Online Gambling in Illinois: An Expert Guide

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Gambling in Illinois

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Our Guide to Online Gambling in Illinois

In 2019, Illinois comprehensively expanded gambling options for its residents. The sixth largest of the United States, Illinois now offers gamblers land-based full-service casinos, pari-mutuel horse track wagering, and sports betting – both online and in-person.

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Illinois Online Gambling FAQ

Illinois Gambling Laws

Illinois offers numerous gambling options to its residents. The lottery, pari-mutuel horse racing, and video gaming terminals are still available, but now bettors can visit full-service casinos with sportsbooks or place wagers on sporting events online from their own homes. However, online casinos and online poker remain unregulated.

Illinois Gambling Act

A comprehensive overhaul of Illinois’ gambling laws, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the 2019 Illinois Gambling Act.

Under the act, Illinois allowed its riverboat casinos to move on to dry land, and offered licensing for new casinos. New laws also opened the state to legal sports betting, with sportsbooks being installed at some of Illinois’ ten current casinos. Online sports wagering is also legal, with major operators such as William Hill and FanDuel offering betting apps.

Riverboat Gambling Act

(230 ILCS 10/3) (from Ch. 120, par. 2403)

3. Gambling Authorized.

(c) Riverboat gambling conducted pursuant to this Act may be authorized upon any water within the State of Illinois or any water other than Lake Michigan which constitutes a boundary of the State of Illinois… A licensee may conduct riverboat gambling authorized under this Act regardless of whether it conducts excursion cruises. A licensee may permit the continuous ingress and egress of passengers for the purpose of gambling.

Native American Gaming Compact Act

(230 ILCS 35/5) 

5. General Assembly approval of Native American gaming compacts.

“(a) Before the Governor may enter into a compact with a Native American tribe authorizing the Native American tribe to conduct gambling in Illinois, the Governor must submit a request for authority to enter into the compact to the General Assembly. The Governor must include with that submission a copy of the proposed compact.

(b) If the General Assembly enacts legislation authorizing the Governor to enter into the compact within 30 session days after the submission of the request by the Governor to the General Assembly under subsection (a), the Governor may enter into the compact. If the General Assembly does not enact legislation authorizing the Governor to enter into the compact within 30 session days after the submission of the request by the Governor to the General Assembly under subsection (a), the Governor may not enter into the compact.

Video Gambling Act

(230 ILCS 40/5)

5. Definitions. As used in this Act:

“‘Video gaming terminal’ means any electronic video game machine that, upon insertion of cash, electronic cards or vouchers, or any combination thereof, is available to play or simulate the play of a video game, including but not limited to video poker, line up, and blackjack, as authorized by the Board utilizing a video display and microprocessors in which the player may receive free games or credits that can be redeemed for cash.

The term does not include a machine that directly dispenses coins, cash, or tokens or is for amusement purposes only.

“Licensed establishment” means any licensed retail establishment where alcoholic liquor is drawn, poured, mixed, or otherwise served for consumption on the premises, whether the establishment operates on a nonprofit or for-profit basis. “Licensed establishment” includes any such establishment that has a contractual relationship with an inter-track wagering location licensee licensed under the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975, provided any contractual relationship shall not include any transfer or offer of revenue from the operation of video gaming under this Act to any licensee licensed under the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975.”

Charitable Games Act

(230 ILCS 30/2) (from Ch. 120, par. 1122)

“2. Definitions. For purposes of this Act, the following definitions apply:

“Charitable games” means the 14 games of chance involving cards, dice, wheels, random selection of numbers, and gambling tickets which may be conducted at charitable games events listed as follows: roulette, blackjack, poker, pull tabs, craps, bang, beat the dealer, big six, gin rummy, five card stud poker, chuck-a-luck, keno, hold-em poker, and merchandise wheel.

“Charitable games event” or “event” means the type of fundraising event authorized by the Act at which participants pay to play charitable games for the chance of winning cash or noncash prizes.”

Riverboat Casinos in Illinois

Illinois has ten riverboat casinos. Some, like Rivers Casino in Des Plaines also operate on dry land.

Neighboring Indiana passed laws to allow its riverboat casinos to move inland as brick-and-mortar casinos, which allow for more gaming space, convention halls, live concert venues, and other attractions. The Indiana cities of Gary and Hammond are suburbs of Chicago, meaning Indiana’s land-based casinos compete directly with Illinois casinos.

That is why Illinois has allowed Rivers Casino to move onto dry land, with other casinos to be built in the future: so players could continue to play their favorite table games without losing revenue to other states.

Video Gaming Terminals

Illinois has a robust video lottery terminal (VGT) industry. A bar, restaurant, truck stop, or private club only needs a license from the Illinois Gaming Board to install VGTs in their establishment.

Licensed VGTs are all interconnected through a central system and produce significant revenues for the state.

Pari-Mutuel Horse Racing

There are three operational horse racing tracks in Illinois: Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Center outside Chicago and Fairmount Park across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. These three tracks also offer simulcasted off-track betting (OTB).

There is an additional OTB site in the Quad Cities where you can wager on races from around the U.S. Three Illinois counties also offer pari-mutuel horse racing as part of their annual county fair.

Future Partnership with Sports Franchises

Chicago has five franchises amongst the big four American sports leagues. The Cubs have been open in their plan to incorporate a live sportsbook into historic Wrigley Field. Partnering with DraftKings, the Cubs hope to capitalize on Illinois’ recent embrace of gambling.

Their plan may also offer a model for other teams and leagues to include wagering in their game-day offerings.

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