Illinois Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Illinois boasts a rich tradition in gambling and horse racing that stretches as far back as the 1920s. The rules around its legality and the various options for engaging in it have fundamentally evolved over time. They went from full prohibition up until the 1970s, to currently having lawful riverboat casinos, tracks for racing, lotteries, bingo venues, and other gaming establishments. While you might not immediately associate Illinois with being a hotspot for betting, recent legislative amendments have potential to make the state’s gaming industry quite formidable, particularly considering riverboat casinos and other betting games.

In this article, we are going to explore fundamental gambling laws in Illinois and all related regulations, as well as tell you where you can enjoy quality gambling when visiting the Windy City or other top destinations in Illinois.

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Gambling Laws in Illinois — The Law Overview

First Gambling Laws

Illinois has a long history of different gambling laws since 1974, and its Lottery Act has been amended on several occasions. Illinois is the only state that has its drawings televised nationwide. What followed was the 1975 Illinois Horse Racing Act that allowed pari-mutuel betting on the harness and thoroughbred racing. Under the later amendments to the law in 1985 and 1987, both simulcast wagering and off-track betting were allowed, respectively.

However, the momentous changes in the legislation came with The Riverboat Gambling Act, enacted in February 1990. Under the provisions of the law, the Illinois Gaming Board was formed as the legislative and licensing body in charge of controlling and overseeing gambling in Illinois. They were allowed to issue up to ten riverboat gaming licenses to those riverboat casinos that emerged across the Mississippi River and which are still in business today. The first riverboat casino began to operate in 1991 in Alton, Illinois.

Under this law, various rules were enacted. For example, different types of casino table games and electronic machines were specified and approved for use in riverboat casinos. Initially, these riverboat casinos were banned from the Cook County (Chicago belongs to this county) in a bid to preserve the horse racing industry. Still, the ban was lifted with the amendments enacted in 1999. Also, with subsequent changes, other prohibitions were removed, such as the one that prohibited an owner that has more than 10% of ownership in one riverboat casino from having more than a 10% interest in any other riverboat casino.

Current Gambling Laws

Further changes in the Illinois gambling law came with The Video Gaming Act in 2009. Under this act, up to five Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) can be placed in licensed retail establishments, truck stops, veteran and fraternal establishments. All VGTs are connected to a Central Communications System under the control of the Illinois Gaming Board that sets the theoretical payouts and other rules related to VGTs.

Finally, the current law was enacted in 2019 by Governor Pritzker and is dubbed the Illinois Gambling Act. This gambling act deals with riverboat and land-based casinos, as well as all types of games that take place in those places. This latest law is seen as a substantial expansion of the gambling scene. Namely, casino operators are no longer confined to water in the forms of riverboat casinos but can operate on land as well, following the licensing procedure leading towards the appropriate license.

Rivers Casino is a riverboat casino that managed to obtain the first land-based license in November 2019 that allowed it to add 123 gaming positions. Under this recent law changes, the Illinois Gaming Board will issue permits to six more land-based operators, and ten applications have already been filed.

The annual taxes for casinos is a gross receipts tax, which means it depends on the gross receipts amount. It ranges from 15% on annual gross receipts below $25 million, to 50% for casinos with $200 million and more in total revenues.

Other gambling-related laws under chapter 230 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes relate to charitable gaming, bingo, raffles, poker, and different types of gambling.

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed?

When casino and riverboat casino games are concerned, a great variety of them is regulated and allowed. Casino approved games include table games and their subtypes such as Baccarat, Blackjack, Poker, Slots, and other types of electronic gaming devices.

As for other forms of gambling, there are plenty of them in Illinois. Charitable gaming that can include roulette, blackjack, poker, and other casinos games, plus bingo, raffles, pull tabs, jar games, and even state fair games are all legal and authorized by the Charitable Games Act, Bingo License and Tax Act, Illinois Pull Tabs and Jar Games Act, Raffles and Poker Runs Act, and State Fair Gaming Act. All these forms of gambling are overseen either by the Illinois Gambling Board or the Department of Revenue, except for the raffles and poker runs that can be licensed and conducted under the supervision and licensing system of individual counties.

In the case of sports betting, it is allowed under the Sports Wagering Act and betting on all professional sporting events except the minor leagues. All bettors must be over 21 and physically located in Illinois and can bet on either inter-track wagering locations at racetracks or via internet and mobile applications designed and operated only by licensed organizations.

Apart from these, both state and interstate lotteries are allowed, in both physical and online forms, and Illinois can be considered a trailblazing state when lottery laws are concerned.

To play in casinos or wager on video lottery in Illinois, you must be over 21, while for playing bingo, raffles, or bet on horse racing, you must be over 18.

The situation with online gambling in Illinois is not so clear cut. The only two forms of legal online gambling are betting on horse races and other sports via betting sites from licensed race tracks and online lottery. Daily Fantasy sports betting was declared illegal by the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in 2015.

Moreover, in the Illinois Criminal Code, section 720, ILCS 5/28-1, we can see rules that explicitly prohibit internet gambling. Namely, the language in the Code is aimed at gambling operators who will be guilty of illicit gambling if an operator “knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any game, contest, political nomination, appointment, or election by means of the Internet.”

However, this does not mean that the officers of the law are in active pursuit of people who gamble online. The truth is — there hasn’t been a single example of a person being charged and imprisoned for gambling online. This means that, if you can find offshore gambling sites that accept players from Illinois, you can gamble all you want without any fear of legal persecution.

Where to Gamble in Illinois?

There are ten riverboat casinos in Illinois you can choose from at the moment, while six more land-based casinos are in the making. The following is a list of a couple of riverboat casinos players have mostly opted for when looking for the best gaming experience.

Casino Queen

Casino Queen is a riverboat casino in Illinois founded in 1991 that has been in the business ever since. It is a riverboat casino with over 1,100 slot games that include popular progressive slots, penny slots, video poker, and even private high limits games. Their table games offer features blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker tables with Three Card Poker and

Ultimate Texas Hold’Em poker games. Their accommodation services include dozens of rooms and apartments with King-size and Queen-size beds and numerous other amenities. Also, excellent dining options include everything from fine-dining stakes to delicious street buffets. You can find Casino Queen on 200 South Front Street, East St. Louis, Illinois 62201. The casino hours are from Sunday to Thursday: 8 am – 4 am, and from Friday to Saturday: 8 am – 6 am.

Rivers Casino Des Plaines

Rivers Casino is located on 3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018, just outside Chicago. It is a casino with almost 1,000 slots in denominations ranging from 1¢ to $100, with new slot machines regularly added. Besides the slots and dozens of table games such as blackjack, roulette, and poker, you can enjoy a remarkable dining experience in one of their seven restaurants and buffets. Sadly, they do not offer accommodation, but you can use substantial discounts at the top neighboring hotels reserved for the players at Rivers Casino. The working hours of the casino are from 9:00 am to 7:00 am, every day.

Harrah’s Joliet Casino and Hotel

Harrah’s Joliet Casino and Hotel is a premier gambling facility with over 1,000 slots in multiple denominations and 31 table games ranging from the classics like craps, roulette, and blackjack to new traditions and games such as Mini Baccarat and 21 + 3 Extreme that combines blackjack and the Three Card Poker. There are over 200 rooms for your accommodation and three restaurants, ranging from high-end dining to buffets. Harrah’s Joliet Casino and Hotel is located at 151 N. Joliet Street, Joliet, IL 60432, and is open every day from 8 am to 6 am.


Are casinos legal in Illinois?

Casinos in the form of riverboat casinos are legal in Illinois and, under new gambling law expansions, more land-based casinos will be established in the future.

Is online poker legal in Illinois?

Unfortunately, online poker is not legal in Illinois.

What games can you gamble on in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can gamble on slots, table games, bingo, lottery, raffles, and wager on sports, horse racing, and more.

Do Illinois riverboat casinos have casino table games?

Yes, they do. You can find roulette, baccarat, poker, blackjack, craps, and many other table games in riverboat casinos in Illinois.

What is the legal age for playing in Illinois casinos?

You must be over 21 to play in casinos across Illinois.