Illinois does not have any draconian laws against online gambling. Yet, legalized and regulated online gambling has failed to make a start there. In fact, even in the sphere of land casino gambling Illinois is way behind most other states in the country.
Illinois changed from a Republican to a Democrat governor in November 2018, with the election of J.B. Pritzker. The State Senate and House are also in the control of the Democrats. This has enabled the legislature to initiate the expansion of land based gambling in the state. One of the reasons has been the need to create new revenue streams quickly in order to meet longstanding budget deficits. It is expected that state regulated real-money online gambling will follow, but as of now it is not possible to talk of time frames.
Before we discuss the possibilities of how and when citizens of Chicago and other Illinois cities can engage in online sports betting, poker or casino, it is essential to briefly take stock of what land based gambling forms are available and underway.
Existing Legal Gambling Activities in Illinois
- Riverboat Gambling: The state is permitted to license riverboat casinos upon any water other than Lake Michigan. Nine riverboat casinos operate at present.
- Video Lottery Terminals: Illinois allows licensed bars, restaurants, and other establishments to place up to five video lottery terminals per venue.
- Charitable Gambling: 14 games of chance, including bingo, roulette, blackjack, poker and keno, have been listed as charitable games. Qualified organizations can host events with these games for fund raising, where players can win prizes.
- State Lottery: Illinois runs a state lottery and is a part of the Mega Millions and Powerball multi-state lottery association.
- Horse Racing: Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races are legal. These have been permitted at six racetracks and 23 off-track betting facilities.
Already legal, what is next for Illinois?
The Push for Land Based Casinos
The action began when SB 690 was filed in the Senate on January 31, 2019. It was fast tracked through the legislative process. The bill was passed by the Senate in May. An amended bill was passed by both the Senate and House in June. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law in the same month. The act envisages the following.
Chicago casino: The casino will have up to 4,000 gaming positions, including slot machines and seats at blackjack tables. Some of these can be located at the airports. Union Gaming Analytics was appointed to study the structure and viability of the proposal but turned in a negative report, citing in the main that the proposed taxation was onerous. The ball is now again with the legislators.
Other casinos: Waukegan, the south suburbs, Rockford, Danville and Williamson County have also been allotted new casino licenses. These will be smaller casinos. Applications have been sought. The Gaming Board will then get a year to take the final call.
Sports betting: The new law authorizes the creation of sportsbooks at all casinos, horse tracks and major sports venues. A separate license from the Gaming Board will be required. Online sportsbooks have been built into the proposal.
Horse tracks: Horse tracks will be permitted to add slot machines and table games.
Video gambling: The present limits for this will be enhanced.
The Status of Legal Online Gambling in Illinois
There is awareness of the need to establish a regulated online gambling mechanism in Illinois. It’s a slow process, but the money is making it happen. We are seeing the USA gearing up for massive expansion. Soon players will have access to casinos offering all sort of bonuses including no deposit, with an aim of building up their customer base as fast as possible.
Online Sports Betting
The recently passed SB 690 already provides for online sports betting.
- Parties that will be issued licenses to operate land based sports betting facilities will be able to operate online.
- However, bettors initially will have to come into a bricks-and-mortar facility to register for an account.
- The law provides for three online-only sportsbook licenses to be issued at a later date.
- The Illinois Lottery will run a pilot program for sports betting terminals at lottery retailers.
- There have been some guidelines established for the implementation of online sports betting.
- Rules and forms for the application process are to be created.
- The online licenses will be awarded through a competitive bidding process.
- 2,500 sports betting terminals will be set up at lottery retailers in the first year.
- Another 2,500 will be set up in the second year.
Chicago sports fans will be able to bet soon, if the implementation goes according to plan.
Daily Fantasy Sports
In 2015, Attorney General Lisa Madigan opined that daily fantasy sports are illegal. DraftKings and FanDuel, which are the major operators in this area, filed law suits. Then in 2017, a draft bill SB 7 was filed in the State Senate. It included legalization of daily fantasy sports. Though the bill was passed in the Senate, it lost traction thereafter. Before her term ended in January 2019, Madigan said her opinion did not have the force of laws.
Other Online Gambling Verticals
Neither SB 7 of 2017 nor SB 690 dealt with other online gambling verticals like online poker and online casino gambling. However, during the hearings quite a few legislators said they support other forms of online gambling to raise revenues.
As the matter stands, online poker and online casino gambling are not legal or illegal in Illinois. After the Department of Justice said such gaming could be regulated in an intra-state manner, many American states have passed required legislation. Illinois has not considered an online poker bill or online casino bill so far.
However, Illinois citizens can gamble online at sites regulated by offshore jurisdictions. You will not go to jail for doing that because it is not illegal to do so. There are some regulatory jurisdictions that you can trust. Foremost of them are at Malta, Gibraltar and Alderney. You will not be at risk if you play at an online casino or poker room holding a valid license from these jurisdictions.
When Will Illinois Regulate Online Gambling?
Once the land casino phase is running and revenues generated ease the budgetary constraints, the next step will be online gambling. The numbers cannot be ignored. But implementation takes time. So there will be a wait.