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Illinois Gambling & Online Poker Laws

Poker Sites in Illinois
Illinois Gambling & Online Poker Laws
Last Updated November 17, 2018

Home to the “Windy City” and 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 in Illinois.

Latest Updates Through 2018

Actions in the Illinois legislature in 2017 gave many online poker supporters hope that lawmakers were beginning to see the positives of legalizing and regulating online gaming. There was a bill that would’ve done just that for online poker and casino games, which passed the full Senate by a 42-10 vote in May, but the House bill never made it through committee as hearings were cancelled at the last minute.

However, online poker remained on the table going into 2018. State Representative Michael Zalewski’s H.479 was still being pushed, and he was confident that the right mix of gambling expansion projects would be appealing to a majority of lawmakers.

The tide began to turn not long after the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA, which allowed New Jersey and all other states to address sports betting as they chose. Supporters of online gambling revised SB.7 to add daily fantasy sports and sports betting to the bill, but it happened late in the session and too close to its closing date of May 31.

Senate Bill 7 became a bill for both sides of the legislators, complete with an array of Republican and Democratic sponsors: Senators Terry Link, Dave Syverson, Mattie Hunter, and Donne Trotter; and Representatives Robert Rita, Rita Mayfield, Chad Hays, and Litesa Wallace. The proposal included articles for the “Fantasy Sports Act,” “Internet Gaming Act,” and “Sports Wagering Act.” Importantly, though, the bill lacked details about tax rates, licensing, and the regulatory framework.

One of those sponsors, Rita, then took an opportunity in the summer of 2018 to announce two hearings to discuss gambling expansion for Illinois. The first was held on August 22 in Chicago, and it was more than four hours of debate featuring members of joint committees. The main topic seemed to be new casinos and expanding video gaming terminals.

The second hearing was set for October 3 in Springfield, and Rita hopes to focus more on sports betting, DFS, and online poker and casino games. The debate may then be put on hold until the mid-term elections in November, which will likely determine the trajectory for SB.7.

Is Gambling / Poker Legal in Illinois?

Type/CodeSummary
State Code Section(s)230.ICLS.5-40; 720.ICLS.5.28
Definition of Gambling & PlayerPerson Commits Gambling:Knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value; or 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.
Online Poker/GamblingMultiple attempts to legalize online poker and internet gaming have happened in the last decade, but the most recent pieces of legislation came close to passage. The 2017 bill for online poker was paired with casino expansion and passed the Senate but not the House. There is talk of an omnibus bill that will include online gambling with other forms of gambling expansion in 2018 or 2019.
Live PokerLive poker is permitted in all of the casinos in Illinois, and the poker rooms offer cash games and tournaments.
CasinosThe Riverboat Gambling Act permitted 10 fully-functional casinos to be established on riverboats, though the strict rules have been eased somewhat. There have been proposals to establish more casinos in Illinois, most recently via bills in 2017 and 2018. Lawmakers have come surprisingly close to expanding the number of casinos in the state.
Sports BettingA bill to legalize sports betting in Illinois casinos was introduced in 2018 and is still pending..
DFS2017 proposal for daily fantasy sports carried over into 2018 and remains open for consideration, possibly as a part of a larger gambling expansion bill going forward.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse racing, pari-mutuel betting, bingo, raffles, pull-tabs, charitable gambling, poker runs, jar games, Native American gaming, video gaming terminals.

Illinois Online Poker Guide

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

Poker Sites Open to Players From Your State
Bovada$500 Bonus3-4 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires
Ignition$2000 Bonus3-4 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires

Is Online Poker Legal in Illinois?

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 real poker sites in Illinois on this page 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.

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.

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.

What does Illinois law have to say about online gambling?  It is illegal if someone plays poker online?

“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)).”

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.  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, a condition that persists to the current day.  That combination of factors suggests a climate conducive to passing an online poker bill, but Illinois is still several steps from that point.

Your chances of seeing Illinois online poker sites is improving by the year, but it is far from a lock as it remains in the initial consideration phase.

Illinois Gambling Guide

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 the 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.

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 legalized or regulated online poker or online casino games.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Illinois in the News
  • October 18th, 2018

    Illinois was one of only a few states that held open the possibility of legalizing online poker and other casino games in latter part of 2018. The consideration has been part of a larger gambling expansion bill that was and remains on the table for lawmakers this year. While online

    Read Full
  • August 26th, 2018

    While most other states that had considered online poker in 2018 abandoned those ideas earlier in the year, Illinois remained open to it. One lawmaker continues to champion one bill, and its future may depend on a legislative hearing set for October. The process of legalizing online gaming – whether

    Read Full
  • August 2nd, 2018

    Most states that examined online poker in early 2018 have abandoned it for the year, as legislative sessions ended and no plans were made to revisit online gaming at all in the next few months. Illinois, it appears, is not one of those states. There wasn’t much hope placed in

    Read Full
  • May 29th, 2018

    Online poker and gambling became real legislative possibilities for Illinois in 2017. The Senate even passed a bill to legalize and regulate those internet games one year ago, but the companion bill on the House side never garnered enough support to even pass a committee. There has been no word

    Read Full
  • January 22nd, 2018

    The state of Illinois took a more serious look at online gambling in 2017 than in years past. There were moments of surprise when the subject became a part of serious discussions, but it ultimately stalled without much progress. Now that a new year has begun, what is the status?

    Read Full
  • November 25th, 2017

    Less than two weeks ago, it became clear that Illinois was not going to proceed with any effort to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2017. The time for serious consideration and debate passed. While Illinois did go further with online poker and casino game legislation than most anticipated, there

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IL Online Poker and Gambling Facts: Objective Sources

ICGA .  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.  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  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 much debated) 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.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has been followed the US market closely for the last 7 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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