Illinois Online Casinos & Guide to Local Gambling
Illinois online casino enthusiasts have a lot of great options at their disposal. However, trying to find the best Illinois online gambling site involves a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, you need to understand what you can and can’t do from a legal standpoint. This guide will explain the legal status of various forms of gambling in the Prairie State. It will also save you time as it will introduce you to the best Illinois online casinos. We recommend these particular sites because they are fair, reputable, and known for offering a huge variety of games. Most importantly, they are legal.
Gambling in Illinois
The history and evolution of gambling in Illinois is quite interesting. For our purposes, we can go back to the 1800s when riverboat casinos ruled the day. While these venues were wildly popular, many of them were unlicensed and known for attracting shady clientele. This prompted authorities to outright ban them. Of course, this just drove gambling underground, where it prospered for years.
The first form of legalized gambling in Illinois came in 1927 when the Illinois General Assembly approved pari-mutuel betting on horses. It would take until 1972 before Illinois gambling laws would be slightly expanded to include bingo. Then, in 1974, the Illinois General Assembly legalized the state lottery. More lottery games like Pick3 and Pick4 were introduced over the following decade.
Casino fans got a bit of a boost in 1986 when games of chance were approved for charitable and non-profit organizations. The future of casino gambling got even brighter in 1990 when Illinois became just the second state in the nation to legalize riverboat casinos. These venues were permitted to offer real money casino games provided the venue was cruising in the open water. 1991 saw the first of 10 riverboat casinos open to the public.
The rules surrounding gambling venues were relaxed in 1999 when Governor George Ryan inked the Riverboat Gambling Act. The most significant feature of this legislation was that riverboat casinos no longer needed to leave the docks. As such, they essentially became land-based casinos.
Illinois online gambling gained legal status in a limited capacity in 2003 when the Illinois Lottery launched Pick ‘n Play on its website. No, it wasn’t an Illinois real money online casino, but it was a step in the right direction. Today, the Illinois Lottery online platform offers several lottery games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, and various scratch cards.
The Video Gaming Act took effect in 2009. This allowed licensed establishments to offer video gaming terminals. 2011 brought a lot of joy to casino buffs as the passing of SB744 paved the way for the opening of several casinos throughout the state as well as slot machines for O’Hare and Midway Airports.
Perhaps one of the most significant moments in Illinois online gambling history occurred in 2019 when the state legalized sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of PASPA. The first land-based sportsbooks opened their doors in 2020 and the first mobile sports betting apps hit the market a couple of months later. Illinois sports bettors represent the third-largest sports betting market in the United States behind only New York and New Jersey.
So, will you be able to play at an Illinois online casino for real money any time soon? Well, there does appear to be a fair amount of support, and a bill brought forth in 2023 to legalize Illinois online casinos is receiving consideration. However, those who want to see licensed online casinos in Illinois will likely have to wait until at least 2025. In the meantime, casino gamers who are over 21 can play all of their favorite casino games at any of the state’s 15 licensed land-based facilities. They can also play at social online casinos in Illinois, although those sites do not offer real money games.
Land Based Casinos
Illinois casinos started opening on land after the passing of SB744 in 2011. While a few of them, including Argosy Casino Alton, still operate on riverboats, most of the 15 casinos are modern land-based facilities. It’s also worth noting that two new casinos will be opening soon. The Hard Rock Casino Rockford will move from its temporary location at Rockford’s Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center to a new facility at State Street and I-90. The $440 million Wind Creek Casino will also open soon and feature over 69,000 square feet of gaming space along with a 4-diamond hotel.
In addition to offering slots, Illinois casinos offer an extensive range of table games, including roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and an assortment of casino poker games like Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, and Caribbean Stud. Speaking of poker, you can also find plenty of video poker games as well as a few poker rooms that offer Texas Hold ‘Em ring games and tournaments.
Many of these casinos also provide an assortment of amenities, including retail shopping, dining, hotel accommodations, and world-class entertainment. Then there are the many licensed sportsbooks that have operated in several Illinois casinos since sports betting was legalized in 2019. As a point of interest, if Illinois online casinos are legalized, each one will most likely need to partner with land-based operators, as is required in other states that offer legal online casino gambling. Gambling in Illinois is regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board.
As it stands in 2023, the list of licensed Illinois retail casinos includes:
- Argosy Casino Alton
- Bally’s Casino Chicago
- Bally’s Quad City Casino & Hotel
- Casino Queen
- Golden Nugget Danville
- Grand Victoria Casino
- Hard Rock Casino Rockford
- Harrah’s Joliet
- Harrah’s Metropolis
- Hollywood Casino Aurora
- Hollywood Casino Joliet
- Par-A-Dice Casino
- Rivers Casino
- American Place Casino Waukegan
- Walker’s Bluff Casino
Poker fans in Illinois probably wish that they had a few more available options, although they have more options than poker players in many other states. While playing poker in Illinois is legal, not all casinos have card rooms. On top of that, the Illinois Gaming Board has not yet legalized online poker. However, this could change as a bill to legalize online poker is still alive as of 2023 and needs to be resolved by 2025. Bear in mind that this bill is independent of the aforementioned bill that proposes the legalization of online casinos in Illinois.
So, if you want to play poker legally in Illinois, you have to play in a licensed cardroom or on a play money platform. That said, almost all Illinois casinos offer alternatives in the form of casino poker games like Casino Hold ‘Em, Pai Gow, and Let It Ride. Coincidentally, these poker variants are also offered at many social online casinos in Illinois. Some of these sites even offer live dealer options.
Slot machines are legal in Illinois and all retail casinos have plenty of them. You will also find them at several other licensed establishments, including some truck stops and major airports. It is estimated that slot machines at O’Hare and Midway will generate upwards of $37 million annually. Casino Queen’s average slot RTP in 2022 was the highest in the state at 92.5%, while Harrah’s Metropolis’ slots averaged an RTP of 89.94%.
Slot machines and the venues that offer them are regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board. The IGB makes sure that every slot machine is certified and tested by accredited software testers. This ensures that all results are completely random and can’t be manipulated by the casino or players.
Since real-money Illinois online casinos are illegal, those who want to play slots online legally are relegated to our top social Illinois online casinos. These sites offer the same games from the same providers, but they are legal because players don’t use real money.
Table games are subject to different regulations than slots. While venues like O’Hare Airport, some truck stops, and some taverns are allowed to offer a limited number of VLTs, they cannot provide table games. Those who want to play table games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat for real money must do so at a licensed casino.
It’s also important to understand that casinos don’t always offer the same table games. Sure, casinos will most certainly offer popular games like blackjack, but not all of them will offer games like Caribbean Stud or Casino Hold ‘Em. If you want to play one of those casino poker games or other variants, it’s best to first check if the casino you plan to go to offers your preferred version.
Before you hit the tables, it’s a good idea first to learn how to play the various table games at a social or sweepstakes Illinois online casino. Because these sites offer free games, you won’t lose any money as you learn.
The lottery has been wildly popular since it was legalized in Illinois in 1974. Illinois Lottery works in conjunction with the Lottery Control Board and both are overseen by the Department of Lottery. Illinois Lottery offers many different games that you can legally play online or at thousands of retail outlets. Some of the most popular draw games include Powerball, Mega Millions, and Lucky Day Lotto. You can also play scratch cards and FastPlay games like Illinois Super Jackpot, which offers a progressive jackpot. Most games offered through the Illinois Lottery typically cost between $1 and $30 per play.
Unlike casino gambling in Illinois which requires players to be at least 21, you only need to be 18 or older to participate in Illinois Lottery games. This includes playing lottery games at retail outlets as well as signing up at the Illinois Lottery website and playing online. Illinois also has a licensed app for Android and iOS.