It is a glorious time to gamble in Illinois. The Land of Lincoln has casinos, sportsbooks, horsetracks, and a host of other gaming options available.
Obviously, the buzz both inside Illinois and around the US is about sports betting. However, Illinois also has other gambling options including sweepstake casinos, lottery and horse racing.
This page will provide you with the latest news on Illinois gambling laws, what and how sweepstakes sites work and what you can expect to see when it comes to Illinois online casinos.
Last update: April 12, 2021
Although registration for sports betting accounts must be done in person, that hasn’t stopped Illinois from becoming the No. 3 sports betting market in the US.
Sportsbooks generated $509.8 million in betting handle for February, overtaking Pennsylvania which only generated $509.5 million.
Yes, but only sweepstakes casinos.
There are several different ways that you can gamble online in Illinois. However, two notable exceptions are online casinos and online poker.
Illinois has not approved laws for either type of site just yet. The good news, though, is that with nearby states with online casinos and poker up and running (Michigan), Illinois lawmakers will be able to observe the positive effect on the state’s bottom line and, naturally, want the same for themselves.
So, although online casinos and poker are not part of Illinois’ offerings just yet, they are probably not too far away from becoming a reality.
One option that may tide you over until there is a move to regulate IL online casinos and poker sites, is a sweepstakes site. If you’ve never heard about sweepstakes casino and poker sites before, they may seem a bit hard to believe. You can play some pretty entertaining online slots in Illinois, and it’s completely legal.
Your top options for sweepstakes sites in Illinois are the following:
Sweepstakes are present everywhere. Technically, these sites belong in the same category as PCH or the fast-food sweepstakes. Essentially, as long as you can play for free and the prizes are awarded as advertised, the site is good to go. Sweepstakes sites are able to offer a host of online casino games and poker through a dual-currency system that allows their classification to remain valid. You can win real cash prizes at these sites.
So, here are some of the options you have at your disposal:
When you first play on one of these sites, the dual currencies might be a bit hard to grasp. However, after the shock wears off, you’ll find that many of these sites do quite well as stopgaps until Illinois gets online casino gambling and poker in earnest. For that matter, you may even find that the sweepstakes sites are great options in their own right, anyway.
There are multiple types of gambling that Illinois inhabitants can enjoy. Both online and land-based options abound, and the list of opportunities is growing longer each month.
Riverboat casinos have been a fixture in the Land of Lincoln for more than thirty years. There are 10 different floating properties scattered throughout Illinois, although most are clustered around Chicago and St. Louis, the latter of which is just across the Mississippi River in Missouri.
Alongside the riverboats are scads of locations with video gaming terminals (VGTs). VGTs are electronic lottery machines that have little difference, functionally, from a regular slot machine. They have been part of life in Illinois since 2009 and gained full legal status thanks to the massive expansion of gambling in 2019.
That expansion also ushered both online and retail sports betting into Illinois. Retail sports betting is now present at a majority of Illinois’ riverboat casinos, is available at racetracks and OTBs, and may even be available at major sports arenas throughout the state.
There are also multiple active sportsbook apps in Illinois right now. That number is certain to grow, and the sunsetting of the in-person registration requirement in September 2021 should only make the Prairie State a more attractive market for other sports betting companies.
Finally, it is also possible to play the Illinois Lottery, bet on horseraces, and engage in daily fantasy sports through your mobile devices and computers in Illinois. So, there is no shortage of options for Illinois residents and visitors who want to join the fun.
Online sports betting launched in Illinois in June 2020. BetRivers Sportsbook, which is owned by Rush Street Interactive (which also owns Rivers Des Plaines), became the first sports betting app to launch in Illinois. Since then, multiple apps have joined the party, including: DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and William Hill.
Alongside online sports betting, Illinois residents and visitors are also able to bet on horse races through the TVG racing site. Online horse betting is available in the Prairie State through a variety of sites.
Finally, Illinoisans and guests to the state can also play in daily fantasy sports play if they choose. An Illinois Supreme Court ruling in April 2020 definitively identified DFS as not gambling and has legitimized the notion of playing the game in some capacity in Illinois.
The most obvious places to play in Illinois are its casinos. Each casino, at the time of its construction, was required to be on water. So, most of the casino options are riverboats moored permanently on waterways. However, there is at least one casino (Rivers Des Plaines) that is simply resting in a shallow pit filled with water.
The casinos each offer different options for gaming, but, in general, they have slot machines and table games in many varieties. Whether they have sports betting and poker onsite is a different matter, however. Here are all the riverboat casino locations in Illinois:
†Poker room onsite
‡Both sportsbook and poker room onsite
All 10 have a variety of slots, including reel slots and progressive slots, plus video poker.
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.
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.
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.
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.