Online Gambling in Illinois: Best Casinos and Betting

Gambling has been a big part of Illinois’ identity for decades - some say centuries - now. Horse racing was among the early forms of gambling in the state, which then went on to become the first one in the United States to legislate a state lottery.

Since then, gambling has evolved and, quite naturally, picked up an online presence. We’ll go in-depth into all possible avenues involving online gambling in Illinois: the platforms you can use, the legality of them, the traditional and off-beat gambling options available to bettors, and a bit of history on the evolution of online gambling in Illinois. 

Laws for Online Gambling in Illinois

As of May 2022, online gambling in Illinois is still illegal. Although sports betting legalization has gone through with encouraging speed in Illinois, as it has in many other states across the USA, online gambling is still largely operating in a gray area.

  • Illinois Definition of Gambling: We say it’s a gray area because while the Illinois Compiled Statutes (Sec. 720 5/28-1) outline the definition of gambling, and the respective punitive measures for those who engage in gambling, they haven’t exactly made concrete pronouncements about residents of Illinois taking part in online gambling.
  • IL Online Casino Gambling: In that sense, it is a slight loophole: if you’re based in Illinois, you can access offshore online casino sites that accept US residents, such as the platforms listed above. There is nothing in the law that specifically points to criminality if you participate in online gambling at these offshore platforms.
  • Online Gambling Sites are Illegal: Gambling sites are illegal, though. Under section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code, websites that allow online gambling themselves are considered illegal.
  • No Legal Protection: With that being said, the downside for you is a potential lack of protection against fraud, no real legal recourse if you have other issues and the small but real possibility of running into bad-faith actors who aren’t reviewed or recognized by the prominent voices of the gambling industry.
  • Legalization of Illinois Online Gambling: Several attempts to completely legalize online gambling have faced hurdles over the last few years, and lobbyists from the industry are continually pushing for it to pass through the senate every year.

What Online Gambling is Banned in Illinois?

As things stand, gambling in Illinois is only legal in sanctioned land-based casinos, several riverboat casinos (legal since the Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990), some sports betting and daily fantasy online platforms, and at racetracks.

Lotteries and bingo are also allowed, as is pari-mutuel betting, as long as you are above the age of 18. The minimum age to play at casinos is 21.

Illinois Sports Betting

Following the incorporation of the 1992 Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), sports betting was, more or less, made illegal all across the United States by Federal Law, barring some forms of state lotteries and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

  • PASPA Abolished: Following a challenge of PASPA by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2011, a long-winding battle to legalize sports betting began, which culminated in 2018. That landmark culmination, of course, was when the Supreme Court struck down the federal law governing sports betting, paving the way for many states to embrace sports betting both online and offline.
  • Sports Betting Legalized: The State of Illinois was one of these states, signing S960 into law in June 2019 and legalizing in-person betting, about a year before online sports betting was brought into law as well. This effectively made it completely safe and legal for state residents to sign up for sports betting.
  • Illinois Land-Based Sportsbooks: Although online betting required in-person registration until late 2021, that has been struck down as well. As of now, many sportsbooks are open to residents of Illinois - governed by the Illinois Gaming Board - and the laws are now allowing betting on in-state college sports as well. In essence, sports betting has fully arrived in Illinois.

Illinois sports betting takes place at select brick-and-mortar casinos throughout the state. Here is a list of the best land-based casinos in Illinois. 

Top Illinois Land-Based Casinos

Illinois Casino NameCityGambling Options
Argosy Casino AltonAlton746 slots, 12 gaming tables
Hollywood CasinoAurora1000 slots, 34 table games, poker room
Par-A-Dice Hotel CasinoEast Peoria872 slots, 29 table games
Casino QueenEast Saint Louis980 slots, 27 table games
Grand Victoria CasinoElgin1088 slots, 42 table games
Harrah's Joliet CasinoJoliet838 slots, 23 table games
Hollywood CasinoJoliet1100 slots, 26 table games
Harrah's Metropolis CasinoMetropolis826 slots, 30 table games, poker room
Rivers Casino Des PlainesDes Plaines983 slots, 58 table games, sportsbook
Hard Rock Casino RockfordRockford625 slots, 55 table games, electronic table games
Bally's Quad Cities CasinoRock Island847 slots, 30 table games, poker room

Rivers Casino Des Plaines

  • Location: 3000 S River Rd, Des Plaines, IL 60018, United States
  • Gaming options: Slots, Video Poker, Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Mini Baccarat, Baccarat, Three Card Poker, Pai Gow Poker, Spanish 21, Texas Hold'em Bonus, Mississippi Stud, Sports Book

Rockford Casino by Hard Rock (temporary location)

  • Location: 610 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, IL, 61107, United States
  • Gaming options: 625 ‘classic and trendy’ slots, interblock electronic table games

Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel (previously Jumer’s)

  • Location: 777 Bally Blvd, Rock Island, IL 61201, United States
  • Gaming options: Slots, Video Poker, Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Three-Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, Poker

Other Forms of Legal Gambling in Illinois

Illinois Horse Racing

Horse racing is a big draw in Illinois, and an industry that comes with a significant history. It is also completely legal to engage in gambling on horse racing in Illinois, with a minimum wager requirement generally accepted as $2, unless specified otherwise.

  • Illinois Pari-Mutuel Wagering: You can bet at the tracks in Illinois, in one of the betting windows on site. This is the traditional, time-tested way of engaging in racing.
  • Online Racebooks: Over the last decade or so, online gambling in Illinois has also opened up to horse racing, with some big-name sportsbooks Sportsbook themselves up for wagers from Illinois residents. This is generally the best way to engage in horse racing bets if you do not live close to a track or near an off-site parlor.  

Daily Fantasy Sports

Illinois allows residents to play daily fantasy sports, though it hasn't always been that way. 

  • 2015 Daily Fantasy Sports Ban: In April 2020, a contentious ruling made by the state’s attorney general in 2015 was brushed aside by Supreme Court Judge Burke. While the 2015 pronouncement implicitly said that daily fantasy sports were a game of chance - ergo, gambling - based on some technicalities, the impact of it was only felt by smaller sportsbooks, while big companies in the space continued to offer their DFS platforms to Illinois residents.
  • DFS Ban Struck Down: In 2020, Judge Burke categorically stated that DFS has enough elements to it - particularly in one-on-one contests - for it to be classified as a game of skill based on several mathematical factors. So, as of now, there is no gray area as long as it comes to daily fantasy sports, and you can engage with big sportsbooks and small ones. All of it ties in perfectly with the legalization of sports betting as well.

Illinois State Lottery

The Illinois state runs its own lottery and has done so for a few decades now. This is fully sanctioned and legal, and now has an online presence as well. You can engage in classic lottery formats like Powerball, Pick 3, and Lucky Day Lotto.

Timeline of Illinois Lottery Gambling

  • July 1974: Illinois legalized the state lottery. 
  • September 1996: Illinois joined the Mega Millions multistate lottery association.
  • January 2010: Illinois joined the Powerball multistate lottery association.

Sweepstakes Casinos

While real money gambling in online casinos is not a regulated, sanctioned, or legal reality in Illinois at the moment, there is the option of sweepstakes casinos, which simulate real money gambling and can even match up, in a roundabout way.

  • How Sweepstakes Casinos Work: Fundamentally, there is only one main difference between regular gambling in an online casino and a sweepstakes casino. While in the former you sign up, deposit money and buy chips to go about your business, the sweepstakes casinos offer virtual currency in the form of sweepstakes coins.
  • Sweepstakes Coins: Generally, you sign up and get a free bonus of this virtual currency, or sweepstakes coins, and you can begin playing in casinos and earn more of them as you go along, building up your pot. However, this is one form of sweepstakes gaming.
  • Alternate Currency Model: In the other model, you can pay up to buy this virtual currency, and you get a free amount of another form of currency; the latter, as you build up your pot, can be traded for either real money or prizes, depending on the platform you’re using.
  • Are Sweepstakes Casinos Legal?: At first glance, this is a legal way of eventually making real money. The fascinating bit about this form of gambling online is that the sweepstakes model is legal in certain US states.
  • Sweepstakes Casinos Confuse Some People: The difference in terminology between the two currencies you get in a sweepstakes casino is often easy to figure out: you’ll have names for the valued currency which are distinct from the free virtual currency, which are generally called something like “gold coins”, and are only a vehicle for you to participate in the various gaming opportunities that a sweepstakes platform will offer you.

Key Differences Between Real Money Casinos and Sweepstakes Casinos in Illinois

Online gambling in Illinois with real moneySweepstakes gambling in Illinois
As of May 2022, deemed illegal and doesn’t come with protectionsLegal in all states, recognized by the Illinois Gaming Board
Only offshore online casinos that operate for Illinois residents can be used; participation completely at the discretion of the platform ownersCan be accessed from any location in the United States; no laws related to residency
Requires real money to be deposited in offshore accountsCan be played either with or without real money; legal recourse available in case of any trouble
Requires some level of expertise and experience; usually no room to learn within your budgetVirtual currencies drive this engine and you can learn on your own time without any financial damage
Beyond sign-up bonuses with stringent playthrough rules, not a lot of freebies come your wayMost sweepstakes casinos will give you free virtual currency to continue playing if you write to them

History of Legal Gambling in Illinois

While the presence of lotteries and racetrack bets offered gambling avenues for decades in Illinois - it was the 9th state to legislate a state lottery - Illinois has a complicated gambling history.

  • Illinois Legalized Lottery Betting: In 1974, Illinois became the ninth US state to legalize a state lottery. Trivia: New Hampshire was the 1st back in 1964. 
  • Riverboat Gambling Act: The most significant move for legal gambling in Illinois came in 1990, when it became the second state to adapt the Riverboat Gambling Act, paving the way for riverboat casinos. 
  • How Riverboat Casinos Work: This was fairly straightforward - if your casino was established in the waters, it was deemed legal. To get around this, some casinos even constructed shallow waters around their buildings. Thus was born the casino culture in Illinois, which led to new paths such as the legalization of lottery terminals, and most recently, land-based casinos.
  • Video Gaming Terminals: Video gaming terminals (VGTs) are similar to video lottery terminals (VLTs) in other states. In 2012, Illinois legalized VGTs, which are found in bars and restaurants throughout the state. 
  • Illinois Online Sports Betting: With the rapid development of online gaming and tech, it was inevitable that a lot of these gaming options would move online. As of now, you can play the state lottery online, daily fantasy sports, place bets on sporting events - including college sports - and access horse racing online. 

For now, you can indulge in online gambling in Illinois through these avenues, while the full legalization of gambling in online casinos could yet take a while; as many as three senate bills have attempted to bring it home between 2013 and 2018, but have fallen short due to reasons like bureaucracy, and in some cases not being able to get through the House of Representatives. 

    Online Gambling Illinois FAQ

    Can I gamble online in Illinois?

    Online gambling is currently illegal in Illinois, in that there are no specific laws or statues by which it is specifically made legal. While the operation of online casinos in Illinois is illegal, as per Section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code, there are no specific laws about the legality of playing at online casinos as a resident of Illinois.

    What gambling sites are legal in Illinois?

    Section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code forbids any online casinos from being operated within Illinois. However, there are many offshore gambling sites that can be accessed from Illinois. While these casinos are not based in the United States, many of them are  legitimate, licensed entities that must operate within the laws and regulations of their licensor country.

    Can you gamble at home in Illinois?

    According to Illinois law, any sort of real money gambling, no matter where it's done in the state, is illegal. Real money gambling is considered a Class A misdemeanor, and carries a prison sentence of up to two years. Despite being illegal, home-based gambling is unlikely to be prosecuted in Illinois.

    Can you gamble online at 18 in Illinois?

    Yes, but Illinois players will be gambling at offshore online casinos. These exist in a legal gray area. While you won't be fined or prosecuted for playing online, you won't have the legal protections or consumer protections that players in legal online casino states have. We recommend that Illinois players avoid online casinos. 

    When can I gamble online in Illinois?

    Online casino gambling exists 24/7 in Illinois, but it's at offshore gambling sites that don't offer legal protections to players. We recommend avoiding Illinois online casinos until the state legislature regulates online gambling. 

    When will Illinois online casinos launch?

    Licensed Illinois online casinos aren't likely to launch anytime soon. When Illinois legalized land-based sports betting, that was the best chance for legal IL online gambling to pass.

    Since it didn't happen, players can expect land-based casinos to block any online casino initiatives. They want players to visit their brick-and-mortar venues, which are more profitable due to players needing hotel rooms and restaurants. 

    What forms of legal gambling does Illinois have?

    Illinois has 11 licensed land-based casinos. It also has pari-mutuel betting at 5 horse tracks, plus 21 off-track betting facilities (OTBs). Illinois also has charitable bingo centers in places live Granity City, Creve Coeur, and Mount Zion.

    The state's bars and restaurants also can house a limited number of video lottery terminals (VLTs), if the city in which they're located legalize such gambling. 

    Illinois doesn't have legal online casinos or poker sites, though. 

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