Rapid Developments in Illinois
Illinois has a fond liking to all things betting, or wagering! The state was the first in the U.S. to institute a state lottery, first launching in 1975 that continues today. Illinois casinos opened for business in 1991 with the debut of the Argosy Casino in Alton under the Riverboat Gambling Act, which was passed in 1990. Illinois now boasts nine different legal casinos with table games, poker rooms, horse racing and more. In June 2019, legal sports betting in Illinois was signed into law, with the first in-person bet occurring on March 9, 2020. Online sports betting in Illinois launched in June 2020.
Illinois Online Casino Laws
Legal online casinos in Illinois do not currently exist. The Illinois Gaming Board regulates gambling operations in Illinois, including the nine commercial casinos, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online betting websites. There is hope that online casinos will soon be legal thanks to the 2019 Illinois Gambling Act – SB 690. The Illinois Gaming Board is considering regulations that would likely apply to online casinos in addition to adding up to six additional casinos throughout the state, including one in Chicago.
Sweepstakes Casinos in Illinois
Sweepstakes casino sites may feel the same as an online casino site, but there are key characteristics that make it different - and legal in Illinois. Sweepstakes must be free to play (though buying options exist to improve chances), the final prizes must be handed out as advertised and the prizes must be awarded in the exact timeframe as was listed before the sweepstakes began. With Illinois sweepstakes casinos, users can obtain or purchase a different type of currency specific to the casino that can be used in those games. There are workarounds, but casinos can participate in legal online sweepstakes if they are careful about following all the rules.
What Online Casinos in Illinois Are Likely?
In theory, the most likely online casinos that would come to Illinois would be those that also have sports betting, including DraftKings, FanDuel or BetMGM. BetRivers might also consider an online casino considering it has the most popular commercial casino in Illinois.
Starting in Daily Fantasy Sports and moving into online betting, the operator boasts 60 different table games and more than 400 slots. It has rotating challenges, games of the week, leaderboards and first-time deposit matches. Although the DraftKings IL sportsbook is available, the casino will not be until the laws change.
FanDuel's Casino redirects to BetFairCasino.com, a full-scale casino that also includes jackpots, promotions, rewards and live dealers. Though only operating in New Jersey, the FanDuel IL betting site is live now. If all goes as planned, their casino will one day be accessible by Illinois players.
BetRivers Illinois has a full-scale online casino in addition to its sports betting website and mobile application. BetRivers has a legal commercial casino located in DesPlaines, Illinois, too. If online casinos in IL become a reality, you can expect this operator to be one of the first available sites.
BetMGM features a full-scale casino that is operational in multiple states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It features table games, virtual slots, virtual sports and has its own section for poker. BetMGM sports Illinois is trying to make a way in the state; however, there have been some delays. Given the popularity of the operator, and the fact that it may be included in the Chicago Casino project, this is another likely online casino website in the Prarie State.
Would Promo Codes Be Available for Illinois Players?
Promo codes have quickly become not only a feature but commonplace for first-timer users. While not every site requires them, it's likely that promo codes would become a staple of Illinois gambling if online casinos were made legal in the state. Those bonus codes could unlock deposit matches, free bets or some other perk within the casino or top IL sports betting website.
Most Popular Online Casino Games
No matter the online casino you visit, there are hundreds of games available. In some instances, online casino games allow players to customize their experience in a way they couldn't at commercial casinos, especially given the wide range of stakes that can be played. Also, the expansion of legal online gaming has meant that many of the same options available at commercial casinos are now available online.
Slots offer the most variety and themes of any of the online casino games. They're typically among the most popular game thanks to their easy-to-understand rules, quick gameplay and variety of ways to win. There's also potential for jackpot payouts that most other casino games don't offer. The combinations and themes are endless, and all online casino sites will offer a wide variety to choose from. Make sure you've read and understood the rules of whichever you pick, but most are simple for even the most basic player.
Poker is one of the oldest and most popular casino games. Gamblers can either play video poker, where their hands go up against the computer, or against other gamblers in a virtual setting (if online poker is legal in the state). There are dozens of different poker variations, though the most popular of the card games are Texas Hold'Em, Omaha, 7-Card Stud, 5-Card Stud and High-Low. Make sure you're aware of the type of poker game you're playing, as the rules change considerably among the different variations. The good news, however, is that the Illinois gambling sites will offer all different types of poker games at a wide range of stakes, so whatever you're looking for will be available in some form.
Some online games require more skill than others, and blackjack is near the top of that list. A popular casino game because of its quick action, players will need to study their cards as they attempt to beat the dealer to earn a payout. All major casino operators offer blackjack, and there are a handful of different variations offered based on the casino.
It doesn't get much easier when it comes to online gambling than roulette. Among the most popular and oldest of all casino games, American roulette involves a spinning wheel with slots numbered 1-36, 0 and 00. A ball is spun in the opposite direction of the wheel, and gamblers choose with number or range of numbers (with varying odds) the ball will land on.
There aren't too many different variations that bettors will find at online casinos, though French roulette has better odds because there is no 00. Just make sure you're aware of the different types of bets you can make on the board and read a strategy guide, as the even-money bets are the best ones long-term.
For bettors looking for the live interaction that commercial casinos offer, but do not want to travel to one, live dealer games offer a way forward. Bettors can interact with actual human dealers with real physical cards in a virtual setting. Not all states with legal online casino games have live casinos, and even in those that do there can be great variance between operators.
Given how the COVID-19 pandemic changed how Americans worked and gambled, live casinos should only become more prominent in the online casino community of Illinois. It's not offered everywhere and with all games, so you'll need to check with the online casinos you're considering.
Other Online Casino Games
There are dozens of other casino games to consider, including but not limited to keno, baccarat, scratch cards and craps. Online casino games will differ from spot to spot, and some casino sites will offer their own unique games. Before choosing an online casino, check out all the different games they provide.
Commercial Casinos in Illinois
There are nine different land-based casinos in Illinois scattered throughout the state. Though they all range in terms of size and popularity, they all offer the basics.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines
The most popular of the land-based casinos in Illinois, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines offers the largest variety of gaming, entertainment and dining of any in the state. It has also partnered with hotels in the city that provide transportation to and from the casino. It has plans to expand by 78,000 square feet in 2022.
Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin is a riverboat casino on the Fox River that features a full-scale casino, sports betting options through William Hill and four different restaurants onboard.
Hollywood Casino and Hotel Joliet
The Hollywood Casino and Hotel in Joliet offers a full-scale casino and sportsbook, four different dining options and hotel packages that allow for bettors to get everything they need all in one Illinois spot.
Harrah’s Metropolis Casino and Hotel
Harrah's Metropolis Casino and Hotel is part of Caesar's Entertainment, offering a full-scale casino and lodging options. The casino also offers restaurants to give bettors everything they need in one spot.
Hollywood Casino Aurora
The Hollywood Casino in Aurora is one of the most lively of the casinos in Illinois, featuring full-scale live casino gaming, a sportsbook in connection with Barstool Sports, two restaurants, a VIP lounge and live music.
Argosy Casino Alton
Owned by Penn National Gaming, the Argosy Casino in Alton is a riverboat casino that offers a full-scale casino, a sportsbook in connection with Barstool Sports, two dining options and is just 25 minutes from St. Louis.
Jumer’s Casino and Hotel
Jumer's Casino and Hotel is in Rock Island, Illinois, and features a full-scale casino, four restaurants and bars, a nightclub and lodging options.
Par-A-Dice Casino and Hotel
The Par-A-Dice Casino and Hotel is in Peoria, Illinois, and features a full-scale casino, multiple dining options and a hotel with multiple packages and options for bettors.
The Casino Queen Hotel is in East St. Louis, Illinois, and features a full-scale casino as well as lodging options.
Of the listed Illinois casinos, Rivers offers an online gambling website that features sports betting. Hollywood Casino and Argosy Casino offer online sports betting through Barstool Sports' website and mobile application.
Understanding the Chicago Casino Project
There are no casinos currently in Chicago, but that may not be the case for much longer. The Chicago Casino Project, headed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, is an effort to bring a casino to the downtown area. Lightfoot's team has reached out to several different casino operators, including two based in Las Vegas, to gauge interest in bringing a casino to the Windy City. There are still a handful of hurdles to overcome, but the hope is that the winning bidder will be chosen by the end of 2021 and that the casino could launch before or by 2025.
What Legal Gambling Options in Illinois Are Available Now?
There is a myriad of betting options that are legal in the state. These options include the lottery, horse racing and in-house casino gaming. Illinois sports betting online was recently made legal, and live! All vendors or operators are legally licensed and operated and feature hundreds of different games.
If bettors choose to gamble online in Illinois, the same legality applies with sports betting websites and applications. Users will simply need to provide proof that they are 21 or older and that they are currently located in Illinois.
Horse racing betting can be done in-person or through betting sites such as TVG and Twin Spires.
Can I Visit Offshore Online Casinos?
Bettors can visit and use offshore online casino sites, but we don't recommend them for a host of reasons, including the fact that they are not licensed or regulated by the state of Illinois. That means players do not have the same protections as they do with legal Illinois sites. Also, payout times can lag significantly and usually come in the form of a wire transfer rather than being deposited directly into a bank account. Sometimes offshore casinos will limit the amount of money someone can withdraw at a time or make it difficult to take out money altogether. Since it's not regulated, users are on their own if something goes wrong. We urge players to think twice before considering offshore sites.
The Illinois Gaming Board takes responsible gambling seriously. The board's website has a specific tab labeled "Help for Problem Gamblers" that offers resources available for those in need of help. It includes information on the Self-Exclusion Program and Problem Gambling Registry. The page also offers a FAQ page for problem gamblers and several different phone numbers for them to access and call.
Online Casinos Illinois FAQ
No, online casinos are currently not legal in Illinois. There is hope that the state is moving toward laws that would regulate and legalize them, but as of mid-2021 no laws have been passed.
It's difficult to know which casinos will get an online license if and when they are made legal. A likely bet is that those casinos that also have sports betting would get the first chance to obtain a legal license in Illinois.
Yes, online sports betting launched in June 2020, and bettors can wager on sports in Illinois. The exception to this is for Illinois-based collegiate teams and collegiate games played in the state - these bets are not legal. Horse racing betting online is also available through several legal platforms.
Online casinos will know your location based on a geolocator that you will need to install on your computer. For mobile devices in Illinois, you will need to give the application access to your location so the casino can verify you are in Illinois.
Illinois was the first state to legalize the lottery, doing so in 1975. Gamblers can purchase several different lottery scratch-cards as well as buy tickets for the jackpot drawings.
Offers to gamble in Illinois online are either from illegal offshore sites and should be avoided or from a sweepstakes-style online casino, which is completely legal and allows users to win prizes in games of chance but simulates real casino action.
Yes, all winnings that bettors receive at Illinois online casinos is considered income and therefore must be declared as such. There are no exceptions to this rule, no matter how small or large the amount. Check out our tax calculator to find out what you will pay.
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago for about 8 years. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin.