Online Poker and Gambling Laws in Illinois
2021 Update: Has Illinois Legalized Online Poker?
There’s still no online poker legislation in Illinois, but the state expanded its gaming options recently. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize sports betting. Lawmakers passed this in mid-2019 and it also expanded casinos in the state. River Casino in Des Plaines was the first casino to start sports betting. They opened on March 9, 2020 and then Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order to allow for expanding online sports betting across the state in June.
The bill also lets existing gambling locations install slot machines and table games. This is definitely the biggest expansion the state has seen. The state tried before too, including with online poker, but weren’t as successful.
There was an attempt to legalize online poker back in 2017 and the bill found tremendous support in the Illinois State Senate. It passed 42-10, but it failed to pass through the House. But now that the state looks like it’s opening its doors to more gaming, online poker could be next.
Online Poker and the Law in Illinois
Illinois has expanded its gambling laws recently. All the state’s gambling laws are in the state’s statute. Here you find everything from definitions to penalties to what kind of games are or aren’t allowed in the state. One of the most basic elements of any gambling statute is what exactly qualifies as gambling. Article 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code defines gambling. It states:
“(1) knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section;
(2) knowingly makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or election;”
There are 10 more different points in the article, but these are the most relevant when it comes to gambling. The keywords here are chance and skill. Most definitions include the word chance, and this would seem to exclude poker. This is because a federal judge ruled poker to be a game of skill in 2012. But here we see that Illinois’s statutes include the word skill. This would definitely encompass poker and therefore put it under the purview of state law.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Illinois?
Sorry Illinoisans, there’s no PokerStars in your state and there won’t be until the state starts regulating it. After regulation, the state would also have to license PokerStars to let it operate in the state. There are currently only two states that have both passed online poker legislation and given PokerStars a license: New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Every state that has legalized online poker has put in different rules. They usually dictate who can run online poker sites, how many will be allowed and a bunch of other technicalities like tax rates and player pools. The latter is interesting because it’s really a make-or-break element for any poker site. This is because more players means more game selection, more variety of stakes and larger tournaments. So far, PokerStars in the US has segregated player pools.
Luckily a few PokerStars alternatives for players in Illinois and across the US have popped up. Sites like Bovada, Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom accept players from all 50 states. Check out our full reviews below:
Legal Gambling in Illinois
While online poker still hasn’t been regulated in Illinois, there are plenty of legal gambling options in the state. And as we mentioned before, the state recently expanded gaming. Illinois offers pretty much everything there is except for tribal casinos.
The Illinois lottery is one of the older ones out there. It started back in 1974 and is now operated by Camelot Illinois. The lottery has grown significantly since then. In 2019 the lottery sold a total of about $3 billion worth of tickets. Players got paid out $1.9 billion and $731 million went to the state’s common school fund. It is one of the top five revenue generators in the state.
There are also 10 casinos in the state and the new bill includes adding six more casinos in the state. One of them is being advertised as a mega-casino in Chicago. This would give residents plenty of options to gamble on all kinds of slots and table games –including poker– across the state. The state’s hoping for $2.7 billion in one-time revenue and another $500 million a year after that. The bill also included sports betting, so you can also sports-bet to your hearts content around the state.
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