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Illinois Gambling & Poker Laws

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 – Update as of June 24, 2018

Within weeks, Vanel had secured nearly 50 co-sponsors for the Assembly’s online poker bill, and the process was continuing into May. As the Chairman of the Internet and New Technology Subcommittee, he was in prime position to push the legislation.

In early June, Bonacic moved his Senate bill forward. S.3898 passed the Finance Committee, though the companion proposal in the Assembly had to move quickly to get through several committees before the session ended on June 21. Even with Vanel’s help, however, Pretlow had not been able to advance A.5250 whatsoever.

When the New York legislative session did end late on the night of June 21, both online poker bills died. Chaos took over in the Senate in the last few weeks of work, with few bills moving forward for votes. Sports betting was among those that did not advance, along with online poker.

The only possibility remaining for the legalization of online poker throughout the remainder of 2018 is for it to become a priority for debate and a vote during a special session after the summer break. There could be a comprehensive bill that combines online gaming and sports betting that warrants attention, though it seems unlikely.

Online poker then faces an uphill battle if it is moved to 2019, as Bonacic decided to retire this year. The champion of this legislation for the past several years will no longer be able to ensure its passage in the Senate after 2018.

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
Intertops$600 Bonus5 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Wires
BetOnline$2500 Bonus5-7 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Wires
Sportsbetting$2500 Bonus5-7 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Wires

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 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

“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.

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.