Illinois State

Its official state slogan reads, ‘Land of Lincoln’, both Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton were born and raised here, and it’s where Barack Obama lived when he was elected. Yes, the Midwestern state of Illinois has been home to many political greats in the past, but there’s more to it than just campaigns and elections. For example, the Native American meaning of Illinois is ‘tribe of superior men’, and Metropolis, the home of Superman, really does exist in southern Illinois. Sports fans would also recognise the state’s pride and joy: the Chicago White Sox baseball team and Chicago Bulls basketball team. But what about gambling aficionados? Does Illinois offer any land-based casinos, online casinos, mobile social casinos or even fun play casinos? We’ve done a little research and came across some interesting facts pertaining to its gambling practices and legalities. 

Illinois’s Gambling History

The very first form of gambling in Illinois dates back to the 1800s. During this time, mostly questionable characters would play stud poker on riverboat casinos. A century later, in the 1920s, betting on horse racing was legalised, which today remains a popular pastime for fans. In 1974, Illinois was also one of the very first states to legislate a State lottery, raising significant funds over the years. Then, in 1991, the riverboat casinos were legally permitted to operate again, as long as they were in motion on the river – a prerequisite that was repealed in 1999. In 2009, the Video Gaming Act came into being, allowing video gaming machines at bars, truck stops and other licensed establishments. However, legal battles kept it at bay till 2011. During this year, the Casinos Act SB744, was also passed, expanding casino games away from the riverboats and allowing for the adding of slots at pari-mutuel horse racing tracks. While it also initially made provision for online gambling, it didn’t make it through the senate – leaving this area still relatively grey.  

Online Gambling in Illinois

So, as mentioned, no actual law has been passed regarding online casino practices in Illinois. It is likely to be highlighted in the near future, when a bill will be presented to the Senate again in 2018. As such, many industry experts would agree that it leaves it open to interpretation for now. One thing is clear though, you can’t operate an online casino from within the state lines. However, as an Illinois resident, you’ll find various legal and reputable online casinos that will accept you as a player – permitting that you are of legal age. If you are nervous about possible legal implications and would rather play it as safe as possible, you could opt to enjoy costless entertainment at Facebook casinos, free play online casinos and social casino apps. While the winnings won’t be real, the thrill certainly will be. 

Gambling Options – Illinois

Knowing what types of gambling are allowed or outright banned, can help you make an informed decision as to what you can and cannot do, while residing in or visiting Illinois. 

Land-Based Casinos

There are a total of ten river boats in Illinois, which all host live casino games. While initially, they were only allowed to operate while sailing, they are now allowed to remain docked, which has eliminated unnecessary queueing. Furthermore, the law that was passed in 2011, made allowance for more land-based casinos – these, however, haven’t been built yet, but will likely take shape in the near future.  

Real Money Online Casinos

At present, the law states that online gambling isn’t permitted in Illinois, or rather that the operation/running of an online casino site isn’t allowed. Thus, it doesn’t clearly state that you aren’t allowed to play at one if you reside in Illinois. Residents are hoping that a bill, making this practice 100% legal, will be passed when next presented to the Senate. In the meantime, residents will be able to play at reputable online casinos that operate from outside of the state’s jurisdiction. 

Free Play Online Casinos

There is no law banning playing at fun play casinos, whatever state you’re in. The reason for this is simple. If there’s no revenue to be made and you merely get to play for pure enjoyment, it’s not really considered gambling. This type of entertainment is perfect for players who just want to try their hands at casino games, without spending any money or hoping to win any cash. Not only is it popular, but also great for beginners. Tutorials on how to play on Facebook casinos make it super easy, while mobile social casinos let you enjoy your gaming on your phone.

Live Poker

The state’s riverboats are known for hosting live poker games and tournaments. So yes, playing poker is legal in Illinois. However, there are no laws legalising or banning social poker games. That being said, nobody has faced prosecution for taking part in any such activities before. 

Online Poker

Again, as is the case with online casinos, there is no legal provision for online poker yet. The hope is that a law will be passed soon, legalising this gambling activity. 

Sports Betting Options

The only form of sports betting that is allowed in Illinois, is that of pari-mutuel horse race betting. This form of pooled gambling has been around since 1927. And today, the state boasts a total of 6 horse racing tracks to choose from.


In 1974, Illinois held its first lottery, with sales topping $129 million in just the first year. During the last few decades, the lottery has had various benefactors, including the Common School Fund, Illinois Veterans, breast cancer & MS research, assistance for people living with HIV and the Capitol Projects Fund. In 2012, the state’s lottery achieved yet another milestone, going online and making it accessible to an even larger player base.


Like most states, Illinois gambling laws allow charity bingo, raffle games and charity casino nights.

Tips for Gamblers in Illinois

If you want to keep it legal, play at a legal gambling destination in Illinois. What’s more, make sure you are of legal age to gamble. To play bingo, bet on horse races or take part in the lottery in Illinois, you have to be 18 years old. In turn, you have to be 21 if you’d like to play live casino or poker games on the riverboats, as well as playing at online gaming destinations. Also remember to set a budget, before any gambling session, and stick to it. If you’re worried about your spending or don’t have a dime to spare, rather opt to play free fun online slots, where you have nothing to lose.


Illinois is one of the few states that is making a move towards incorporating gambling laws, pertaining to the Internet arena. Unlike many other states, it doesn’t have any tribal casinos, but does offer legal riverboat casino options. The future for gamblers in the state of Illinois, seems rather bright compared to others. Players just need to watch this space to see what’s next.