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. 

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    Slots.lv Casino

    Since 2013, this online casino has offered an ideal gambling experience complete with over 160 video and classic slots. Their other contributions include typical casino fare like blackjack, baccarat, craps, and both American and European roulette. Although they do not have live dealer games, Slots.lv does have generous bonuses.

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Best Illinois Online Casinos List 2022

Wild Casino - $1000 Signup Bonus

Wild Casino is among the favorites for online gamblers due to its large selection of gaming options. Licensed by the Panama Gaming Commision, Wild Casino has earned a reputation for its slick, modern user interface, and for being among the fastest paying online casino destinations in the industry.

Wild Casino has six major types of gaming when you land on its website - online slots, table games, online blackjack, live dealer casino games, video poker, and specialty games. Each of these tabs are populated with a whole array of games, all of which are open to US residents, and can be bankrolled through multiple payment methods, including cryptocurrency.

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Ignition Casino is a relative newcomer to the online gaming space, having only been established in 2016. It is also one of the fastest growing casinos, having faced very few teething issues when trying to match up to the bigger names in the industry.

Ignition’s main draw is that it is a straightforward and reliable option that is beginner-friendly; the layout is well thought out on all devices, creating a profile and making a deposit is simple, and the collection of games has increased well past 300, without any glitches in essential features like round-the-clock customer support.

It has been baby steps for Ignition so far, but we can see them climbing into the top echelons of online gambling.

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Bovada is a multi-purpose online gaming destination open to gambling enthusiasts in Illinois. It is one of the long-standing and popular destinations for online casino gaming and poker games, and was purchased by Ignition in 2016. Both Bovada and Ignition operate on the same software platform, although the latter was a relatively unknown entity when the deal took place.

It did result in a bit of confusion for long-term Bovada users, but the gaming experience on the site has remained much the same since the takeover. There is plenty to choose from for gamblers, including live dealer poker games, sports betting and horse race betting - all with the use of just one account. This sets Bovada apart from most casino-only offerings.

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The Cafe Casino experience offers you plenty of the same pros as the other casinos on this list - easy deposits, a good variety of casino games, and a solid poker experience.

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Laws for Online Gambling in Illinois

Laws and Statutes 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.

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.

In that sense, it is a slight loophole: if you’re based in Illinois, you can access offshore online casino sites who 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. Although, under section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code, websites that allow online gambling themselves are considered illegal.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In essence, this is a completely legal way of eventually making real money. The fascinating bit about this form of gambling online is that the sweepstakes model is completely legal in all states of the USA.

So if you’re looking for a way around the complex laws of online gambling in Illinois, finding a sweepstakes casino is a fully legal way of making actual money, albeit with some minor resistance in the form of buying up virtual currencies and taking a small cut on your potential winnings.

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 money Sweepstakes gambling in Illinois
As of May 2022, deemed illegal and doesn’t come with protections Legal 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 owners Can be accessed from any location in the United States; no laws related to residency
Requires real money to be deposited in offshore accounts Can 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 budget Virtual 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 way Most sweepstakes casinos will give you free virtual currency to continue playing if you write to them

Other Forms of Legal Gambling in 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.

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. Over the last decade or so, online gambling in Illinois has also opened up to horse racing, with some big-name sportsbooks opening 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

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.

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.

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.

History of Legal Gambling in Illinois

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

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.

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. Sweepstakes casinos are also a part of Illinois’ online gambling culture. 

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. 

Top Illinois Land-Based Casinos

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

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.