Illinois Casinos and Gambling

Illinois casinos might seem illegal at first glance, but that was before the loophole concerning riverboat casinos came into play. Thanks to modern architecture and legal ingenuity, gamblers can now enjoy all of the gaming options that one might find in Las Vegas or Macau.

In addition to casino gambling in Illinois, residents and visitors also have access to a wide range of other options, including horse racing, bingo, and a state lottery. This article is meant to provide an overview of the state’s current legal landscape, allowing you to make the best decision possible when planning your next trip.

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Illinois Gambling Laws

Based on the laws of the land, Illinois casinos are illegal if they’re permanently based on land. This rule has been circumvented by the creation of riverboat casinos, however, so anyone wanting to visit a gambling establishment within the state has plenty of options to choose from.

Within the sub-sections of the laws regarding gambling, a number of notable exceptions were also made. The following forms of gambling are now legal within the state of Illinois:

  • Riverboat Casinos
  • Video Gaming Terminals
  • Pull Tabs and Jar Games
  • Raffles & Charitable Games
  • Bingo
  • State Lottery and Scratch Tickets
  • Pari-mutuel Betting
  • Games of skill or chance where no payment or purchase is required to enter

In 2012, video gaming machines were allowed to be placed in truck stops, bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations, and any business with a liquor license. This announcement came after three years of legal wrangling following the passage of a 2009 measure to allow up to five video poker machines in the aforementioned facilities. The state gets a cut of the revenue, with the money earmarked for capital improvement projects.

According to Section 28-8 of the state’s laws covering gambling, anyone who loses $50 or more while gambling can sue in a circuit court to recover their losses. If they don’t take advantage of this right within 6 months, then any other party can sue on their behalf (with the court tripling the awarded amount). This handy law only applies to illegal gambling, however, so don’t start thinking about playing at the riverboat casinos and then taking them to court.

Illinois Casinos

All Illinois casinos are technically considered riverboat gambling, although most are permanently moored and attached to the land. They were the second state to allow such a legal compromise with gambling proponents, and their first establishment opened up in 1991.

A wide range of casino games are available, and wagers run from a single penny to $100,000. You can try your luck at favorites such as blackjack, craps, slots, and roulette, as well as the following: video poker, baccarat, poker, and keno.

The current list of casinos in Illinois includes the following:

  • Casino Queen & Hotel
  • Harrah’s Metropolis
  • Harrah’s Joliet
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
  • Rivers Casino Des Plaines
  • Argosy’s Alton Belle Casino
  • Jumer’s Casino & Hotel
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino

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.”


The first few paragraphs of the state’s gambling laws sound ominous, making gambling illegal and labeling two-time violators as felons. Once you dive into the additional sub-sections, though, you’ll quickly realize that Illinois is more permissive about gambling than many other states.

Their riverboat casinos might as well be on the land for all intents and purposes, and most have spacious hotel accommodations attached. On-site and simulcast horseracing is also available throughout the state, as well as lotteries and bingo. You won’t find any legal bookmakers to accept your wagers, but that can always be remedied by visiting an online service.