Illinois Gambling & Poker Laws

Illinois Gambling / Poker Laws
Illinois Legal Gambling and Poker Laws

Home to the "Windy City", an eternal favorite of gamblers, Illinois is the base for a multitude of successful online and live tournament poker professionals.  Poker seems to be in the state's blood; President Obama often recalls his late-night games of poker played during his time at the Illinois Statehouse.  Illinois has a more complicated relationship with online poker, however, a relationship we'll explain and analyze in our guide to online poker for players from Illinois.

Illinois Online Poker Guide

Legal Illinois Online Poker Sites

If you want to play online poker at a legal poker site in Illinois, we suggest that you choose a room from our list below.  The poker sites on the list have been chosen because they all accept Illinois players, are all legally regulated and - most importantly - have the softest games of all available Illinois online poker rooms.  Here are the top legal Illinois online poker rooms:

Can Poker Players in Illinois Play Poker Online?

Illinois is a state that does face some restrictions when it comes to playing poker online.  Some sites that take players from other states don't accept new players from Illinois.  Thankfully, you don't have to worry about finding the right site that will allow you to sign up from Illinois - our list of the best online poker sites for Illinois on this page, which is comprised exclusively of rooms that take players from Illinois, saving your time for the online poker tables.

Illinois Law and Online Poker

So where does Illinois stand when it comes to the law and online poker?  The state does address the issue of online gambling directly in its law, so let's talk a bit more about that part of the Illinois statute and a few other aspects that should be of interest to the typical online poker player.

  1. First, what constitutes gambling in Illinois?  The law is pretty clear; gambling occurs when someone "Plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value" (Section 28-1).  The only exceptions are state-approved forms of gambling.
  2. Violation of that section as a player is a class A misdemeanor (Section 28-1(c)).  Illinois does not have a history of aggressively pursuing mere participants in illegal gambling. 
  3. What does Illinois law have to say about online gambling?  It is illegal if someone "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" (Section 28-1(12)).
  4. Nothing in the section (or in any other part of Illinois law) appears to directly address the act of participating on such "Internet sites" as a mere player.

What you're left with is a situation that, to some degree, lacks legal clarity.  However, that should not be mistaken as a blanket endorsement that all online gambling activity is explicitly legal.  In such cases of uncertainty, players should start by reviewing the laws of Illinois personally, and then continue by consulting a lawyer if questions persist.

Illinois Online Poker Regulation

Illinois had a surprising (and brief) flirtation with regulating online poker in early 2012 [1].  That attempt didn't work out, but it may have set the stage for eventual movement on the issue.  Illinois already offers online lottery sales, and the state is in a pretty desperate shape budget-wise.  That combination of factors suggests a climate conducive to passing an online poker bill, but Illinois is still quite a few steps from that point.  In short, your chances of seeing Illinois-regulated online poker is decent, but far from a lock. 

Illinois Gambling Guide

Gambling History of Illinois

Most accounts of Illinois history assign gambling an early and prominent role in the story of the state.  Whether through the lotteries of early settlers, the famous riverboat gambling ships that cruised Illinois waters during the 1800s or the ubiquitous, ever-present gambling halls of Chicago, you'd be hard-pressed to pick a point in the Illinois timeline that didn't involve gambling in some way, shape or form.  Today's gambling industry in Illinois is a result of nearly forty years of legislative shifts toward gambling expansion, one that began in 1974 with the authorization of a state lottery.

What Gambling is Regulated in Illinois?

Most popular forms of regulated gambling are permitted under Illinois law.  In addition to the state lottery and the multiple casinos spread across the state, there is also legal pari-mutuel wagering in Illinois and a wide slate of charitable gambling formats.

Is There Regulated Online Gambling in Illinois?

Illinois is one of the few states in the US that offers regulated ways to gamble online.  You can purchase various tickets from the state lottery online.  Betting over the Internet on horse races (at approved sites) is also permitted by the Illinois Racing Board.  As of yet, however, Illinois has not introduced regulated online poker or online casino games.

Illinois Gambling: Recent Headlines

2012 was a busy year for the gambling desks at Illinois newspapers.  First came the legislative fight over casino expansion that ended with Gov. Pat Quinn's veto in August [2].  Despite that setback, proponents of more regulated gambling still managed a net gain for the year when video gambling (of the legal variety) finally came to Illinois in October [3]

In one final twist, the 2012 elections changed the makeup of the Illinois statehouse to a point where the Governor will no longer be able [4] to veto gambling legislation.

Illinois Online Poker and Gambling Facts: Objective Sources

ICGA [5].  The Illinois Casino Gaming Association is a trade group representing the interests of many of Illinois' casinos.  The group's site provides useful research material for those interested in the Illinois gambling industry.

Illinois Gaming Board [6].  The official site for the state gaming board is the definitive resource for legal and regulatory information concerning gambling in Illinois.  Get information on meetings, measures, help with problem gambling and self-exclusion along with a wealth of statistical information at the IGB website.

ICPG [7].  The online home for the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling is a central location providing access to a 24-hour helpline, speakers, and resources for educators, families and players.

Illinois and Poker History

There are actually a number of points at which the history of poker and the history of Illinois intersect.  One example is the story of James Butler Hickok, better known as "Wild Bill."  It was Hickok's death that gave a name to the now-famous "dead mans hand" - two pair, aces and eights, said to be held by the lawman when he was shot during a poker game. 

Another example comes in the colorful tale of Nick “The Greek” Dandolos, who called Chicago home for much of his life.  Dandolos was part of the mythic (and likely false) match up with Johnny Moss that is often cited as the template for the World Series of Poker.  A final, and more modern, illustration of the shared history between poker and Illinois is author and poker player Jim McManus, who lives in the state.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Illinois Online Poker