Online Poker in Illinois

March 31, 2015
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Is Online Poker Legal in Illinois?

Illinois Poker Quick Facts
Illinois Online Poker

Illinois doesn't have a law that specifically prohibits online gambling, because they don't need one. All gambling, both games of skill and games of chance, are totally illegal in the state - online or otherwise. You cannot legally play online poker in Illinois.

State Population:
State Size:
57,914 sq. miles
Is online poker legal in Illinois:

As of 2015, online poker in Illinois is an unclear issue. Most gambling is not legal within the state but there is not yet any specific internet gambling law on the Illinois books. Also, there has never been a case of anyone even being charged with playing internet poker in Illinois. In fact, some lawmakers in Illinois want to see the state become a hub for regulated online poker. Read on to find out more about the potential of legal Illinois online poker.

Illinois never had much interest in legalized gambling in the state until lotteries became popular, as illegal gambling and mafia problems plagued cities like Chicago for many years. There had also been some illegal gambling halls in the 1950s and 1960s, but a crackdown eliminated them from the landscape. Not considered gambling by most, the lottery started in 1972, and horse racing was a long-standing tradition in the state. It wasn’t until neighboring states like Iowa legalized and embraced riverboat casinos that Illinois made its own move in that direction. The bill was signed in January 1990, and licenses were distributed soon after so that operations could begin in 1991. To compete with Iowa, Illinois made its gaming rules more tolerant and broad, which meant no betting limits or loss limits. The first riverboat to open was the Alton Belle Casino in 1991. Legal Internet poker in Illinois could be the next gambling issue the state's legislators undertake.

Illinois Poker FAQ

Q. How does the lottery tie into online gambling?

A. The establishment of a system of lottery tickets over the Internet involves a great deal of safety and security measures to keep underage people and problem gamblers from buying tickets. Those same measures would be required for an online poker site in Illinois or any online gambling venture, and the lottery is proving that it can be done. Any Internet gambling venture would be established under the same lottery and overseen by the same committee.

Q. Why doesn’t the legislature see the similarities between the lottery and gambling?

A. Many legislators do see the similarities and the tax benefits that would help Illinois during struggling economic times. However, there are many who equate gambling and poker with the early saloons and associated lawlessness, and they have yet to be convinced it will work and be safe for Illinois citizens. It will take time to garner the support necessary to legalize Illinois online poker and other types of games.

Q. Will Nevada be an inspiration for Illinois?

A. There is little doubt that Illinois is watching the legalization of online poker in Nevada very closely, and the launch of the first sites have answered many questions that Illinois lawmakers currently have. Whether Illinois will follow Nevada’s lead or not remains to be seen.

Q. How do riverboat casinos feel about the possibility of online poker or online casinos?

A. Similar to concerns in other states, Illinois riverboat operators are concerned that online gambling sites will detract from their casino profits. Should legislation lean instead toward online poker only, though, casinos might be more likely to support the idea and embrace the part they could play in the growth of the online poker industry.

Illinois Poker History

The first serious talks of land-based casinos for Illinois came in the 1970s when the revenue was needed for the state, but the laws didn’t come to be. Instead, riverboat casinos became more regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board, a team of five appointed by the governor to issue licenses, collect taxes, and enforce rules.

Illinois took an interest in online poker in 2009 but not to legalize it. The state revised a statute to include a provision regarding illegal gambling that includes Internet sites that allow play of chance or skill games for money or anything of value. While the section of the law did not prohibit players from competing on such sites, it did forbid operators from establishing, maintaining, or operating such a service. Illinois online poker seemed a distant dream until 2012 when the Illinois lottery went online. The notion that lottery tickets could be sold and revenue generated over the Internet caused lawmakers to rethink online poker for Illinois.

Online Illinois Poker And The Government

In early 2012, Senate President John Cullerton notified Governor Pat Quinn and others that he planned to file a proposal in the state legislature to amend an existing bill by adding Internet gambling. The proposal would have created a Division of Internet Gaming under the Illinois lottery umbrella. However, the bill failed to acquire the support it needed to move forward, and House Bill 4148 was pulled from the agenda before the end of the May 2012 session. Cullerton does plan to move forward and try again with the bill, as more support continues to grow for land-based gambling and Illinois online poker. The 2011 Department of Justice decision that the Wire Act does not apply to lottery tickets, and in effect online gambling, could also help the case. To contact your Illinois legislators, visit this site: Illinois Legislative Information.

Illinois currently allows the operation of 10 riverboat casinos, and they generate a cumulative total of more than $489 million in tax revenue alone from the nearly $1.5 billion annual gross gaming revenue. Casinos employ more than 7,900 people and attract approximately 14.8 million visitors per year. Estimates show that Illinois online poker could create an additional revenue stream that could be in the multi-million dollar range.

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