Illinois Casinos and Gambling

Short Summary:  Illinois is fairly liberal when it comes to gambling laws.  The charitable gambling regulations are mostly reasonable, the state has a lottery and the casinos can offer whatever they like provided they are located in the water and close for at least two of every 24 hours.  The state, like West Virginia, also has slot parlors with Limited Video Lottery machines available. The only common forms of gambling not specifically legalized and regulated in the state are online gambling as well as sports betting.

There are plenty of gambling options in the highly gaming-liberal State of Illinois. The Land of Lincoln is a great place to be for gamblers as they have nearly the full gamut of opportunities to play available to them. There is no legalized and state-regulated online gambling at this time, nor is there currently any sports betting, (that won’t take long, we don’t think) but just about anything else is available for you.

The following forms of gambling are available:

  • Charitable
  • Lottery
  • Pari-Mutuel (Racing)
  • Commercial Gambling

While it also falls under the general umbrella of, “Commercial Gambling,” it’s worth mentioning that the Land of Lincoln also has small establishments, often bars, with a handful of machines that first became big in West Virginia and are referred to as, “Slot parlors.” Technically, Vegas had them and referred to them as, “Video Poker Bars,” prior to anyone else, but they are regulated to the same specifics as casinos out there. In states such as West Virginia and Illinois, these establishments are overseen by the State Lottery Commissions (which Nevada does not have, as they have no lottery) and are governed in terms of game returns, how many games an establishment may possess and what kinds of games they may have.

This sort of, “Convenience Gambling,” at its finest is one of the major factors, if not the factor, that lead to those two states ranking right up there with destination casino states in gambling spend (loss) per resident.

While the State of Illinois engages in both live and simulcast racing operations, the live operations are restricted to horse racing. Fortunately, this is one of the forty states in which the practice of racing greyhound dogs is completely banned and one of the 44 states in which it is either banned or, as a practical matter, just does not take place.

The Illinois Lottery operates and is part of the multi-state network for national games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. This is not expected to change anytime soon.

As far as Charitable Gaming is concerned, Raffles seem to be generally tolerated without a license in other states, but not here, and there needs to be a license for the organization to offer Bingo. There are two types of licenses available:

  1. Yearly License: This license costs the organization $200 and gives the organization the ability to operate a weekly Bingo game, any weeks that it likes, around the calendar.
  2. License Per Event: For organizations who do not believe they will regularly conduct Bingo, the state has an option for you, as well. The option here is to pay $50 for a license that will allow your organization to conduct up to two separate Bingo events with each one consisting of up to five days of Bingo operations. This is particularly useful if you are a non-profit organization that wishes to operate Bingo at a Fair, Carnival or something along those lines.

The only catch with the per event license is that a single organization may only be granted two such licenses per year, so the result of that is as many as four separate Bingo events to total as many as twenty total days.

Regardless of which sort of license an organization chooses, the tax rate on Bingo revenues comes in at a fairly trim one-half of one percent. Thus, if your organization were to bring in $100,000 in positive Bingo revenues for the year, only $500 in taxes would be due. Don’t you wish your Federal Income Tax worked the same way!?

When it comes to, “Monte Carlo Nights,” which are events in which a charitable organization offers actual casino games, Illinois is one of the few states to specifically authorize and regulate that activity. There is a fee of $400 that will allow an organization to conduct up to four such events annually (one day = one event) and each license is good for two years. The tax rate on the actual net proceeds is the same one-half of one percent.

For Pull Tabs and Jar Games, an annual license is $500, but that enables an organization to offer those kinds of games anytime they want throughout the entire year. They can offer a 50/50 Raffle every single day of the year, if they like. There is also a limited license available for these sorts of games that costs $50 and enables an organization to offer up to two such events consisting of up to five days each, two of these licenses may be obtained per year. It is important to note that these licenses are considered distinct from the Bingo licenses, so having one does not enable your organization to do both of these things.

The tax on Raffles and Jar Games is again one-half of one-percent, which I do not consider as generous as the Bingo. The reason why is because many states do not tax the net proceeds of raffles at all and nor do they require any kind of license for the operation of a charitable raffle.

Again, the gambling parlors are the ultimate in convenience gambling and seem to be one of the major revenue drivers, in terms of state taxation of gambling revenue, as they are extremely popular and accessible. The places are almost like microscopic casinos with no table games.

Online Gambling Legality In Illinois

The State of Illinois has certainly brought up the legalization of online gambling on multiple occasions, but any such attempts thus far have died a Legislative death. States such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and (partially) Nevada have already done this, so we will see if Illinois follows suit given how liberal they usually seem to be when it comes to gambling.

The only problem with Illinois when it comes to the legalization and regulation of online gambling is that, like West Virginia, they might be concerned that being able to gamble from home could hurt the slot parlors which also hurts Lottery Commission proceeds. In both of these two states, if you just want to play slots or video Keno, gambling couldn’t possibly be more convenient. There’s usually a parlor seemingly within arm’s length unless you live absolutely in the middle of nowhere, or in a county that, for whatever reason, decided to outlaw them.

Either way, parlor operators would almost certainly be against such a measure because it would pull from their business and, quite probably, give business to online casino companies who also happen to be much larger than they are anyway. It’s not like a bar owner with a few video poker machines is going to be able to offer online gambling to the entire state.

The only law in Illinois that seems as though it could be applied to players committing unlawful gambling reads like this:

knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section;
knowingly makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or election;

In any case, the law applies to any game that is not specifically authorized by the state. Since the state has yet to specifically authorize online gambling, online gambling would fall under the purview of this law. The result is theoretically a Class A Misdemeanor, but as far as we can tell, no resident in the Land of Lincoln has ever been arrested or fined for playing online in his/her own home and we would be absolutely shocked if that were to ever happen.

We will say that Illinois enforces their anti-gambling laws pretty strenuously when it comes to unlawful gambling taking place in a physical location, undoubtedly to protect its own financial interests. Here is a story in which a poker ring was busted that saw the arrest of 25 players.

You’re undoubtedly going to be better off gambling online from home than participating in any kind of illegal poker game or other place where illegal forms of gambling are going on. When it comes to physical gambling, Illinois has shown a willingness to arrest players and operators alike. Most states, though not all, would just let the players go.

Top 3 Illinois Online Casinos

Top sites ranked by 10 years of experience
Liberty Slots Casino Casino

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Lincoln Casino Casino

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Land Casinos In Illinois

The land casinos in Illinois technically aren’t land casinos at all as they are technically Riverboats. This is similar to Missouri in the sense that the casinos have to be on water, but they don’t even have to leave dock or even be technically capable of moving. Most of the casinos in this state are not going anywhere, ever, at least not unless they close.

Casino Queen

The Casino Queen is located in East St. Louis, Illinois and competes directly with some of the St. Louis, Missouri casinos. This establishment has a hotel conveniently located within as well as an RV Park that it owns and that is located nearby. While not a destination casino by any stretch of the imagination, it is a decent stop for locals, passer-through and anybody who happens to be visiting nearby who has nothing to do for an evening.

We would definitely recommend being extremely careful to know where you are going and not get lost in the general area, though. East St. Louis, in terms of crime rankings, consistently ranks at or near the very top in most violent and crime-ridden cities year after year.

The casino features over 1,100 machines and is interesting because the way things are governed in that it has to close at least once per day. On most weekdays, the casino closes at 4:00a.m. to reopen at 8:00a.m., and then on weekends it closes at 6:00a.m. to reopen at 8:00a.m.

Amusingly, but not for them (of course) this closing every day has posed a problem for some advantage players that I know. The problem that they have is that they have to leave the casino while on some sort of progressive, but then they have to hurry up and try to get back in and back to the machine as soon as the casino opens back up. If there was some kind of play that nobody else knows about, this wouldn’t be a problem…but if it is a must-hit that is pretty evidently in a positive state, that can pose quite the problem! I can only imagine the virtual footrace with people running, but not exactly running, to the machines that must have happened at least once by now.

This casino also offers Table Games consisting of EZ Baccarat, BlackjackCrapsRoulette, Three-Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em.

For those who think there is anything interesting or unique about the, “Riverboat,” gambling experience, let me save you some disappointment and maybe some money: there isn’t. You get into the place and it looks like any other casino. The only exception to this was the Isle of Capri in Kansas City, Missouri, and that’s only because you had to go down some stairs after entering to be on the casino floor. That’s literally the only meaningful difference inside the doors I have ever experienced on a Riverboat.

Harrah’s Joliet

Located in Joliet, Illinois, a suburb east of Chicago, this casino is one of the larger ones in the state. The hotel is fairly sizable, consisting of more than 200 guest rooms including standard rooms as well as suites. While not a monolithic structure like you might expect to find in a place like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, 200+ rooms are pretty respectable for a casino-hotel by Midwest standards. We have pretty low standards.

This is one of the casinos in Illinois that, unlike a casino such as the Casino Queen, offers live poker. In terms of table games, they have precisely 31 tables, according to their website. Games offered are Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Three-Card Poker, High-Card Flush, Mini-Baccarat, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and Mississippi Stud, at least, according to their website as of the time of this writing.

This property houses three restaurants, one of which is upscale, one casual and one buffet. In addition to those, there are two lounges on the property. This is another establishment that is probably mostly a locals’ place and not really worth going out of your way to visit unless you have a free evening and enjoy gambling. It is not a resort by any stretch of the imagination, much less a destination casino.

As with other casinos in the state, it is REQUIRED by law to close for at least two hours every day, thus, the casino floor is not open from 6:00a.m.-8:00a.m.

Harrah’s Metropolis

Harrah’s Metropolis is located in a place called Metropolis (hence the name) which is anything but and is in Southern Illinois. It actually advertises itself that way, as, “In Southern Illinois,” so you know that this is not even close to a destination city. This property features a hotel that also consists of regular rooms and a few suites, which aren’t terribly different from the regular rooms aside from being a little bigger.

Somewhat smaller than Harrah’s Joliet, this property only boasts 800+ machine games and has a poker room that is only open on weekends, presumably for lack of weekly traffic. Table Games include Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, High-Card Flush, Three-Card Poker, Mini-Baccarat and  Mississippi Stud. Given the hours on the poker room, it is extremely unlikely that all of these different table game titles operate during all of the hours in which they are open, so you might want to call if you have a preference for a less common game and see what hours you can expect it to be open.

This is even less a destination casino than its’ similarly-named Joliet location, so it is definitely not worth going out of your way to get to. It seems like it would mostly be a place for people living in the area or people who are passing through on their way to somewhere else.

With that said, in this month of October 2018, they are advertising room discounts for as low as $50 for a standard room, which is good for anywhere. If you’re looking for a cheap hotel room to crash overnight driving across a few states, or what have you, we’re pretty sure you can do a lot worse than this. Harrah’s also seem to have pretty good standards when it comes to the cleanliness of their hotel rooms, too.

Hollywood Casino Aurora

Located in Aurora, Illinois, the Hollywood Casino features a steakhouse, buffet and a deli. This is definitely not a destination resort by any stretch of the imagination. Despite the fact that Aurora is a suburb of Chicago, so you might be expecting something grandiose, this is anything but. It is underwhelming and does not have a hotel on property.

Besides, while Hollywood casinos are consistently aesthetically appealing and generally pretty clean, if you’ve seen one of them you have seen them all. They all have the same (obvious) theme and the food locations in every Hollywood Casino almost always seem to be virtually the same thing all the time. That’s not to disrespect them, they’re decent casinos and we would recommend checking one out if you’ve never been, it’s just that the, “Hollywood Experience,” is the same everywhere.

Would it be rude to say that it’s like the Denny’s of casinos? They’re everywhere and you know what you’re getting.

This casino boasts over 1,000 machines and has denominations starting at a penny and ranging all the way up to $100. Again, this is true of most Hollywood Casinos, in fact, I’ve only seen one that didn’t have at least one machine with that high a denomination, unless prohibited by the state in question. Table Games offered are Craps, Blackjack, Three-Card Poker, Mini-Baccarat, Mississippi Stud, Roulette and High-Card Flush. We recommend calling for the usual operating hours if you play one of the less common of those, such as High Card Flush. They also have a poker room.

As with other casinos in the state, they are also required to close at least two hours out of every 24.

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin

Located thirty-five miles Northwest of Chicago, the Grand Victoria Casino Elgin is located in a suburb of the same name. If not a suburb, at least within the same general Metropolitan area. While other casinos seem to have decided on 6:00a.m.-8:00a.m, this casino chooses to make its two legally required closed hours from 6:30a.m.-8:30a.m., for whatever reason.

While there is a center for meetings and banquets, as well as four restaurants on the property, it does not seem that there is a hotel located directly on this property. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, however, there are several hotels in the general area. This casino features more than 1,100 slots and video poker games combined, so there are plenty of choices for the player and they are about the scope of Harrah’s Joliet. As well as the poker room, this casino features the following table games: Blackjack; Craps; Roulette; Three-card; Mississippi Stud; orBaccarat.

This is another casino that seems nice enough if you happen to be in the area, but would mainly cater to locals and those who just happen to be around with a free evening. We suppose that someone could also be attending an event or meeting that has been reserved there. Definitely otherwise not a destination casino by any stretch of the imagination. The restaurants read nicely enough that I would be inclined to check them out if I lived in the area.

Hollywood Casino Joliet

It looks like Joliet consists mainly of one cookie-cutter copy-and-paste corporate casino competing with another as Hollywood Joliet is here to offer Harrah’s Joliet some competition for customers. This casino offers over 100 hotel rooms as well as over 80 RV sites, so it is another good passthrough place along the highway for people, or a decent option for people who have to be in the Chicago area anyway.

This casino features the Final Cut Steakhouse (because what Hollywood doesn’t?) the Epic Buffet, (Because what Hollywood doesn’t?) a deli, (because what Hollywood doesn’t?) and a place called 99 Hops House, which is essentially a brewpub. I guess at least there is not one of those at every Hollywood location. They feature over 1,100 combined slots and Video Poker games putting them almost exactly on the scope of Harrah’s Joliet in that regard, as well.

There are twenty-five table games consisting of, “Blackjack, Craps, Roulette and more,” according to their website. If you want to know what the, “And more,” consists of, I guess you’re supposed to call them and ask. They either do not have a poker room, or if they do, they’re certainly not going out of their way to advertise it.

Argosy’s Alton Casino

Maybe there was once something unique about this casino, but it appears that it has been acquired by Penn National Gaming who also owns and operates the Hollywood chain. We’re not saying that there was ever anything that would have made this place in anyway unique, but if there ever had been, you can count on that being gone now.

Located in Alton, Illinois, which is just North of Saint Louis, this casino does not appear to have a hotel at this time and is probably primarily a locals hangout, or one for people who are just passing through the area.

They are closed from 6:00a.m.-8:00a.m., and if their website doesn’t care enough to tell me how many machines they have, I don’t care enough to find out and neither should you. Their website, as of the time of this writing, says this:

Blackjack, craps, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, Three Card Poker, 21+3, and roulette are the only table games in the area.

Which, of course, is not even true. Casino Queen advertises EZ Baccarat and Casino Queen is in the area. Unsurprisingly, as this casino’s entire website just seems to be one oversight after another, they don’t actually mention how many tables are in the premises.

And, again, if they don’t care; neither do I.

Rivers Casino

Rivers Casino, not to be confused with Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA and sometimes called Rivers Casino Des Plains (probably to clarify) is located in Des Plains, near Chicago. The owners of this casino managed to call SugarHouse, located in Philadelphia, PA, something else…who knows why they didn’t decide to give this one an original name.

This casino also does not have an attached hotel, but there are plenty of hotels nearby. After all, it’s Chicago. They have a few dining options with the standout probably being Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House, which there is another one of in SugarHouse, but not in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh; so there you go.

They advertise over 1,000 slots running the full range of denominations from pennies to $100, so that puts it on scope with Harrah’s Joliet and Hollywood Joliet. Table Games include Blackjack, Spanish 21, Craps, Roulette, Baccarat, Mississippi Stud, Pai-Gow Poker, Mississippi Stud and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em. Again, if you like to play any of the less common of these games, then we would recommend calling to see what hours your table is usually open because it’s almost certainly not around the clock. This is also the only casino in Illinois that lists Spanish 21 on their website.

According to their website:

This casino doesn’t shy away from big action as they will accept:

100X odds and up to $25,000 max odds on Craps
$500 any way to the number on Roulette
$100,000 max bet on Baccarat with dragon bonus side bet

That’s right up there with the sort of action many casinos in Vegas are willing to accept, and more than a lot of them will take.

Again, this is not a destination casino by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re going to Chicago for other reasons, it’s probably worth checking out. It seems like the sort of place that falls right in-between a locals casino and a destination casino.

Par-A-Dice Casino

The Par-A-Dice is located in East Peoria, Illinois and is one of the older casinos in the state, having opened in the early 90’s. This casino is one of the Boyd Properties and falls under the BConnected Players Club program as Boyd continues to dapple in areas outside of Las Vegas. Even with that, this is more of a hangout for locals and passerby than it is any kind of destination casino.

This casino features a combined 202 rooms and suites, so the scope of it is reasonably big, not unimpressive, for a locals sort of place.

Okay, so this is cool:

This casino actually has a, “Slot Search,” on the site, so you can type in whatever game you are looking for, and when you find it, you can click on the map to see where in the casino the game you like is at:

That’s pretty neat. Most casinos are content just to have you wander around aimlessly looking for your machine of choice, and that’s after you are already there, this casino lets you know whether or not the games you like are available ahead of time.

This property features a steakhouse, a buffet, two casual dining restaurants and a deli.

Table Games include Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Three-Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Mississippi Stud, Mini-Baccarat, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, High Card Flush, Let it Ride and Big Six Wheel. This might be the only casino in the state with a Big Six Wheel, at least based on what is advertised on the websites and also seems to be the only one with Caribbean Stud.

As with the other games, if you like to play a less common table game, we must encourage you to call and find out when your game might most commonly be open. The majority of less common table games do not operate around the clock anywhere. As with all Illinois casinos, all games must close for two hours every day. Finally, this casino does not seem to have a poker room.

Jumer’s Casino & Hotel

Jumer’s Casino and Hotel is owned and operated by Delaware North, who own a few casinos and racinos scattered throughout the midwest and elsewhere. The primary business of Delaware North is airport and sports stadium concessions and most people with a knowledge of casino operations would say that shows. It is located in Rock Island, Illinois.

This casino features 205 total guest rooms inclusive of regular rooms and suites. That puts it right there with any other casino in Illinois in terms of casino-hotel room scope. They have almost 1,000 slot machines, which makes them a little smaller in that regard than casinos such as Rivers, Harrah’s Joliet or Hollywood Joliet. They also advertise a range of $0.01 denomination up to $25 maximum denomination. Other casinos in the state have slot machines up to $100, but it seems to be a tendency of Delaware North casinos to, at least mostly, be scared of the possibility of paying out huge jackpots.

I love the website’s poker page:

The action is non-stop at Jumer’s Casino & Hotel, conveniently located in Rock Island, IL, near Bettendorf and Davenport, IA.

And…here are the hours for this non-stop action:

Poker Room Hours: 12pm-4am Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday. 11am-4am Friday. Closed Monday.

It seems that the action stops rather frequently and that there is no action at all on Monday.

Once again, only Delaware North could be oblivious enough to put something like this with just a few sentences of each other, so that should tell you what you need to know there.

Table Games consist of Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Mississippi Stud, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and Three-Card Poker. I would call for the hours on each game before visiting, and then call again to make sure they are open that day. One of Delaware North’s favorite things to do when business is slow is to pull the plug on as many table games as possible. They’ll probably leave something like one or two Blackjack Tables open just for appearances’ sake.

If it’s anything else like other Delaware North properties with a hotel. The hotel will be quite nice, the food scene will be shaky, at best, and the casino itself will be a joke. Jesus, the felt is even worn on the picture of the Blackjack Table on their website, check it out.

They couldn’t even be bothered to touch that up a bit in Photoshop.

Pari-Mutuel Racing in Illinois

You won’t find any greyhound racing in the state, but there are plenty of opportunities to watch the ponies run. Live events are held at various times during the year, and players can also watch them in a more air-conditioned setting thanks to simulcasting.

The following sites are set up to accommodate horse and harness racing:

  • Springfield Horse Racing
  • Maywood Park Race Track
  • awthorne Race Course
  • Fairmount Park Racetrack
  • Du Quoin State Fair Harness Racing
  • Balmoral Park Racetrack
  • Arlington International Racecourse

Illinois Lottery

The Illinois state lottery has been around since 1974, back in a time when only states in the Midwest and Northeast offered such games to their residents. Operated by the Northstar Lottery Group, the Illinois lottery was also the first of its kind to have its non multi-jurisdictional drawings broadcast across the nation. In order to be eligible for a cash payout, a customer must be at least 18 years of age.

Televised drawings are held twice a day, and Illinois participates in several multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as those that are labeled “in-house.” In 2012, they also became the first state to allow lottery sales via the Internet.

Since the inception of their state lottery, Illinois has raised over $18 billion in funds. Much of this money is used to fund public schools and infrastructure, but additional recipients have included HIV/AIDS researchers, breast cancer charities, and military veterans.

Current lottery games include the following:

  • Pick 3
  • Pick 4
  • Fireball
  • Lotto
  • Lotto Extra Shot
  • Lucky Day Lotto
  • Powerball
  • Mega Millions

In addition to lottery tickets, residents and those passing through the state may also purchase scratch-off tickets at hundreds of convenience stores and other licensed retailers. The amounts and prizes vary, as do the themes which range from local sports teams to television game shows.

Slot Machine Ownership

According to Illinois law, residents are allowed to own any slot machine that was manufactured at least 25 years prior. This qualifies them as an antique slot, meaning anyone living in Illinois in 2015 could own a 1990 slot machine without fear of legal trouble.

Think again, however, if you’re planning on plugging in the machine and running a one-machine casino in the suburbs. According to the law, antique slots can only be owned if they are “neither used nor intended to be used in the operation or promotion in any unlawful gambling activity or enterprise.”

Conclusion And Prognosis

If you want to gamble online in the State of Illinois, there is no way to do so that has been legalized and is regulated by the State, but there is also virtually no way you would ever get in trouble for doing so and plenty of casinos offer their services in the Land of Lincoln.

Illinois tends to be liberal on gambling overall, other than the weird stipulation that casinos must close their floors for at least two out of every twenty-four hours. Charitable gambling laws are basically reasonable, other than they seem to be a bit tougher on raffles than they should be.

We expect Illinois to come around on legalizing and regulating online gambling as other states increasingly do so, UNLESS they fear that it will interfere with the Limited Video Lottery (i.e. Slot Parlor) business too much. It is quite possible that they will feel that way, so it really just comes down to that.

We expect to see sports betting legalized in the state within the next five years, again as other states increasingly do so, if not within the next year or two.

Other than that, just about any other form of gambling you could want is there for you in the Land of Lincoln 22 hours a day.

References