In 2012, Illinois became a dream location for bettors that enjoy electronic gaming, approving the implementation of video poker machines and slot machines all over the state. For bettors that enjoy other forms of gambling such as table games and poker, there are also options available thanks to riverboat gambling.

Of course, not everything is great for bettors in Illinois. Laws restricting internet bookmaking leave players feeling unsure about online gaming, which is really the only option that residents have if they want to place bets on sporting events as no legal options are offered anywhere in the state.

Best Betting Sites for Illinois

Gaming Laws in Illinois

Gaming in Illinois changed in a big way in 2012 with the approval of the Video Gaming Act that allowed video gambling in bars, truck stops, and restaurants around the state. These video gambling devices include electronic games such as video poker and slot machines.

After starting up with a modest 65 establishments and 280 machines back in 2012, video gambling has skyrocketed in recent years. Just two years after the passing of the law, Illinois had roughly 4500 establishments statewide that offered video gaming with over 18,000 video poker and slot machines in play across those locations. These machines have boosted revenue across the state for cities and for bar and restaurant owners.

Riverboat Gambling

In 1990, the Riverboat Gambling Act was passed in Illinois. This authorized ten licenses throughout the state for riverboats to function as full-fledged casinos. The law did prohibit authorization of any riverboat gambling casino within a county that had a population of over three million, such as Cook County, to help keep Chicago's horse-racing industry popular.

Per the original law, these riverboats actually had to cruise to keep these games legal. But in 1999, the law was changed to allow for boats to permanently moor without cruising.

Sports Betting in Illinois

Illinois is one of the strictest states in the United States when it comes to laws against sports betting. Section 28-1 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes states that a person commits “gambling” when he or she “knowingly makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or selection”. “Gambling” outside of approved areas is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

Online Sportsbooks

Laws against gambling and betting are common in most states, but what makes Illinois particularly strict is that it is one of eight states that specifically mentions online gambling in its laws. The language of the law is hazy and speaks specifically about the illegality of running a bookmaking operation or pool online as opposed to participating in one.

To date, no charges have been brought against any players for betting online, so this isn't a law that is being actively enforced. Bettors should still familiarize themselves with specific laws in their county before getting into online betting, and be sure to find an offshore book that will accept players from Illinois as some will not due to these laws being in place. Illinois has no control over international sports betting sites, but some choose to avoid the risk all the same.

Poker and Casino in Illinois

Illinois is one of the 20 states in the United States that have no tribal gaming casinos. Fortunately for gamblers in the state, there are 10 riverboat casinos that offer players the chance to play all of their favorite casino games including slot machines, table games and poker. These casinos are no longer required to move either, so players can come and go as they please instead of worrying about scheduling trips around when the riverboat will be docked.

Online Poker

As mentioned in the sports section, internet gambling is mentioned by law in that it is prohibited for institutions to offer online gambling in the state of Illinois. Poker is covered as a form of illegal gambling away from approved riverboats under the definition that a player “knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value.”

This hasn't stopped players from playing poker at online poker rooms that still accept American players, and to date no players have been punished or arrested for doing so. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has been negotiating to legalize online poker in the state of Illinois, but this process still has a long way to go before it could eventually be put into law.

Other Gaming Options in Illinois

Horse racing in Illinois took a huge hit from a civil judgment against the state's harness tracks back in 2014. Only 150 live days of horse racing were scheduled for 2015, down from 189 in 2014.


The Illinois Lottery was formed on July 1, 1974 back when lotteries in the United States were limited to the Northeast and Midwest. Local lotteries as well as interstate lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions are offered in the state. In 2009, Illinois approved the Internet Pilot Program, and in 2012 became the first state to roll out internet lottery sales for adults within state limits.