Gambling in Illinois
As we begin our journey into a full in-depth analysis of online gambling in the state of Illinois, its prudent to analyze the legal requirements for each gambling type and how it is regulated
Illinois gambling laws currently permit or regulate on the following:
- Casino Games – Riverboat Casinos and Land-Based Casinos are both legal in Illinois. No Tribal Casinos are present in Illinois.
- Sports Betting – Other than Horse Betting since the 1920’s & Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), betting on sports is still to come to fruition in the state of Illinois. Illinois lawmakers are set to consider sports betting bills for the first time in fall of 2018.
- Online Gambling – Online Betting is a mix in Illinois. Whilst Illinois gambling revenue profited greatly from the state being a pioneer to adopt online lottery tickets, and to adopt online horse betting they have since specifically outlawed betting online in online casinos for the time being.
- Live Poker – Illinois offers plenty of choice as many casinos offer poker rooms. Note – Social poker ‘home’ games are not legal in the Prairie State.
- Online Poker – Not yet legal.
- Lottery Betting – A popular State Lottery exists in Illinois (the first state lottery to go online in the nation back in 2001) plus access to inter-State jackpot lottery games.
- Charitable Gambling – Illinois State Law allows for charitable gaming which includes keno, raffles and bingo.
Sports Betting in Illinois
Legal Sports Betting in Illinois is not yet available. Whilst betting on horses is fully legal and has been so for quite some time, Illinois Sports Betting is not, although we anticipate the state legislators will allow some form of legalized Illinois sports betting sometime later in the fall of 2018 or perhaps in spring of 2019.
After the landmark May 2018 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalizing sports betting, thus allowing all states (including Illinois), to make up their own minds on the legalization of sports betting, states legislatures nationwide are debating and ruling on what form/s it may take upon the implementation of legal sports betting at the state level.
Earlier in 2018, two pieces of sports betting legislation on the legalization of sports betting made their way into the Illinois State Legislature to prepare the groundwork for introducing sports betting to the state’s bricks-and-mortar, land-based casinos.
Debate on the sports betting legalization bills is anticipated to begin in the fall 2018 session of the Illinois State Legislature.
However, as the bills eventually become instituted into state law, you should be able to bet on sports anywhere within the state of Illinois. Interestingly, Illinois’s bills have sections that specifically relative to the legalization of online gambling in general.
Illinois Sports Betting Online
More so than almost any other state, the question of ‘is online gambling legal? appears set to be answered in the affirmative much earlier rather than later with inclusion of online betting in the Illinois State Sports Betting Laws. Watch this space for details as they develop.
Casino Gambling in Illinois
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.
Illinois Land-Based and Riverboat Casinos
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.
A Bill has been presented to the Illinois State Legislature to expand Illinois’ laws to incorporate land-based Casinos, thereby adopting a further 6 land-based casinos.
Illinois Online Casinos
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
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.
Legal Gambling Age in Illinois
Legal Ages for different forms of gambling in Illinois are;
- Lottery – 18
- Horcse Racing – 18
- Casinos – 21
- Gambling – 21
Horse Racing Betting in Illinois
Horse Racing Betting is legal (course/track side, off-track betting and online betting) for all residents of the state of Illinois (over the age of 18).
Track Side / Off Track Betting (OTB) in Illinois
Track Side – Illinois is home to 6 live racing venues that accept wagers on horse races. Horse racing in the state is regulated by Illinois Racing Board and is administered under the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Off Track Betting (OTB) – There are an excellent 37 OTB parlors in Illinois for the state’s residents to gamble on horse racing.
Online Horse Racing Betting in Illinois
All major horse racing online betting sites all accept customers over the age of 18 from Illinois and offer wagering on races in Illinois, elsewhere throughout the U.S.A, and horse race betting on a global scale on races all around the world are all currently available.
Fantasy Sports Laws in Illinois
Daily Fantasy Sports betting has long been exempted from US federal legislation as it is widely considered to be a contest of skill, rather than one of random chance.
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are permitted in Illinois even though the legal status of the games has never been affirmed in the positive by legislation.
There appears to be no problem for DFS players who want to take part in contests in Illinois, despite the state attorney general saying it is illegal gambling under state law. The big major operators both accept players from Illinois.
How DFS Works
DFS betting is unique of sports betting in comparison to traditional ‘straight’ sports betting. In a DFS league, you keep to a virtual salary cap which is then used for you to ‘spend’ and draft players into your DFS team.
Using the example of an NFL DFS league for example;
The idea is to assemble a team that amasses the most touchdowns, yards gained and other key statistics each week or over the season. In an NFL DFS league, participants can choose a new fantasy NFL team each week: they invest a fixed amount of (imaginary) money, spending from that budget on a quarterback, running backs, receivers, defensive linemen, linebackers, tight ends etc., with each player coming with their own price tag, set internally by the fantasy sports businesses.
For example, a superstar quarterback like Tom Brady of the New England Patriots will potentially cost a lot more than a struggling DeShone Kizer of the Cleveland Browns.
By selecting and ‘paying’ for Tom Brady will potentially leave a DFS contestant with much less money to spend on other quality players for their fantasy team.
Winners of the largest contests offered by the major companies may possibly be paid $1 million or more each week during the NFL regular season.
The best DFS players are great ‘budget balancers’. If you’ve ever watched and loved the hit movie ‘Moneyball’, you’ll love DFS.
DFS is offered across all major sports leagues.
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.
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 roulette (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, it is safest to presume that online poker is still illegal in Illinois. However, as soon as we hear different, we’ll let you know.
eSports Betting in Illinois
With the U.S. Federal Supreme Court in May 2018 ruling in favor of legalizing sports betting, it seems as if in the near future, eSports betting will lead the way as it has done in some other U.S. states as a form of sports betting legislation ‘lubricant’ in Illinois.
eSports has effectively transformed highest-level of video game play into a full-time professional sport. The very best players are signing multi-million-dollar contracts with big budget professional teams. eSports are mostly played in the team format in tournament play.
The electronic games themselves are roughly equivalent to different sports types. For example, in eSports, the games CS:GO, Dota 2 and Overwatch are equivalent to, say, NHL, NFL and MLB. eSports is the overarching concept, while the different electronic game types are equivalent to the different types of sports.
Betting on eSports is now huge. International sportsbooks offer a range of betting markets across all major eSports tournaments and formats, and the global amounts bet on eSports are growing exponentially each year.
With the Global $100 billion revenue threshold mark in 2018 about to be crossed, eSports is the highest-level competition in gaming today, with millions of fanatical fans across the globe, and the best players in the world taking part.
History of 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.
Fall 2018/Spring 2019? – Given Illinois’ State Legislature tabling a debate on online sports betting in the fall of 2018, it seems only a matter of time until online casinos and fully legalized sports betting is available to all Illinois residents.