The Land of Lincoln recently expanded its legislation to welcome more forms on online gaming. In addition to a robust land-based gaming presence, Illinois embraced online sports betting in 2020.
Right now, Illinois residents can enjoy online horse race betting, online sports betting, and sweepstakes casinos.
Sports betting was the most recent form of online gaming to arrive in The Prairie State. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a new bill last year that allowed for six new land-based casinos to come to the state while also legalizing sports betting.
Since then, retail sportsbooks have popped up in the state, and BetRivers launched an online sportsbook. FanDuel and DraftKings, two industry leaders, are expected to join the fray with their own online offerings soon as well as Australian sportsbook operator PointsBet. Other major players are expected to carve out an audience in Illinois as the state continues to embrace online sports betting.
For now, sports betting and land-based expansion appear to be the state’s focus. No word yet on whether Illinois will legalize online casino gaming.
Illinois Gambling: Important Dates
- July 26, 2020: Governor Pritzker’s suspension of the in-person registration requirement expires. In-person requirement resumes for Illinois sportsbook registrants.
- June 18, 2020: BetRivers launched the first online sportsbook app in Illinois.
- June 4, 2020: Governor J.B. Pritzker lifted in-person registration requirements for online sports betting, which was eventually reinstated.
- March 9, 2020: Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened its retail sportsbook.
- December 2019: Licensing process for Illinois sportsbook began.
- June 2019: Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 690, enacting the new Illinois gambling laws. The bill authorized sports betting in Illinois and allowed for six new casinos to be constructed in the state.
- 2012: Illinois enacted a new law allowing online lottery sales.
- 2009: The Video Gaming Act went into effect, which allowed restaurants, bars, truck stops, and other retail locations to place VLTs on-premises.
- 1991: Argosy Casino Alton opened, becoming the first riverboat casino to open in the state following a 1990 law allowing riverboat gaming in Illinois.
- 1974: Illinois Lottery launched.
- 1927: Illinois legalized pari-mutuel horse race wagering.
Neighboring State Gambling Overview
Illinois borders five states. The region surrounding the Land of Lincoln represents various stances toward online gambling. Among its neighbors, Illinois is one of the more progressive states with regard to its gambling laws.
Across the Mississippi, Iowa borders Illinois to the west. Iowa allows sports betting both on-property and online, though users have to register at a casino in-person before they can bet via the internet. That restriction will lift in 2021, however.
The Hawkeye State has 10 casinos, too, giving Illinois a run for its money with a strong gambling presence.
Indiana has 15 casinos, some land-based, and some riverboat properties. As far as online gambling goes, The Hoosier State had a headstart on Illinois, launching online sports betting in October 2019. With land-based gambling, pari-mutuel wagering (both on property and online), and online sports betting, Indiana’s gaming laws are similar to its neighbor’s.
One key difference: Indiana made Daily Fantasy Sports legal in 2016. Illinois still has yet to do so. Illinois is still dealing with the fallout of a 2015 opinion from then-attorney general Lisa Madigan declaring DFS sites illegal. Illinois still has no legislation in place explicitly allowing or prohibiting DFS.
Wisconsin only allows tribal land-based casinos. There are no commercial properties in the state. When it comes to online gambling, the landscape in Illinois’ northern neighbor is sparse. Online gambling is illegal, and a recent attempt in 2017 to change that stance failed.
The Show-Me State won’t actually show you all that much when it comes to gambling. Riverboat casinos are legal, and Missouri has more than a dozen of them. Online gambling is neither prohibited nor allowed by Missouri law, and there have been no recent moves to change that. Online gambling in the state remains legally risky.
Illinois’ southernmost neighbor, Kentucky has a conservative gambling outlook. The state only allows online betting on horse races or lottery games. There are no casinos–land-based or online–in Kentucky. That looks unlikely to change any time soon. Kentucky gamblers can enjoy horse race wagering at one of the state’s six race tracks.
Although not an exact neighbor from a traditional sense, Michigan lies just across the lake from Chicago and is an easy drive from the city. Michigan took a big step in 2019 by legalizing both online casino gambling and online sports betting. The official launch of online gambling is expected in late 2020 or early 2021. In the meantime, bettors can access retail casinos and retail sportsbooks in Michigan.
Legal Gambling In Illinois: A Brief History
Gambling came to The Prairie State in 1927 with the advent of pari-mutuel horse race wagering, an institution that still thrives at Illinois’ three racetracks.
Decades later in 1990, Illinois expanded its gambling options further. It was the second state after Iowa to legalize riverboat casinos. The state still has riverboat casino properties. although some are moving on land.
Since then, Illinois has made numerous changes to its laws that provide new play opportunities for gamblers in the state. The Illinois Lottery, started in 1974, started to sell online lottery tickets in 2012. A few years prior, the state enacted the Video Gaming Act, which allowed certain retail properties to offer Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs). The terminals have the same look and feel of a slot machine, but players can play multiple different games on the machines. They use lottery math models instead of traditional slot game mathematics.
2019 brought another seismic shift to Illinois gambling law when Pritzker authorized sports betting. Early 2020 saw the state’s first sportsbook launch.
Illinois Gambling FAQ
Yes. Illinois has a number of land-based and riverboat casinos. Gambling at these locations is completely legal for anyone 21 or above.
The state also allows Video Lottery Terminals, which look like slot machines but use lottery math models, in certain retail locations.
A recent bill authorized the construction of six new casinos in Illinois, so the state could soon see an unprecedented boost in land-based gaming options.
21. Anyone 21 or older can gamble at a casino in Illinois.
Other gambling forms have lower age restrictions in the Prairie State. The lottery and pari-mutuel horse race wagering, in-person or online, are open to anyone 18 or above.
Yes and no. It depends on the type of gambling. Online sports betting, lottery games, and pari-mutuel wagering are all completely legal in Illinois.
Of those formats, sports betting is the most recent to make its way to The Land of Lincoln. BetRivers launched the first online sportsbook in Illinois in June 2020.
Online casinos and poker rooms remain prohibited in Illinois.
Yes. The state authorized online sports betting in 2019, and the licensing process began later that year.
June 2020 marked the first online sportsbook launch in Illinois. BetRivers was first out of the gate. Governor Pritzker lifted the in-person registration requirement, allowing bettors to sign-up without visiting a casino property. This requirement was quickly reinstated, though.
Other major operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, and more are expected to launch in Illinois soon. Illinois bettors can choose a variety of sports to bet on in the state and will have access to a variety of sports betting bonuses.
Yes. Illinois launched its lottery in 1974. Since then, the organization expanded its reach by authorizing Video Lottery Terminals to be placed in certain retail businesses. Also, 2012 brought the legalization of online lottery sales in Illinois.
Illinois Lottery players can participate in major jackpot games like Powerball and Mega Millions in addition to instant games and daily draw games.
Yes. Illinois legalized online lottery in 2012, and it remains one of the very few states to have authorized internet lottery sales.
Players can participate on the Illinois Lottery website or app, available for iOS and Android. The online lottery allows players to purchase tickets and instantly deposit winnings up to $600.
Yes. The Illinois Gaming Board oversees all gambling activity in the state. Casinos must adhere to strict regulations and policies to operate in Illinois.
The licensing process to operate a casino in Illinois is arduous and taxing, requiring companies to meet high expectations before they’re allowed to open.
Yes. You must report gambling winnings as income tax in Illinois if you are a resident at the time of your win, but only if the winnings exceed a certain amount. If you win more than $1000 at a casino or from a lottery game, you will be charged income tax on those winnings. You also must pay Federal income tax on any gambling winnings, either online or at a land-based casino.
Yes, especially if you’re a frequent player.
Loyalty programs are designed to get you to play more, but that doesn’t mean there’s no benefit to you. If you visit the casino often–or even just a few times a year–you can accumulate points every time you play. This can get you some great rewards like meal discounts, free spins on slot machines, and giveaway entries.
Generally, it’s beneficial to join a casinos’ rewards program to make full use of special offers that come with the program.
Churchill Downs owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, while minority owner Rush Street operates the property. Caesars owns Harrah’s Joliet and Metropolis. The company’s planned merger with Eldorado could bring another Illinois property under its umbrella; Eldorado Resorts owns Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.
Penn National Gaming owns Aurora and Joliet’s Hollywood Casino properties. Par-A-Dice is owned by Boyd Gaming, Jumer’s Casino and Hotel is owned by Delaware North.
Casino Queen, located in East St. Louis, is Illinois’ only employee-owned casino.