Illinois is a US state with a proud and long history of gambling that started way back in the early 20th century. However, since then, gambling laws have changed significantly, which is why we wanted to give you a detailed overview of everything you need to know about the legality of gambling in the state of Illinois.
We’ll cover the history of laws and regulations, what the current laws are, where and how you can gamble, and also give you answers to some of the most pressing questions Illinois gamblers have.
Gambling in Illinois officially began in the 1920s, as that’s when the state’s government legalized betting on horse races. However, a lot has changed since that first gambling law, and the gambling community went on a rollercoaster of positive changes.
In 1975, the Illinois Horse Racing Act made some positive changes for horse racing gamblers by allowing pari-mutuel betting. That same act changed two times in the future when off-track and simulcast betting was allowed.
The next massive change in gambling laws came in 1990. The state of Illinois’ legislators wrote and passed the Riverboat Gambling Act that finally allowed commercial casinos to operate in the state. However, the aptly named law made casinos legal as long as they operate on water, which is why the now-famous riverboat casinos can be found all over the Mississippi River in several states. The stipulations of the law stated that riverboat casinos were allowed to operate only outside of Lake Michigan and only in counties with more than three million people.
The riverboat casinos are still legal, and most of them are still operational. The first riverboat casino opened its doors to the general public in Alton in 1991, barely a year after the law became official.
In the following years, the Riverboat Gambling Act also underwent some changes, all of which were positive for gamblers. New table casino games were allowed, as well as some electronic ones. All riverboat casinos had been banned from operating in Cook County where Chicago is located, but in 1999, that ban was removed.
The 2000s brought more changes to the gambling regulations in Illinois. In 2009, a landmark law made it possible for bars and similar establishments to host Video Game Terminals. With this law, Illinoisans could finally play on lottery terminals and many other casino games, as long as they are under the control of the Illinois Gaming Board.
After the 2009 law, the next massive legislation passed in Illinois was a formal Gambling Act from 2019. Governor Pritzker is responsible for this sizable law that further cemented the existing regulations on riverboat casinos, land-based casinos, and the types of casino games Illinoisans can play.
The most significant change that came to be with the Gambling Act was the legality of land-based casinos. As of 2019, casinos are no longer confined to water, but can finally operate on land. As this extensive change is still new and the procedures for being approved are rather complicated, Illinois has only one land-based casino — the Rivers Casino.
According to the 2019 Act, new casinos will be allowed to operate in five specific municipalities — Danville, Rockford, Chicago, Waukegan, and Downstate Williamson County. Additionally, the law allows for another casino to open in southern Cook County. This is a total of six new casinos that will gain permits, and there are already ten different applicants.
All in all, the new law will eventually double the number of locations where Illinoisans can gamble. What’s more, they will finally get sports betting as well, while horse racetracks will become casinos in all but their name, as they are now able to host table games and slot machines.
In the future, Illinoian gamblers can expect further positive changes to gambling laws, as these recent gambling expansions have shown that the local politicians are willing to make such changes.
As you can already see from all the laws the state of Illinois has brought over the years, a wide variety of gambling games are now allowed.
You can now play a wide variety of table casino games like poker, blackjack, baccarat, and many others. Many electronic casino games, including slots, can be played as well. Apart from these, the lottery is also allowed, except for bingo.
However, thanks to the laws that govern charitable gaming, most casino games can be played as long as they are held for the purposes of the charity. Those games include bingo and a few other casino games Illinoisans are not generally allowed to play.
Sports betting is allowed for all types of professional sporting events, except for all the minor leagues. However, fantasy betting is not allowed, which means that Illinoisans cannot participate in contests like DraftKings.
All in all, most casino games are now allowed in Illinois, as long as they follow specific rules regarding where and how they are held. As long as they are in the before-mentioned formats and locations, casinos can host them and you can play them. However, you still have to be over 21 to play all casino games, and 18 to play raffles, bingo, and horse betting.
Even though many forms of gambling are legal in Illinois as long as they are hosted in specific locations, we cannot say the same for online gambling. The law is not entirely clear when it comes to online casino games, as the latest laws don’t even mention them. However, the 2019 law allowed online sports betting.
Besides the fact that the gambling law doesn’t allow online casino games, the Illinois Criminal Code specifically prohibits internet gambling as well. The good thing here is that the criminal code is aimed at casino operators, not casino players. The state doesn’t actively pursue Illinoisans who decide to play in online casinos.
Players who have found offshore online casinos accepting Illinois-based gamblers and who played in them have never been at odds with the state law. So, if you decide to gamble in such a casino, you don’t have to fear any legal issues.
As we’ve already discussed in this article, if you are from Illinois, you can currently gamble in some of the available riverboat casinos, while you’ll have to wait for the six new land-based casinos to open their doors once they are approved. The state has a total of ten riverboat casinos you can choose from:
Let’s now cover the most popular ones.
Jumer’s Casino & Hotel is located in Rock Island, and it has a total of 42,000 square feet of gaming space. It contains around 1,000 slot machines, the live poker and high limit slot room, and 18 table games.
Rivers Casino is currently the only riverboat casino with a license to operate on land as well. It’s located in the northern suburb of Chicago. Here, you can play around 1,000 slots and dozens of table games.
Harrah’s Joliet was founded in the city of Joliet in 1993. It has a total of 40,000 square feet of gaming space that hosts 1,138 slot machines and 31 table games, including classics like poker and blackjack.
The Illinois law allows riverboat casinos that offer specific casino games like most table-based games and slots. It also permits lottery and pari-mutuel horse race betting. A few more gambling games are allowed if they are held for the purposes of the charity.
Due to the 1990 Riverboat Gambling Act, only casinos that operate on the water are allowed in the state of Illinois. However, as of 2019, land-based casinos are also allowed as long as they are established at specific locations within the state. Rivers Casino is, at the moment, the only land-based casino, even though it’s a riverboat casino as well.
There is no single answer to this question, as specific types of gambling have been allowed with specific laws and regulations. For instance, video gambling has been legalized in Illinois in 2009, while many forms of casino games have been legalized in 1990 with the Riverboat Gambling Act, as long as they are hosted in casinos that operate on water.
You can wager on sports betting at the moment, while online casino games are not specifically permitted in the state of Illinois. You can however opt to play at offshore online casinos which are perfectly safe.
You have to be at least 21 years old to play in an Illinois casino.
A total of ten riverboat casinos exist in Illinois at the moment, while one of them is also a land-based casino. The current law allows for six more land-based casinos to open.