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21-Feb-21 – Several states are reeling from tax revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with losses estimated to be $2 billion following four months of closure in 2020. However, the states that legalized online casinos are feeling less of the brunt. Unfortunately, Illinois was not one of these states, as the state still contends with legislation prohibiting online casinos from operating within its jurisdiction.

In 2019, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize sports betting, with the first legal sports bet struck in March 2020. Since then, the state has become the fourth largest sports betting market in America, with revenues for November 2020 alone amounting to $37 million. The casino industry anticipated that sports betting legislation would serve as a precursor to the introduction of iGaming, but the industry continues to face fierce opposition from several groups.

Online casinos in Illinois

Gambling in Illinois is an undoubtedly contentious matter, with several legal issues curbing online casinos’ adoption. Although there has been much deliberation and attempts to legalize online gambling, it’s still not a foreseeable reality despite numerous efforts to sway the opposition.

The many trials and tribulations of Illinois gambling are listed below...

Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990

Mistyck Moon / Pixabay

Casinos proliferated in Illinois after the Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990 legalized commercial casinos run on regulated boats operating outside Lake Michigan and counties with large populations, over three million residents.

Mistyck Moon / Pixabay

Illinois Criminal Code

According to Section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012, gambling is a Class A misdemeanor. The criminal code states that a person is engaged in gambling when someone knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for real money. Forms of gambling exempt from legal recourse are as follows: riverboat casinos, lotteries, and bingo, along with horse racing. The code also stipulates that internet sites that permit a person to gamble are illegal.

Senate Bill 1739

Illinois State Senators introduced Senate Bill 1739 (SB 1739) in 2013. The bill was attached to a Chicago Casino Development Act, with SB 1739 seeking online gambling legalization. Lawmakers opposed the inclusion of SB 1739 and motioned for its removal in entirety from the Casino Development Act – no online gambling in Chicago this time around.

Senate Bill 208

The battle continued in early 2017 when prominent land-based casinos banded together with several Democratic Senators to lobby amendments to the Riverboat Gambling Act. The proposed amendments would allow the state to grant online gambling licenses in the state, primarily to launch online poker and casino games. Senate Bill 208 (SB 208) included details of how the Illinois Gaming Board would charge $10 million per gambling license and collect 15 percent gross gaming revenue for Illinois’ coffers. SB 208 passed relevant committees and progressed to the Senate, where it passed with a resounding full floor vote of 42-10 in May 2017.

The Senate bill’s companion, House Bill 479 (HB 479), addressed casino games, online poker, and daily fantasy sports.



HB 479 went to the House Executive Committee for a hearing in early June 2017, but the hearing was rescheduled numerous times and eventually canceled. Four months later, proponents of HB 479 unsuccessfully attempted to move the bill forward to the final agenda for consideration, debate, and for it to pass into legislation before the end of the year. Shortly after that, the Illinois legislative session closed for the year – this effectively ended the chances of HB 479 for that year and any hopes of any legal online casinos in Chicago for the next year.

Senate Bill 7

Gambling proponents introduced Senate Bill 7 in 2018 shortly after the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, paving the way for the legalization of sports betting. SB 7 would amend both the Riverboat Gambling Act and the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 to authorize electronic gaming at racetracks. The bill also included provisional terms that would allow the state to introduce sports betting, fantasy sports betting, and online gaming. The bill passed the Senate but did not pass onto the House of Representatives.

Potential respite

Despite all the restrictions, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, with Golden Nugget secured access in Illinois. A definitive agreement penned by Golden Nugget Online Gaming stipulates that it will construct a Danville land-based casino. The exciting part of the deal states that the casino will hold exclusive rights to offer online sports betting and online casino betting (if permitted by law in the future).

Can you play online casinos from Illinois?

The gambling law in Illinois is fraught with restriction, but as gamblers know, there’s always a way around a problem. As previously mentioned, Section 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code detailed that an internet site that allows gambling is illegal. The code appears to be relatively rigid, but it’s interesting to note that there is no mention of gamblers residing in Illinois guilty of online gambling. There is also no mention of punitive measurements put into place.

Photo by Aidan Howe

Simply put, it’s perfectly acceptable, safe, and legal for Illinois residents to participate in online gambling, especially if it’s at offshore online casinos that accept U.S. players.

Photo by Aidan Howe

These real money online casinos feature all of the popular games that players would expect from U.S. land-based casinos.

Those looking to get in on the online gambling action now have the difficult choice of picking an online casino. This monumental task is made easier by online reviews that put these casinos through their paces. New gamblers have the opportunity of picking the absolute best casinos based on reputation and, naturally, the exciting welcome bonuses, convenient payment methods, and variety of games on offer.

The easiest way for Illinois residents to get in on the online casino action is to accept that the best online casinos in Illinois aren’t in Illinois. Playing at offshore online casino websites is a viable solution for residents that demand unparalleled safety and fantastic gameplay. The Golden Nugget Online Gaming agreement may certainly expedite any local online gambling laws; only time will tell if online casinos are destined for Illinois or not.

About the writer: Hein Sondag

Hein has worked in the online casino and sports betting industries for over ten years. A wild man at heart with a passion for writing about what matters most about betting – turning a profit while enjoying the gameplay. He’s an avid fan of horse racing, baccarat, and the slot industry’s latest developments. He’s cycling, hiking, and swimming with sharks when he’s not keeping tabs on the latest online casino developments for Online United States Casinos.