For some, the topic of gambling in Illinois might evoke thoughts of Al Capone and organized crime. But in truth, Illinois has had a long history of legal gambling.
The state recently moved to considerably expand the number of places, methods and types of gambling thanks to the 2019 Illinois Gambling Act.
The new law legalizes sports betting in physical sportsbooks and online. The sportsbooks will be allowed in casinos, racetracks and within proximity to existing sports venues.
Also authorized are new sports betting kiosks at licensed locations where limited forms of sports betting will be allowed.
In other words, there are already various ways to gamble in Illinois, and more are coming soon. Here’s an overview of the gambling types currently available in Illinois, as well as what’s to come.
The new Illinois Gambling Act of 2019 allows online sports betting, although it does not legalize other types of online casino games or online poker.
Since 2012, the Illinois Lottery has provided residents and visitors to play Powerball, Mega Millions and other games from their computers or mobile devices.
It is possible to bet on horse racing online in Illinois as well, either at the state’s three horse tracks or at two dozen off-track betting (OTB) locations.
TVG is available in Illinois for online horse betting.
Illinois also allows daily fantasy sports (DFS).
Regarding other available types of online gambling, those in Illinois can play social casino games.
Another option is Chumba Casino, a sweepstakes site offering a variety of online slot games that permits play from Illinois.
The site employs a dual-currency system involving “gold coins” that can be purchased and “sweeps coins,” which players can only obtain as a bonus or via various promotions.
Online poker players have similar social options like Zynga or the World Series of Poker.
Global Poker, the sister site to Chumba Casino, also provides a similar dual-currency loophole to be considered a sweepstakes site, thereby enabling the operator to allow players in Illinois and elsewhere in the US to play.
Illinois is a gambling-friendly state and offers many options for those who love to play.
Whether you’re a poker pro, love to hit the horse tracks, or are new to casino games, here’s our full guide.
The state’s 10 riverboat casinos all feature slot machines and table games. Here’s a list of Illinois casinos and where they are located:
All 10 have a variety of slots, including reel slots and progressive slots, plus video poker.
Depending on where you go, table games include:
Some (not all) riverboat casinos have poker rooms as well.
Illinois law does not permit casinos to remain open 24 hours, which means most will close their doors for two to four hours each day during the early morning.
The Illinois Gambling Act authorizes six additional casinos to be built in Illinois in the following locations:
The new law also allows the riverboat casinos to finally become land-based casinos after paying a fee and obtaining regulators’ approval to do so.
The existing casinos will be allowed to expand their operations from 1,200 to 2,000 “gaming positions” should they desire, with such expansion also requiring the payment of a position fee for every added position.
Meanwhile, the new Chicago “mega-casino” will be much bigger, with 4,000 gaming positions.
Illinois currently has three horse racetracks:
There are 24 off-track betting locations at present, with the most recent update to the Illinois Horse Racing Act that allows for 19 more. All are operated under the auspices of one of the three in-state tracks.
Here are those OTB sites, arranged by city:
The minimum age to wager on horse racing in Illinois is 18 years. The minimum bet is $2, aside from some exotic wagers where the minimum is $1.
Both the Fairmount Park Racetrack and Hawthorne Race Course are moving forward to expand their offerings and become full “racinos” with slots and table games. However, Arlington Park owners Churchill Downs caused a stir by announcing it would not be pursuing a casino license after balking at what it believes to be a burdensome tax requirement on revenue generated from the casino games. The news has thrown the famed race track’s future in doubt, with a few interested groups starting to emerge, expressing an interest in purchasing the property from Churchill Downs.
Online horse race betting is also available in Illinois via the state’s racetracks and OTB locations.
The Illinois Gambling Act has legalized sports betting in the state, both at physical sportsbooks and online.
The Illinois Gaming Board oversees sports betting at the casinos, racetracks, and sports venues. At present, seven master sports betting licenses have been issued to casinos across the state, with Rivers Casino taking the first wagers on March 9th.
Sports venues with a capacity of 17,000 or more will be eligible to apply for licenses to permit live and online sports betting within a five-block radius.
That means venues – like the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison (capacity 78,000), the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet (47,000) and Chicago’s Soldier Field (61,500), Wrigley Field (41,649) and the United Center (23,500) – could all potentially apply for licenses along with several other venues.
However, a limit of seven licenses for sports venues is available.
The lottery vendors or sports betting kiosks will be regulated separately by the Illinois Lottery. They will offer a limited range of wagering options for sports bettors consisting of “parlay wagers and fixed-odds parlay wagers” only.
The new law will allow for 2,500 kiosks to be placed in lottery retail locations during the first year (i.e., through June 2020), plus up to another 2,500 in the second year (through June 2021).
The bill also allows for online sports betting, which means the casinos, racetracks and sports venues will also be able to offer wagering on sports via the internet or mobile applications.
Additionally, up to three licenses for online-only providers will be available via a competitive bidding process.
Penn National Gaming owns three of the state’s casinos (the Argosy and the two Hollywood casinos). Given Penn’s relationship with DraftKings, it might seem like a good candidate to apply for an online license.
Caesars Entertainment owns the two Harrah’s properties and has worked with Scientific Games for online sports betting, and so would also appear likely to be interested in getting into the online game in Illinois.
The first online sportsbook, BetRivers, launched on June 18. For now, there is no timeline on when other properties plan to launch similar mobile/online sportsbooks.
Since 2009, video gaming terminals, or VGTs, have been available throughout Illinois at licensed retail establishments.
You’ll often find them in establishments with liquor licenses like restaurants, bars, convenience stores and hotels. Truck stops and fraternal or veteran’s organizations with national charters also have them.
The law initially allowed each establishment up to five VGTs in one location. However, the Illinois Gambling Act amended the Video Gaming Act to increase that number to six while also allowing “large truck stops” to operate up to 10 VGTs.
Other changes to the law include increasing the maximum bet (from $2 to $4), increasing the maximum win (from $500 to $1,199), the authorization of progressive jackpots and an increase in the tax imposed from 30% to 33%.
The VGTs are housed in stand-alone, slant-top cabinets or upright cabinets set on a base such as a bar.
In late 2019 there were more than 6,800 establishments with VGTs in Illinois, making the state the country’s leader by a wide margin over Nevada, which has around 2,000 locations.
While there isn’t a law on the books in Illinois specifically legalizing daily fantasy sports contests, the state is one of many that have no explicit prohibitions against it and has thus remained inviting to DFS operators.
There have been a few attempts to propose DFS legislation in Illinois dating back to 2015, though all fell short of creating any new law.
Meanwhile, it was also in 2015 that the state’s attorney general opined the games constituted illegal gambling under current state law. This position certainly affected legislative efforts but appears not to have mattered much when it comes to sites continuing to serve Illinois players.
Illinois additionally has laws on the books permitting various forms of “charitable gaming,” including bingo and drawing games like raffles, pull tabs and jar games.
As noted above, live poker is legal in all of the existing casinos in Illinois. Poker will be among the other table games permitted in the new casinos as well.
The two Harrah’s properties, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Grand Victoria, Jumer’s and Par-a-Dice, all have live poker rooms. However, all are on the small side with Hollywood Casino Aurora’s 15-table room the largest.
Nearly all these poker rooms exclusively spread low-stakes no-limit hold’em cash games as well as low buy-in daily or weekly tournaments.
There are also a few legal “charity poker” rooms in the state, especially around the Chicago area.
Online poker in Illinois is another story. The new gambling expansion bill does not provide for online casino games or poker.
So, this means Illinois will not be joining Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada or Pennsylvania, which currently allow players to enjoy legal and regulated online poker.
Illinois poker players do have the option to play at Global Poker, a sweepstakes poker site.
The Illinois Lottery can be played at thousands of retail locations across the state as well as online.
The three main game types are:
Powerball is a multi-state jackpot game involving 45 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Tickets cost just $2 and jackpots start at $40 million, with drawings every Wednesday and Saturday.
The Mega Millions is a multi-state lottery involving the same locations as the Powerball for which jackpots also start at $40 million. Tickets are $2 (having increased from $1 in October 2017), and drawings are every Tuesday and Friday.
Lotto is an Illinois-only jackpot game with $1 tickets and jackpots starting at $2 million, with drawings every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Players can purchase a $1 “extra shot” for a chance at additional prizes.
For daily games, Illinois offers:
These games each feature twice-a-day drawings at 12:40 p.m. and 9:22 p.m. every day.
Pick 3 and Pick 4 each cost just 50 cents to play. In the Pick 3 game, players choose three numbers from one to nine and can win up to $500. The Pick 4 game involves picking four numbers from one to nine with a chance to win up to $5,000.
The Lucky Day Lotto costs $1 to play and involves picking five numbers from one to 45. The jackpot starts at $100,000 and increases with every drawing that doesn’t produce a winner.
Instant tickets include a variety of scratch-off style lottery tickets that cost $2-$3 and feature maximum prizes of $20,000, up to $50,000.
To play the lottery online in Illinois, you’ll need to register for an Illinois Lottery online account.
Players must be residents of Illinois and at least 18 years or older. The age requirement means the registration process requires sharing some personal information for verification purposes.
Players can play the lottery online over a web-based browser or via the Illinois Lottery mobile app available for both iOS and Android users.
Deposit methods include credit or debit cards. Winnings of up to $600 are deposited directly into users’ accounts, while the Illinois Lottery Claims Department must process more massive wins.
Withdrawing funds from your Illinois Lottery online account can be done either via a direct deposit into a checking or savings account or by requesting a check.
Another option for those playing the Illinois Lottery online is to purchase subscriptions to the jackpot and daily games, allowing them to buy tickets for up to 25 consecutive drawings at once. However, the money is not deducted from the user’s account until after each drawing occurs.
Players can play all of the jackpot games and daily games online, but not the instant tickets. However, the app does allow players to scan purchased tickets —including instant tickets — to find out if they are winners.
Illinois has several measures in place to protect and assist problem gamblers.
The program allows those who determine they are problem gamblers to self-exclude themselves from Illinois casinos. The new gambling expansion law extends SEP to sports wagering as well.
In 2018, the IGB additionally established the Problem Gambling Registry for Video Gaming.
Those who enroll receive regular emails providing information about problem gambling with links to problem gambling prevention and treatment resources in the state. The program is available both to Illinois and out-of-state residents.
The Illinois Department of Human Services has also developed a website to provide support and advice for problem gamblers — WeKnowTheFeeling.org — that also invites problem gamblers to contact them by phone at 1-800-GAMBLER.
The IGB site also provides additional information regarding these programs and other help for problem gamblers.
During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, Illinois brought in more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue from gambling, an increase of 3.5% from the year before. With the new gambling expansion law in effect, some estimates have forecasted that total could increase considerably going forward.
The lottery was the largest contributor, having provided a little over half the overall revenue total, with video gambling and casinos contributing most of the rest.
With the Illinois Lottery, about 65% of the money that players spend goes to payouts while a little more than 10% goes to cover administrative expenses.
The other 24% of lottery ticket sales go to the Common School Fund for K-12 public education in the state, an amount that totaled $731.2 million during the fiscal year 2019.
The Illinois Lottery also contributes to other causes, including veterans’ services, research on multiple sclerosis and breast cancer, police memorials, Special Olympics training, assistance to HIV/AIDS patients and more.
The lottery additionally contributes to the Capital Projects Fund used for transportation, school and housing construction, water infrastructure and other projects.
Most of the tax revenue collected from both video gaming and casinos also goes to funds designed to improve the quality of life in Illinois, with a small percentage also set aside for administrative costs into the State Gaming Fund.
The majority of tax revenues from video gaming are deposited into the aforementioned Capital Projects Fund. The majority of tax revenues from Illinois casinos are currently transferred to the Education Assistance Fund, which also helps with K-12 education spending.
Legal and regulated pari-mutuel horse race betting in Illinois dates back to 1927.
Illinois first introduced the lottery in 1974, joining the first big wave of states to do so. Later in 2012, Illinois became the first state to offer online lottery ticket sales and is still one of a limited number of states that do.
Riverboat gambling has been legal in Illinois since 1990 and, in fact, Illinois was the second state in the US to legalize riverboat gambling after Iowa. A year later, the first riverboat casino opened the Alton Belle (then to become the Argosy Casino Alton).
For the first several years, the boats were required to leave docks and set sail at regular intervals, but that is no longer the case. At present, 10 riverboat casinos are operating either on boats or docked barges or on what are essentially land-based properties resting in shallow water.
In 2009, the Video Gaming Act was enacted in Illinois, allowing the placement of VGTs in licensed retail locations, truck stops, and veteran and fraternal establishments.
More recently, in June 2019, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois Gambling Act, a law allowing for significant gambling expansion in the state. The new law permits six new casinos to be built, including one “mega-casino” near Chicago.
It also allows the existing casinos and racetracks to expand the number of “gaming positions” they can offer, including allowing the tracks to become “racinos” by adding slots and table games.