Illinois Online Casino Guide

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Where And What You Can Gamble On In Illinois

Illinois flagIllinois’ foray into legal gambling is only a few decades old and restricted to specific types of casinos and games.

Horse race betting was the first legalized form of gambling in Illinois, and harkens back to the 1920s. Currently, horse racing occurs at five tracks throughout the state, all of which allow betting onsite. Additionally there are 37 legal off-track-betting (OTB) parlors where you can place wagers on horse races.

The Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990 made it legal to open a casino…provided it was on a riverboat, sitting on water. Ten of these exist today with over 9,000 slot options and approximately 500 table games spread among them.

Additionally, the Video Gaming Act of 2009 now allows certain businesses to host five lottery terminals within their establishments. These terminals are centralized slot machines. They are available in 5,600 locations (bars, restaurants, truck stops).

There is no online gambling now or in the foreseeable future, however social gaming sites are available to play for fun. Sports betting is similarly illegal, though the state legislature has considered sports betting legislation. However, online sites located outside of Illinois do accept bets from residents and it is legal.

Recent Illinois legal gambling news

Land-based slots environment

One might think that with the somewhat sordid history of organized crime in Illinois and its connections to gambling, it is a natural fit for the state’s identity and character.

Indeed, horse racing has been a major source of sport (particularly in Chicago) since the day of Capone. But the state only joined the fray with its Midwest brethren during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. The Riverboat Gambling Act passed the legislature in February 1990.

Riverboat casinos

Illinois’ foray into casino gambling is somewhat unique. Its legal status is almost completely confined to riverboat gambling. In a sense, this specificity of law is very much of its time – riverboat gambling flourished in the Midwest in the mid-1990s as one of the first movements of casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. So, the presence of casinos in Illinois is a historical marker along with providing an opportunity for gamblers to pursue their games in the Land of Lincoln.

The first casino opened in Alton (a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri) in September 1991. Since that time, nine other riverboats have opened in Illinois. At first, all of them had to be serviceable boats, but later amendments to the law now allow the boats to merely float on water. (Even to the point where some are merely sitting on a small pool of water.)

Gambling expanded dramatically in Illinois in 2009 with the passage of the Video Gaming Act. The act allowed a large swath of types of businesses – bars, truck stops, restaurants, and certain community organizations — to place up to five video lottery terminals inside their premises.

VLTs look like slot machines, but connect to a main server. They are legal extensions of the state lottery. In 2016, there were 5,600 establishments in Illinois that offered (collectively) over 24,000 slot machines. These are in addition to 11,000 slots offered at the 10 riverboats in the state.

With all of these options and growing budget shortfalls in the state (which foreshadows further expansion of gambling), the future looks quite bright for slots players and other gamblers in Illinois. Below are the 10 riverboat casinos and relevant information. (The locations for VLTs would be too numerous to mention.)

Land-based slots options

Property Location Number of Slots
Casino Queen East St. Louis 1,100
Grand Victoria Casino Elgin 1,100
Harrah’s Joliet Joliet 1,100
Hollywood Casino Aurora Aurora 1,100
Hollywood Casino Joliet Joliet 1,100
Argosy Casino Alton Alton 1,010
Jumer’s Casino Rock Island Rock Island 1,000
Rivers Casino Des Plaines 1,000
Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino East Peoria 930
Harrah’s Metropolis Metropolis 800

Online gambling options

Illinois does not currently have legal online gambling.

There are no bills in the works for the expansion of online gambling. In fact, expansion in Illinois is more likely to be toward the land-based side of things.

However, online gambling is rumored to be in trouble on the federal level due to statements from the Trump administration. For now, Illinois residents will have to limit their gambling to real-world options.

Social casino site options

Illinois residents have access to the same social gaming options as residents of other states. Zynga, Slotomania, Big Fish, and Double Down are all available in the Land of Lincoln.

MyVegas, MGM’s free comps site, does not have any partners in or near Illinois.

However, three of the riverboats – Argosy Casino Alton and the two Hollywood casinos – offer visitors to their websites the opportunity to play slots for free money.

Penn National Gaming owns all three of these casinos. They seem to operate from the same server, with each casino’s individual website acting as a skin for the function. It does not appear that this free slots opportunity has any real-world benefit. The site offers no comps or promotions.

However, this is a great way for Illinois slot players to sample the local fare and perhaps plan to visit the land-based counterparts of this service.

Operator profile

Rivers Casino

Rivers Casino (commonly referred to as Rivers Casino Des Plaines) is a riverboat casino in Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago. The casino serves residents of the greater Chicago area.

Rivers is one of three casinos opened by Neil Bluhm and owned by Midwest Gaming and Entertainment. (The others being Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia).

Rivers opened in July 2011. This occurred three years after the property was awarded the tenth and final license authorized by law in Illinois. The license itself has something of a colorful history. Originally, a riverboat in Rosemont was the assignee. But when that boat closed, interests attempted to transfer the license to another nearby property. However, the Illinois attorney general ultimately intervened and canceled the transfer, citing the new owners’ alleged ties to organized crime as a disqualifying factor.

After the rebid, Rivers gained the licensure. Though technically a riverboat, the building itself merely floats on a few inches of water in a man-made pit. Inside, gamblers can find over 1,000 slot machines and 50 table games. There are also seven eating establishments or bars on site.

Interestingly, Rivers Casino is really intended for local gambling. There is no hotel on the property.  Consequently, the casino’s website has hotel recommendations for other companies’ hospitality nearby. There is also no retail or nightclub scene available, staples of the Las Vegas-style casino.

As with many Midwestern riverboat casinos, the focus is on the gambling. In a sense, Rivers is a bit of a throwback to the earlier grindhouses of yesteryear. It’s less of the Disney-ish excesses seen at mega-resorts. However, for a town like Chicago, with its proud history of blue-collar workers who just want to unwind, Rivers is just the right thing.

State legal environment

  Permitted/Offered? Notes & Restrictions
Land-Based Gambling Yes All casinos are riverboats by law
Online Gambling No Unlikely to change in the near future
Lottery Yes State lottery, Mega Millions and Powerball multistate lotteries available – along with a wide selection of video lottery terminals in many retail establishments
Charitable or House-Based Gambling Yes Bingo and fourteen specified table games are permitted to be run by non-profit organizations
Minimum Gambling Age 18 for lottery and horse racing; 21 for casinos
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