Illinois Gambling Laws

Several forms of gambling are legal in Illinois. Though the Illinois gambling laws are not as lenient as those in Nevada or even nearby Michigan, the Illinois Gambling Act recently expanded Illinois’s legal gambling options. The bill authorized the construction of half a dozen new land-based casinos, including a massive casino in Chicago.

On the same day the Act passed, Illinois also passed the Sports Wagering Act, which legalized sports gambling across the entirety of Illinois, both at retail sportsbooks and through online sports betting sites. Illinois also permits wagering on horse racing.

Riverboat casinos are legal in Illinois, though these vessels are being phased out in favor of brick-and-mortar casinos on land. Governor Pritzker signed both of these Acts into law as part of Illinois Senate Bill 690, a reconciliation bill covering various tax and revenue provisions.

COVID-19 Related Restrictions On Casinos In Illinois

Throughout 2020, Illinois closed casino locations due to COVID-19. Although the initial closure was lifted, in November 2020, Governor Pritzer was forced to close the casinos once again. Even in between the closures, the state placed significant restrictions on the capacity of casinos.

When the casinos reopen, it is likely Illinois casinos will continue to adhere to occupancy limits along with guidelines to ensure social distancing. Furthermore, each casino must have its own unique plan for reopening. This could include reductions in the number of table games, the number of slot machines, and restrictions on overall capacity. It is also likely that face coverings will be mandated and health screenings might be required.

State-Regulated Online Gambling In Illinois

The Illinois gambling laws create a patchwork of rules and regulations that permit some in person and some online gambling. Currently, Illinois offers legalized gambling in person at casinos, racetracks, OTBs, and Video Lottery Terminals. Residents can also play the Illinois lottery. In 2019, the state legalized retail sportsbooks as well, although they’ve been slow to open.

Online gambling is a little more complicated. Although the state has not explicitly legalized Daily Fantasy Sports, these sites are available in Illinois. Though it is illegal for Illinois residents to operate online poker sites, it is not unlawful for Illinois residents to partake in online poker games through social casino sites. Bettors can participate in online horse race betting on several sites. Most notably, the state recently legalized online sports betting and online sportsbooks are in the process of launching.

Legislation That Legalized Online Gambling In Illinois

The Illinois state legislature passed the Video Gambling Act into law in 2009, which was an early attempt at expanding legalized gaming in the state. The Act permitted fraternal organizations, bars, and truck stops to provide customers with gambling machines (VLTs or Video Lottery Terminals), which offer real cash payouts. A maximum of five such machines was allowed in a single location when the Act passed. Fast forward to 2020, and more than 2,000 of these gambling machines exist in Illinois.

In 2012, state Senators and House members attempted to introduce legislation to legalize and regulate online gambling. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it past committee level. A second attempt came in 2013 but also failed during negotiations. The problem at the time was disagreement about the number of casinos in the state.

Through a series of negotiations over several years, the legislature decided to remove the online casino gambling legislation in the bill. Instead, gambling expansion focused on additional retail casinos, retail sportsbooks, and permitted online sports betting sites. Two bills simultaneously passed on June 28, 2019, to effectuate this expansion. Both the Illinois Gambling Act and the Sports Wagering Act passed on this date to expand gambling and online sports betting in Illinois.

Fast Facts About Online Gambling in Illinois

The Illinois Gambling Act of 2019 made online sports wagering legal in Illinois. At the moment, online poker gambling and online casinos are illegal in Illinois. However, online horse wagering, online sports wagering, and online daily fantasy sports are permitted.

You must be 21 years of age to gamble at casinos and at video poker machines at bars. Furthermore, you must be at least 21 years of age to bet on sports at an Illinois land-based casino or on the internet. However, there are a couple of exceptions to the age minimum for gambling in Illinois. Horse racing and daily fantasy sports are available to those aged 18 and older.

Online Sports BettingLegal
Online CasinosIllegal
Online PokerIllegal
Daily Fantasy SportsPermitted
Social and Sweepstakes CasinosLegal
Horse Race BettingLegal
Minimum age for video poker machines at bars and sports betting21
Minimum age for horse race betting and Daily Fantasy Sports18

Legal Online Sports Betting In Illinois

Illinois now offers legal online sports gambling. The Illinois Gaming Board approves license requests for retail sportsbooks and online sports betting sites separately. It’s not an all-in-one package.

Seven casino operators received licenses for sports wagering. Retail sportsbook launches remain delayed as a result of COVID-19 related shutdowns. As of July 2020, two retail sportsbooks started operation. This includes sportsbook locations at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and Argosy Casino in Alton. Rivers Casino also received approval to launch its online sports betting site, BetRivers, which was the first online sportsbook to launch in the state. Now, five online sportsbooks are available in Illinois: BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and William Hill.

See our Full Guide To Online Sports Betting In Illinois.

Sports Betting Operator Licenses

The seven casinos granted the licenses paid one-time fees amounting to a whopping $40 million. The cost for the license varies by the casino in accordance with gross revenue from the prior year. However, the license for providing sports wagering maxes out at $10 million. Companies that aim to deliver web-only sports wagering opportunities will face upwards of $20 million in initial licensing fees.

Once the casinos that obtained a license for sports wagering enter their Gaming Board request and obtain approval for online wagering, Illinois residents will be able to wager on sports from the comfort of home.

The sports betting licenses doled out to the casinos referenced above last four years. The licenses are renewable at $1 million each for an additional 4 years.

Tier 2 Sports Bet Licensing

Unique to Illinois sports betting is the licensing for tier 2 data providers. Tier 1 sports bets occur on the outcome of a game and must be placed before the game starts. Tier 2 sports bets take place on all of the other action and cover prop bets and live game wagering.

Because these types of bets rely on official statistics and “official league data” sportsbooks can apply for a Tier 2 Official League Data Provider License. This is a separate license and comes with separate fees. It’s beneficial, though, for the sportsbook to apply for this license to be recognized as a sportsbook that receives direct and official stats from the leagues.  The only other state that has this type of licensing is Tennessee.

Key Provisions Of The Sports Wagering Act

Under the Sports Wagering Act of 2019, bettors in Illinois can place wagers on sporting events, parts of sporting events, or individual athlete statistics. This means not only can bettors place moneyline, single-game bets, but the world of prop bets and exotics are open as well. Sportsbooks in Illinois will also offer in-game wagering and in-play bets, which means bets can continue to be placed as the action happens.

Bettors in Illinois may place bets in person at retail sportsbooks, online through desktop or mobile browsers as well as through sports betting apps. A sports facility in Illinois may also apply for a sportsbook license. A sports facility is one that holds a minimum of 17,000 people, which would include Soldier Field and Wrigley Field, for example. This means a sportsbook could operate on the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field, and a recent deal with DraftKings brought that possibility one step closer to becoming a reality.

Sports fans can bet on professional sports events in the US and internationally. It does restrict college sports to events between non-Illinois teams. This means no bets on the Fighting Illini or the Northwestern Wildcats. Minor league sports event betting is also prohibited as are all children’s sports, including high school.

In-Person Registration Back And Forth

Illinois initially planned on mandating that bettors sign up to wager on sports online through in-person registration. When Illinois casinos closed due to COVID-19, the state suspended in-person registrations. For a brief moment, bettors were permitted to sign up to use sportsbooks’ online platforms online.

Quickly, though, this suspension lifted and the in-person registration requirement was re-instated. Then, a few months later, the governor switched course once again. The in-person registration requirement was once again lifted, allowing sports bettors to register completely online through September 19. This date has been extended multiple times and now is in effect until December 12. With Illinois casinos currently closed, it is likely this will be extended until 2021.

As of December 2020, five online sportsbooks are live in Illinois: BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, and PointsBet. Sports bettors can now register online for any of those sportsbooks in Illinois without visiting a retail casino.

Legal Online Casinos And Poker Sites In Illinois

Unfortunately, Illinois does not offer legal online casino games for real money. Nor does the state offer online poker. However, there are plenty of no-cost fun alternatives to legal online casino and poker games. Examples of such no-cost games include sweepstakes and social casinos such as Chumba Casino and LuckyLand.

There is still hope that Illinois lawmakers will eventually legalize online poker and online casino games. It would have been nice if the Illinois Gambling Act of 2019 addressed online poker and online casino gambling rather than primarily focusing on the legalization of online sports wagering. Until the subject is broached down the line, Illinois residents looking to play casino games online will have to enjoy social casinos, which feature slots, blackjack, and poker online.

Are Online Sweepstakes and Social Sites Allowed Under Illinois Gambling Law?

Online sweepstakes/social sites are legal in Illinois. Chumba Casino, for example, provides fun casino-style gaming for cash prizes. If you use a platform such as Chumba, and you will likely use a dual-currency system. This involves the use of Gold Coins, which you purchase and are just for fun, and Sweeps Coins, which you get for free and can be redeemed for cash prizes if you win with them. Another example of a social casino site commonly used in Illinois is LuckyLand Slots. For poker players, Global Poker offers a similar promotional sweepstakes casino experience.

The Federal Trade Commission regulates these sites in Illinois as well as the rest of the United States. The Federal Communications Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) also regulate social and sweepstakes casinos. Winners in Illinois are required to pay Federal taxes on their winnings. Sites must provide winners with a Form 1099 to receive a prize worth $600 or more.

Daily Fantasy Sports Sites In Illinois

Daily Fantasy Sports sites operate in a bit of a grey area in Illinois. Illinois’s highest court ruled fantasy sports are games of skill as opposed to games of chance. In other words, the state’s highest court believes fantasy sports are not gambling. Popular DFS sites like FanDuel, DraftKings, and MonkeyKnifeFight operate within the state.

In 2015, then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion that DFS sites were, in fact, illegal in Illinois. Despite this legal opinion, popular DFS sites like FanDuel and DraftKings continued to operate in Illinois. In early 2020, the Illinois State Supreme Court, though, found Daily Fantasy Sports Sites to be games of skill, not a form of online gambling.

This means that these DFS sites should be in the clear. If the state legislature addressed the issue of DFS sites in either the Illinois Gambling Act or the Sports Wagering Act, there could be more clarity on the legality of DFS in Illinois. Instead, players continue to have access to DFS sites as a result of the Illinois State Supreme Court’s opinion.

Betting On Horse Races Online In Illinois

It is legal to wager on horse races on the web in Illinois. Illinois has allowed wagering on horse racing for years. Illinois residents are free to use betting apps from the industry’s leading horse racing wagering sites. These apps are intuitive and easy to use in all regards. You can place a wager on a horse race directly from your iOS or Android smartphone.

Those who do not want to visit an Illinois OTB location can gamble on the ponies with an app from:

  • TVG
  • BetAmerica
  • ExpressBet
  • TwinSpires

Each of these horse wagering websites provides convenient mobile wagering for those within Illinois’ borders.

Keep in mind that Illinois did not legalize online gambling until 2019, so the number of online horse wagering options will gradually expand in the years to come. If you are struggling to determine which horse racing wagering app is ideal for you, check out each app’s unique promotions and rewards. When in doubt, opt for the app with the cleanest interface that allows quick and easy horse racing wagering through a smooth user experience design.

How Do Commercial Casinos Work In Illinois?

Illinois became the second state in the US to legalize riverboat gambling under the Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990. There are about ten riverboat casinos in operation in Illinois. This has been the status quo for the last 20 years.

The Illinois Gambling Act set the stage for gambling expansion as part of the Rebuild Illinois program. Rebuild Illinois is a plan to allocate revenues to various infrastructure projects including transportation services and education.

To raise the revenue for these projects, in addition to legalizing sports betting in the state, the state authorized the construction of half a dozen new brick-and-mortar casinos. The legislation also authorized casino gambling at five horse tracks, two of which have not yet been built. The bill even permitted the implementation of 7,000 video gambling machines throughout Illinois. Furthermore, 5,000 sports wagering kiosks were installed at retail sites with lottery stations.

Together, the increased gaming activity in the state is anticipated to raise about $350 million in revenue annually.

The new brick-and-mortar commercial casinos noted above will be built throughout Chicago’s suburbs in:

  • Williamson County
  • The South Suburbs
  • Rockford
  • Danville
  • Waukegan

This legislation aims to encourage casinos to establish new operations throughout the state. Furthermore, reducing the tax rates on casinos helps boost foot traffic (leading to the collection of more taxes through increased patronage) and a meaningful increase in casino employment.

The legislation referenced above even reduced taxes on gross gaming revenue. The state now collects between 22.5% tax and 75.7% tax on wins resulting from gaming terminals. The casino’s total gaming revenue determines the specific tax rate. Table game winnings are now taxed between 15% and 35%.

Riverboat Casinos

The state legislature passed the Illinois Riverboat Gambling Act back in 1990. This Act required that the state’s casinos be strictly located on a river. Further, these vessels must set sail while gambling took place to be fully compliant with the law. The state granted ten licenses for riverboat casino gaming. Rivers Casino received the last of these licenses in 2011. Rivers Casino eventually became the state’s busiest riverboat casino, generating more than $400 million per year in gaming revenue.

Nearly a decade later, Rivers Casino received the first-ever land-based casino license in November of 2019. The Illinois Gaming Board gave approval, which empowered the Des Plaines casino to shift from its shallow waters to dry land. Riverboat casinos throughout Illinois are shifting toward brick-and-mortar casinos on dry land in accordance with the gambling expansion bill.

The bill’s language states the ten riverboat casinos are permitted to conduct business on land with the Illinois Gaming Board’s approval. However, a quarter-million-dollar fee must be paid to make the transition away from the water to land.

The decision to shift riverboat casinos onto land is likely to prove mutually beneficial. Riverboat casino owners and operators will ultimately receive more traffic and more revenue after transitioning to land. The state will receive more taxes as a result of the uptick in casino activity. Furthermore, the heightened demand created by the transition away from water to land will add that many more new jobs and related additional tax revenue for the state.

Games At Illinois Casinos

Step inside an Illinois land-based casino, and you will find an abundance of games. Between table games, slot machines, video poker, and beyond, there is a seemingly endless number of games to choose from. Examples of table games played at Illinois casinos include:

  • Blackjack
  • Roulette
  • Craps
  • EZ Bacc
  • Three card poker
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em
  • Baccarat
  • High Card Flush
  • Splitting Aces
  • Three Card Progressive

Though only a handful of bets were placed in-person at casino sportsbooks before the coronavirus pandemic, these sportsbooks will undoubtedly be quite busy when professional sports resume, possibly in the fall of 2020. Furthermore, the aforementioned gambling expansion bill also provides opportunities for horse racing wagering at racinos throughout Illinois.

How Do Tribal Casinos Work In Illinois?

There are no Indian casinos in Illinois. However, nearly half a dozen Indian tribes with respectable casino operations in nearby states are looking to obtain such casino licenses. If these tribal groups succeed, they will build multiple commercial casinos throughout the state in accordance with the Rebuild Illinois Law passed back in the summer of 2019. The tribes most likely to build Indian casinos in Illinois include:

  • The Seminole Tribe, the Poarch Creek Indians
  • The Ho-Chunk Nation
  • The Choctaw Nation
  • The Forest County Potawatomi

The Illinois State Lottery

Illinois’s State Lottery launched in July of 1974. The lottery started with the sale of “passive” games that took place with weekly drawings. The sales for the initial year reached nearly $130 million. The state introduced Pick-3 later to boost sales. Profits resulting from lottery play first went to the Illinois General Revenue Fund. Legislation passed into law in 1985 redirected profits toward the Common School Fund.

The Illinois Lottery introduced instant lottery games to the public in 2006, with the proceeds going to specific causes such as the Illinois Veterans, MS research, and the battle against breast cancer.

Can You Buy Lottery Tickets Online In Illinois?

Illinois Lottery internet sales commenced in the spring of 2012. This was the first-ever United States lottery to sell tickets on the web. Online lottery sales expanded to include daily lottery games. The state’s Lottery Control Board assists with the operation of the state lottery.

Establish an Illinois Lottery online account through the easy registration process, and you can play online. Account-holders can buy subscriptions to specific Illinois lottery games. Subscriptions allow players to play up to 25 games. Players can quickly and easily view their purchase history and win history through their web-based Illinois Lottery online account.

The Internet Lottery directly deposits winnings upwards of $600 into player accounts for prompt access. Illinois’s online lottery even provides players with email notifications following wins. Online lottery players can manage their personal spending limits with ease on the web.

Who Regulates Legal Gambling In Illinois?

Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois Gambling Act and the Sports Wagering Act into law in June 2019. Together, these laws made considerable changes to the state’s gambling laws. The Illinois Gaming Board oversees the nuances of these alterations and the entirety of gambling throughout the state. From casino gambling to sports wagering, daily fantasy sports, and beyond, the Illinois Gaming Board provides essential oversight to guarantee each of these games’ integrity.

The Illinois Gaming Board closely monitors developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, providing the public and licensees with updates as time progresses. The Governor appoints the five members of the Board and the State Senate confirms the appointments. The Board’s goal is to oversee compliance with regulations and to ensure tax compliance.

Illinois Gambling Laws – FAQ

Is gambling at Illinois casinos legal? 

Yes. Under the Illinois gambling laws, you can legally gamble at traditional brick-and-mortar casinos throughout the state. Visit these casinos, and you will find a wide array of games, including video poker, slot machines, and more.

Is online gambling legal in Illinois? 

Yes, but only to an extent. Online poker and other online casino games are illegal in Illinois. However, it is legal to wager on horse racing in Illinois when using the web. Online sports gambling and daily fantasy sports are also perfectly legal in Illinois.

How can I be sure that Illinois casino games are not rigged?

The Illinois Gaming Board exists to ensure the state’s casino games are fair. This group tests Illinois casino games with regularity to ensure they are not rigged.

How old do I have to be to gamble at Illinois casinos?

You must be at least 21 years of age to gamble at Illinois casinos. Furthermore, you must be at least 21 years of age to gamble at bars’ video poker machines. However, horse racing and daily fantasy sports have an age minimum of only 18.

About the Author

Amber Hoffman

Amber Hoffman is Managing Editor of Midwest Sports Fans. A recovering attorney, she's spent almost a decade developing and managing websites and writing for a variety of industries. Amber became a Cubs fan after living a handful of blocks from Wrigley Field, much to the chagrin of her Mets-loving family and Red Sox-loving husband. Amber writes for a number of online sites including the food and lifestyle site Food And Drink Destinations.