are positive that the legalization of sports betting will lead the way for online casinos to follow.

In all likelihood (given Illinois long history of legalized gambling), it should be the upcoming legalization of sports betting in Illinois that will drive the State Legislature’s change to legalize online casinos. Forget the fact Illinois has previously outlawed internet gaming. In reality the state is more liberal than the law suggests given the availability of DFS, horse racing and the lottery online for Illinois’ residents to enjoy.

Compared to other States, Illinois is quite progressive in allowing its residents the freedom to enjoy legal gambling. This gives the proponents of online casinos significant hope that the state will offer legalized online casinos to its residents in the near future.

Poker in Illinois

Poker in Illinois is centralized in the city of Chicago, with a scattering of Poker rooms to be found around the extremities of the state. Whilst some types of licensed Poker are actively encouraged in Illinois, unlicensed Poker and other forms of unlicensed games are not.

Poker Rooms

Illinois has a total of 12 poker rooms It is perfectly legal to play different types of poker without fear of breaking any laws (including Casino Hold’em, Texas Hold’em, Caribbean Stud Poker, No Limit Hold’em etc.).

In Illinois, unlicensed poker, unlicensed roulette or unlicensed craps (Stick to playing legally in the poker rooms or Riverboat Casinos – playing unlicensed for money in your own home is actively discouraged), are all seen as forms of illegal and prohibited gaming and can theoretically be charged as misdemeanors in Illinois. Possible punishments are fines and potential jail time if the fines go unpaid.

Online Poker Laws

If you’re interested in playing Poker legally in Illinois without fear of punishment, stick to Illinois’ Riverboat and land-based casinos or the Licensed Poker Rooms. The Poker Game of choice in Illinois poker rooms at the current time is the No Limit Hold’em variant and Casino Hold’em is another popular online player’s favorite.

For now, online poker is still illegal in Illinois. However, as soon as we hear different, we’ll let you know.

History of Online & Land-Based Gambling in Illinois

Progressive legislation has allowed Illinois residents a relatively free choice (in comparison to many other States of the Union) in the uptake of many and varied gambling pursuits. The open-mindedness of the Illinois State Legislature in legalizing several forms of gambling has resulted in a good amount of tax revenue being raised for the state of Illinois’ many infrastructure projects and services for the states’ residents. This is partly because in Illinois, there are no Tribal Casinos to share the revenue with.

The effects of the legalization laws for Video Gaming Machines and the expansion of Casinos is beginning to be felt, and in this environment, Illinois fits the bill for a State willing to legalize both online casinos and implement legal sports betting.

Although online gambling was stripped away from a previous bill, the times-are-a-changing’ and if revenue raising options continue to be seriously encouraged, it is hoped that a re-think is not far away – and sports betting may force the state’s hand.

Check out our timeline for landmark dates in the interesting history of gambling in Illinois;

1927 – Betting on Horse Racing was approved in Illinois. These days its possible to enjoy simulcast betting on other states and worldwide at 6 live venues and 37 OTB parlors.

1974 – Michigan State Lottery begins.

1986 – Charitable gambling legal under license includes bingo, keno and raffles.

1991 – Riverboat Casinos open their floating doors for the first time. They were allowed to cruise on rivers during operating hours but not Lake Michigan.

1999 – Riverboat Casinos legalized to operate whilst moored.

2001 – Illinois State Lottery tickets available online, the first state to adopt the technology.

2009 – Video Gaming Act passed enabling video gambling machines in licensed establishments.

2011 – Video Games now allowed at Horse Racing tracks now included slots machines.

2011 – Online Gambling Bill blocked in State Senate.

2020 – Sports Betting Introduced to Illinois.

Visit our Illinois Online Sports Betting page for Information about Illinois online sportsbook reviews