Illinois Online Poker Legal Climate

Illinois falls directly in the median as the 25th largest of the 50 US states, but in terms of residency, it’s brimming end to end with the nation’s 5th highest population of 12,882,135 (est. 2013). The state is well known for its abundance of historical museums and is one of the highest yielding manufacturing states in the country. It also happens to have an abundance of state authorized gambling establishments, offering everything from casino games and poker tables to pari-mutuel horse race betting. Unfortunately, Illinois has yet to legalize and regulate online poker, but that alone doesn’t make the activity illegal.

The Land of Lincoln is teeming with poker enthusiasts, many of which who played over the internet pre-Black Friday. What many of them would like to know is whether or not online poker is legal in Illinois, explicitly illegal, or if it falls within a grey area of the state’s laws.

Land-based Gambling in Illinois

A jurisdiction’s attitude towards land-based gambling often provides clues to its stance on internet poker. If poker is an accepted activity in brick-and-mortar facilities, online poker tends to fall into a grey area where it is neither specifically legalized nor prohibited.

There are many gambling destinations in the Prairie State, but the majority of them that offer casino style gaming are riverboat casinos that traverse the Mississippi. State law allows for only 10 land-based casino licenses, thus there are 10 brick-and-mortar casinos operating in Illinois, 7 of which offer live poker rooms. There are also more than half a dozen horse racing tracks, countless charitable bingo halls and a multi-million dollar state-organized lottery system that includes the sale of online lottery tickets. As such, we know that Illinois has no problem generating tax dollars from gambling activities, and has ventured somewhat into the online gambling sector.

Deciphering the Laws of Illinois as they relate to Online Poker

To determine the legality of online poker in Illinois, we will examine a few excerpts from the Illinois Compiled Statues as they pertain to online poker.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
720 ILCS 5/28-1 Gambling and Related Offenses (a) A person commits gambling when he or she:

(1) knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section;

(12) knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any game, contest, political nomination, appointment, or election by means of the Internet. This item (12) does not apply to activities referenced in items (6) and (6.1) of subsection (b) of this Section.

Internet gambling is explicitly defined as an illegal activity in Illinois. Online poker, when played for money, is illegal due to the reference of games based on chance or skill.

Note: Subsection (b) refers to legalized forms of gambling, which includes state licensed casinos, horse racing tracks, charitable bingo and lottery sales. Part (6) and (6.1) of subsection (b) refers to the purchase of online lottery tickets, which is also legal.

(c) Sentence.

Gambling is a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction under subsections (a)(3) through (a)(12), is a Class 4 felony.

A first-time offender of online gambling is punishable by probation up to 2 years or less than 1 year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent offenses can be penalized by 3 to 5 years in prison, and/or probation of up to 30 months, and/or a fine up to $25,000.


Is Online Poker Illegal in Illinois?

Yes. Illinois is one of just a few states that expressly prohibits the act of playing online poker for real money, the penalties for which are quite steep, especially for repeat offenders.

Is Illinois working to Legalize Online Poker?

Yes. There have been a few attempts to legalize and regulate online poker and other forms of gambling in the Prairie State. It started with HB 4148 in 2012, a proposition to include iGaming as a state regulated offering. After multiple amendments, it fell apart when John Cullerton, State Senate President, erased it from the legislative chalkboard in favor of focusing on land-based gambling expansion. A new bill, SB 1739, appeared in March of 2013 with language that would expand the land-based gambling industry as well as incorporating online poker and casino games. A month later, the iGaming section that would have regulated online poker in Illinois was scrapped.

Also in 2013, Illinois passed legislation to permit the sale of lottery tickets via the world wide web. That alone is a huge step in the right direction as far as regulated online poker is concerned. If and when the Land of Lincoln does decide to pursue internet poker, the regulatory framework won’t take nearly so long to facilitate as it would in a state that is starting the process from scratch.

Online Poker Players from Illinois

As previously mentioned, Illinois is the home of a multitude of online poker pros. Some of the most successful names include Greg “supergood1” Peck, Steve “arzCARDZfan” Lewis, Kenny “Super Tuan” Nguyen and Dennis “D. Phillips” Phillips, best known for his $4.5 million 3rd place finish at the 2008 WSOP Main Event.

Land-Based Card Rooms in Illinois

Illinois currently licenses 10 land-based casinos, most of which host poker rooms. The following is a complete list of those destinations (not including riverboat casinos).

Argosy Casino Alton
Location: Alton, IL
Poker Room: No

Casino Queen
Location: East St. Louis, IL
Poker Room: No

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
Location: Elgin, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Harrah’s Casino Joliet
Location: Joliet, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Harrah’s Metropolis
Location: Metropolis, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Hollywood Casino Aurora
Location: Aurora, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Hollywood Casino Joliet
Location: Joliet, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Jumer’s Casino Hotel
Location: Rock Island, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Par-A-Dice Casino (docked riverboat)
Location: East Peoria, IL
Poker Room: Yes

Rivers Casino
Location: Des Plains, IL
Poker Room: No


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