Illinois online gambling

Illinois Online Casinos

Legal online casinos haven’t swept the US at the same pace as sports betting has. Now that roughly half of states have legalized sports betting, however, the probable next step is for many of those states to loop back and look at adding other forms of online gambling.

Illinois seems likely to become the first state to execute such a double play. It legalized sports betting in 2019, launched it in 2020, and now has what looks like a sincere effort on go to pass its Internet Gaming Act. (Technically, Pennsylvania legalized and and launched sports betting separately from iGaming, but the two arrived in rapid succession, not in separate years.)

That effort hasn’t succeeded yet. The good news, however, is that the bill contains provisions to get Illinois online casinos off the ground in record time. For instance, it would direct the regulator to fast-track temporary licenses for any operator already conducting legal online sports betting in the state.

When will online casinos be legal in Illinois?

The Illinois legislative session has concluded, so the IGA is probably on hold until the legislature reconvenes. That’s likely to be in November. Assuming it passes at that time, and that the provisions for an expedited launch remain intact, then we can expect the first Illinois online casinos to launch in the first half of 2022.

Illinois online casino updates: 2021

Things got off to a very promising start in Illinois in February but have slowed down since. Here’s how the story has played out so far.

May 31

The regular Illinois legislative session ended with no further movement for the IGA. The good news is that this doesn’t mean it’s dead. The bad news is that it does mean it’s on hold, probably until much later in the year.

House representatives would probably have been willing to vote on the bill if it were likely to pass in the Senate immediately. However, Senators have requested a study on the amount of revenue that iGaming might produce for the state.

They want the study by Oct. 1. Conveniently, the Illinois legislature should reconvene for a veto session in November. If Senators are amenable to the IGA once they’ve read the report, it should come back up for discussion at that point.

April 28

The Illinois House Executive Committee held a public hearing on the IGA. John Pappas, speaking on behalf of iDEA Growth, told the committee that he expects iGaming to generate $1 billion in direct and indirect benefits to the state over the first five years.

There was plenty of support for the bill from other corners as well. However, many stakeholders urged the state to remove the in-person registration requirement, as well as to make tweaks to the existing sports betting laws.

February 19

Illinois House representatives introduced bill HB3142, aka the Internet Gaming Act, shortly before the one year anniversary of sports betting in the state.

Compared to other iGaming bills, the IGA is most notable for the pace with which it seeks to launch online casinos. It gives the Illinois Gaming Board only 90 days in which to draft emergency rules for an expedited iGaming launch, and instructs it to base those rules on existing laws (in Illinois or elsewhere) as much as possible.

It furthermore requires the IGB to issue temporary licenses within 30 days to any applicant already holding an Illinois sports betting license.

Unfortunately, it duplicates the unpopular in-person registration requirement of the state’s Sports Wagering Act, albeit only for a 6 month window.

Online casinos coming to Illinois

In most states which legalize online casinos, it’s pretty easy to predict who the big players will be. DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM are “the Big Three” nationally and are always going to be in the mix. When there’s additional competition for the top spots in a market, it’s from companies that have a local retail presence. In Illinois, BetRivers is the brand you’d expect to fill that role.

Making things even easier to predict is the fact that the state’s sports betting market is up and running, and now into its second year. Some brands emphasize one vertical over the other, so market shares may break down differently for casino than they do for sports. Nonetheless, the cast of characters should be much the same for iGaming, especially at first due to the expedited licensing provision in the bill.

Based on a combination of existing sportsbooks and plans that other companies have announced, here are some of the online casino options you can expect to see in the Prairie State.

DraftKings Casino Illinois

DraftKings is the current market leader for sports betting in Illinois, despite efforts to delay its entry. One of the intended features of Illinois’ in-person registration requirement was to keep online-only companies like DraftKings out of the market until it elapsed. However, DraftKings found a way in from the start, by purchasing and adding its own branding to the Casino Queen in East St.-Louis.

DraftKings Casino has been a big success in other states, showing how much potential there is for sports-focused companies in that vertical. Compared to traditional casino companies, it has focused to a greater extent on table games over slots. One of its distinguishing features is its wide array of custom table games with unique, often sports-related themes.

In other states, DraftKings has one of the best welcome packages around and there’s no reason to think this won’t be extended to DraftKings Casino Illinois. There’s a 100% match on first deposits up to $1,500, plus $45 free for first-time signups. The latter applies only to users who’ve never registered for any DraftKings product in any state, including its daily fantasy sports site.

FanDuel Casino Illinois

FanDuel is DraftKings’ long-time rival in the daily fantasy sports space, and that relationship has continued into the sports betting era. In Illinois, as of this writing, it is the No. 2 sportsbook, not far behind DraftKings. Nationally, it’s in first place for sports, and second for all online verticals combined.

FanDuel has the power of the world’s largest online gambling conglomerate, Flutter, behind it. That means a big catalogue of games and slick software.

The main downside to FanDuel Casino Illinois will be the lack of a signup or first deposit bonus. Instead, what it offers is risk-free play for the first 24 hours, up to a $200 maximum. In other words, whatever money you lose in the first 24 hours after your first bet will get returned to you in the form of bonus credit.

BetRivers Casino Illinois

BetRivers is currently the number three sportsbook in the state, not far behind FanDuel. Its parent company, Rush Street Interactive, was spun off from the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, which owns Rivers Casino Des Plaines, conveniently located in the northern suburbs of Chicago. That makes Illinois the home base for BetRivers, and bodes well for its chances in the online casino space.

BetRivers is also huge in Pennsylvania, where Rush Street owns two land-based casinos. There’s also a second online brand, PlaySugarHouse, that’s operated by Rush Street Interactive, but this should be phased out soon.

Assuming the signup bonus for BetRivers Casino Illinois will be the same as that in other states, it’s an interesting one. It’s a 100% match on the first deposit, but with a seemingly stingy $250 maximum. Crucially, however, this comes with just a 1x playthrough requirement. Other operators might make you bet 20x your bonus amount or more before you can claim the funds, but BetRivers only asks you to bet $250 to claim $250. That makes it a great option for casual players looking for a low-commitment option.

BetMGM Casino Illinois

BetMGM is the overall online gambling leader in the US, and more balanced between sports and casino than some of its competitors. Shockingly, it doesn’t yet have a presence in Michigan, though that should soon change. The issue is that it expected to partner with Par-a-Dice Casino in East Peoria, but FanDuel used its relationship with owner Penn National to snap up that partnership first. Now, however, FanDuel is transferring its license to Fairmount Park, and BetMGM has its own license application pending.

Therefore, it looks as if BetMGM’s original plans will pan out after all. That means it may well have a sportsbook up and running before the Internet Gaming Act passes, which in turn would put it on the fast track for an online casino license. It remains to be seen if it will be as dominant a brand in Illinois as elsewhere, or if the delayed launch hurts it.

BetMGM Casino Illinois will probably offer the same welcome package as in other states. This consists of $25 free on signup, and a 100% match up to $1,000 on first deposits. The company’s loyalty program, M Life Rewards, connects the BetMGM online products to MGM Resorts International’s brick-and-mortar properties.

Golden Nugget Online Casino Illinois

In some ways, Golden Nugget Online Gaming is the polar opposite of DraftKings and FanDuel. It’s a long-standing company with a name that dates back to 1946 and a Fremont Street property that predates the Strip and Las Vegas as we now know it. In the online era, it has elected to focus on casino games in general and slots in particular, treating sports betting as more of an afterthought.

It’s the No. 2 license holder in New Jersey, where it’s also one of the original online casinos in the state. On the other hand, it’s only a middle-tier site in Michigan. It hasn’t yet expanded into other states, but has secured Illinois market access and plans to build a new land-based casino there as well as launching its online products. Despite the relatively low importance of sports betting to its business, it may try to launch its sportsbook soon in order to secure quick access to an online casino license when the time comes.

The Golden Nugget Online Casino welcome package consists of $10 free on sign-up, a 100% match up to $1,000 on first deposits, plus 200 free spins on select slots. It’s a great site for slots due to the broad selection, and in New Jersey, is also known for producing some of the largest progressive slots jackpots.

IL online casino apps

It almost goes without saying that all these online casino operators will offer both a web-based and a mobile experience. So much of online gambling these days takes place on phones and tablets that there’s no major operator that ignores mobile devices. In fact, it’s somewhat more common, though still rare, to see companies neglecting the desktop side of things in favor of their mobile casino apps.

It’s now easier than ever to download such apps, thanks to a change in Google’s policies. Whereas it was once the case that Android users had to jump through some hoops to download the app directly from the operator, you can now find legal gambling apps in the Play Store. Meanwhile, iOS users have always had access to their apps through the Apple iOS Apple Store.

Most casino games will be identical on desktop or on your mobile device. That’s because many of them are coded in HTML 5 to make them easily portable. The only issue you’re likely to encounter with mobile play is screen size. This shouldn’t be a problem for most slots or when using a tablet, but if you’re playing a table game with numerous betting options, you may end up finding the interface crowded when playing on a phone.

Games at IL online casinos

While states’ sports betting laws can be quite idiosyncratic, it’s rare to see many unusual restrictions for online casino gaming. Even if the Internet Gaming Act undergoes modification before passing, it’s unlikely that there would be any stipulations against standard game formats. It’s fairly safe to assume that once it’s up and running, the Illinois online casino market will feature a very similar array of products to what’s currently available in other states.

Online slots in IL

Slot machines are at the core of all traditional casino businesses. They’re eye-catching, simple to play, and come in endless variations. Conveniently, they also make the transition to online play more seamlessly than any other game type.

That’s because all modern slots, even those with mechanical reels, are running software behind the scenes. Other types of games have to be coded from the ground up, but a slots title simply has to be adapted to run on your phone instead of a dedicated device. As a result, they’re also the primary game type offered by most online casinos. A typical site might offer dozens of table games, but hundreds of slots.

Aside from thematic appeal, the two things to consider in choosing a slot are the return to player (RTP) and volatility. Operators provide the former as a percentage, with a higher number being better for you. For instance, a 96.3% RTP means that over the long term, you will lose an average of 3.7 cents for every dollar you bet. Volatility is harder to quantify, but slots reviews might give you some idea of what to expect.

A high volatility slot will give you fewer small payouts but a better chance of winning a really big prize, while a low volatility game has more smaller prizes and fewer big ones. The former is obviously a better choice if you’re chasing jackpots, with progressive jackpot slots often being the most volatile of all. Low volatility games are better if you’re hoping to play for a long time, as you won’t have quite as many losing spins in a row.

Online table games in IL

Table games could loosely be defined as “anything that isn’t a slot machine,” but this isn’t quite accurate. In a live casino, their defining features are that:

  • They’re typically played around a table, rather than seated at a screen,
  • They involve a human dealer, or are at least based on games that traditionally employ a human dealer,
  • They involve some element of player choice beyond simply whether and how much to bet, and
  • They can be played in a group, with several participants to a single table and dealer

Online, of course, the table, dealer and other participants are all typically absent. Thus, the criterion when it comes to online casinos is simply whether the in-person equivalent of the game in question is considered a table game.

The most popular table game, online or off, is blackjack. It’s also one of the trickiest to play correctly, but depending on the rule set, can have a very small house edge if played with perfect strategy. After blackjack, the next most popular is roulette. Here, there’s no strategy to speak of, but you’ll want to choose a single zero roulette title if you can, as this provides a house edge of just 2.63%, smaller than most slots.

Other table games you’re likely to find at an online casino include:

  • Baccarat
  • Casino poker (e.g. Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Three-Card Poker, etc.)
  • Keno

Notably absent from many online casinos is craps. Although popular at retail casinos, the game doesn’t translate as well online, so many operators choose to leave it out.

Video poker in IL

Video poker is another common product found in casinos, which doesn’t neatly fit either of the other categories. Video poker machines are physically similar to slot machines. However, the game mechanics are closer to those of a table game, and the player’s choices do matter. Like blackjack, perfect video poker strategy is difficult to execute, but leads to a very small house edge.

Some video poker titles offer multiple rulesets on a single machine. The Game King brand is the most common example of this in retail casinos, and also appears among the offerings for many online casinos. Make sure to study the specific strategy for whatever variation you’re playing, as the particulars of the pay table are very important.

Live dealer in IL

Live dealer games represent an attempt to combine the best features of in-person and online gambling. These are table games that use the real equipment you’d find in a casino, and a flesh-and-blood human dealer, but use live streaming technology so you can play over the internet. Most allow you to interact with the dealer through live chat, and some even allow you to talk to other players at the same table, adding a social element usually absent from online play.

Most states with iGaming, at least the larger ones, should get live dealer products eventually. It doesn’t typically arrive at the same time as online casinos themselves, though. That’s because, for legal reasons, the games have to stream from a specially authorized studio on the premises of a retail casino.

In Pennsylvania, it took over a year for such a studio to open, and Michigan is still waiting. However, the Illinois Internet Gaming Act contains provisions for interstate gambling deals, so long as they don’t run contrary to the Wire Act. Since a federal appeals court recently determined that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, it’s possible that Illinois can simply strike a deal with New Jersey or Pennsylvania to stream live dealer games out of the existing studios in one of those states.

Depositing at IL online casinos

Payment processing options for online casinos are similar in most states. Sometimes, though, it takes a little while for certain companies to receive regulatory approval to handle payments for gambling. That shouldn’t be a problem in Illinois, as all the payment options currently available for sports bettors should be available from the start for casino users as well.

At the moment, this includes:

  • Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover)
  • Web banking
  • PayPal
  • Play+ prepaid card
  • PayNearMe

Of course, if the Internet Gaming Act passes in its current form, in person registration will be required for the first six months for online casinos. For the sake of convenience, that might mean you make your first deposit in person as well. In states where online operators must work in partnership with a land-based casino, it is usually possible to carry out such transactions in cash at the casino cage.

Withdrawing from IL online casinos will presumably use a similar array of methods. However, some, like PayPal, have to be used as a deposit option before you can use them to withdraw. Others, like credit cards, may not be available for withdrawal at all. If none of the available options works for you, there’s always a backup plan, which is to ask for a check in the mail. This is foolproof, but naturally takes more time than the other methods.

Promotions at IL online casinos

The operator mini-reviews above already discuss the welcome packages available in other states for the brands we expect to be big players in Illinois. Other operators will be present as well, however. Furthermore, even the operators we’ve mentioned may have other promotions available which aren’t exclusively for new players.

In the US to date, it has generally been the case that operators offer the same promotions in all states. That said, there’s no reason online casinos couldn’t start doing state-specific promotions as a more targeted form of marketing.

Note that some promotions are automatic, others require a signup or deposit code, and still others require a visit to the site or app’s Promotions tab to opt in. Make sure you know what promotions are on offer and what’s required for participation, so that you don’t miss out.

Most promotions fall into one of a few broad categories:

No deposit bonuses

Some online casinos will give you a little bit of cash or site credit for free when you sign up, before you’ve paid a cent. These no deposit casinos are understandably a hot topic among casino users. After all, who doesn’t like free money?

Naturally, the bonus amounts in question will be small, usually in the $20 to $35 range, though sometimes as much as $50. It will also usually, but not always, come with a playthrough requirement.

First deposit bonuses and reload bonuses

Another common incentive for new players is a deposit match on the first deposit, or sometimes the first several deposits. The terms for such promotions will always include a match percentage, a maximum, and a playthrough requirement. Obtaining the maximum bonus will often require a large deposit followed by a high volume of play.

For instance, a 100% match up to $1000 with a 20x playthrough requirement would mean you would have to deposit $1000 to receive a $1000 bonus, then place a total of $20,000 in bets to convert the bonus to cash. Fortunately, it’s not usually all or nothing. You can make a deposit smaller than the maximum, and the bonus is typically unlocked in blocks. For instance, a 20x requirement might mean $5 unlocked per $100 wagered.

A reload bonus is the same thing, but for subsequent deposits and usually offered on a limited time basis. While the norm is for first deposit bonuses to be a 100% match, reload bonuses are often lower percentage. The maximum will typically be lower as well.

Risk-free play

Money back offers are also typically extended only to new users, as an alternative to deposit matches. These come with a time window and a maximum. Typically, the timer starts the moment you complete your first deposit, or perhaps when you place your first bet.

When the risk-free period concludes, the site will consider your net winnings or losses for the period. If you’re in the black, you get nothing. If you’ve booked a loss, however, you’ll receive an equivalent amount of site credit, up to the maximum. This may come with playthrough requirements.

VIP rewards or loyalty program

Most operators have a permanent, long-term incentive program for players. The way this usually works is that each bet earns points, which in turn move the player up through rewards tiers, earning additional perks at each level. The points can then be spent in a rewards store. Sometimes the player may simply exchange them for cash, but other types of rewards are possible too. Operators which own retail casinos often link their online and offline rewards programs together, and the perks players can earn in this case include free stays and restaurant meals, etc.

Free spins

Online casinos often want to promote a new or exclusive product. Quite often, this would be a slots title, and the easiest way to promote it is to give players a chance to try it free. These could be handed out as part of a larger promotion, but quite often all that’s required is to accept the spins from within the site’s Promotions tab.

Game of the day

Another similar idea is for online casinos to offer a “game of the day.” This will usually be a slots title, though there’s no reason it couldn’t be a table game. You may earn rewards points faster playing the game in question, or earn cash rewards or free spins by wagering a certain amount or playing a certain number of spins.

Casino races

One final type of promotion is the volume-based promotion, which often takes the form of a slots race. While other promotions are aimed at getting players to sign up, log in, deposit or try a new product, these promotions have the goal of getting existing users to play more. A casino race or slots race pits players against other users with a leaderboard. The players who bet the most, or win the most in a certain period will receive an additional prize.

Illinois online casino FAQ – 2021

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the future of online casinos in Illinois, because the Internet Gaming Act hasn’t yet passed and may not even get through this year. Here are some answers to questions that didn’t make it into the rest of the page.

How many online casino brands will there be in Illinois?

There’s no guarantee of which brands will or won’t launch in Illinois. However, it’s the case that most companies offering online sports betting also offer online casino games when possible, and vice versa.

Illinois currently has six online sportsbooks. Add to these Bally’s, BetMGM, Unibet and Golden Nugget, all of which are expected to launch in future, and you end up with ten brands. Over time, it’s likely that a few more will trickle in as well. The IGA would allow each of the state’s ten casinos to offer three skins, and there are up to six new casinos coming, as authorized by a bill in 2019.

So, in theory, the market could host up to 16 x 3 = 48 brands, though it’s unlikely to hit that cap, especially in the short term.

Who will regulate online casinos in Illinois?

Illinois online casinos will operate under the oversight of the Illinois Gaming Board, which also regulates the state’s land-based casinos and, more recently, its sportsbooks.

Who will be allowed to play at Illinois online casinos?

The legal age to play casino games in Illinois is 21. It will not be necessary to be a state resident to play at Illinois online casinos. However, being physically located within the state’s borders at the time of play will be a requirement, even for residents. Geolocation technology will be used to enforce this, whether as part of a downloaded app, or through the mandatory use of a browse plug-in for desktop play.

Aside from this, standard exclusions apply. For instance, casino employees may be excluded from playing on their own company’s site, and those concerned about their gambling habits can request self-exclusion.

What will be the tax rate on Illinois online casinos?

In its current form, the IGA sets out a tax rate of 12% for online casino revenue. That would make it the lowest-taxed iGaming jursidiction. The licensing fees are more middle-of-the-road, at $500,000 up front, plus a $250,000 renewal every four years.

How much revenue will Illinois online casinos generate?

That’s currently the subject of a study commissioned by the Illinois Senate. The findings are due back Oct. 1. In the meantime, we can estimate by looking at other states and adjusting for population.

If the market gets off to the same start as Michigan, then with its larger population, it could produce up to $120 million per month for operators in the early going, which equates to about $14 million in monthly tax revenue for the state.

History of Illinois online gambling legislation

2021

2021 started off promisingly, with the introduction of the Internet Gaming Act in February. Through the spring, there was plenty of support for the bill, but it lost momentum as the standard legislative session came to its conclusion at the end of May. The Senate wished to see more data on the potential revenue online casinos could produce, and passed a resolution to that effect.

That study is expected on Oct. 1, and the legistlative effort should resume once the state’s veto session gets underway in November.

2020

2020 was a bit of a non-year on the legislative front, for two reasons. First of all, Illinois launched its new sports betting market, so it was to be expected that there’d be some downtime while waiting to see how that panned out.

Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the resulting change in priorities disrupted all sorts of legislation, not only gambling expansion. It did, however, highlight the importance of online gambling to state economies, and make it more likely for iGaming legislation to pass in future years.

2019

After the failure of 2018, Illinois lawmakers backed off from iGaming for a while. Instead, they passed two other sorts of gambling expansion bill.

Most importantly, Illinois passed the Sports Wagering Act, which brought both retail and online sportsbooks to the state. This was an important step towards iGaming, because it forced the local retail casino industry to accept competition from newer online companies. Although in-person registration requirements and a “penalty box” clause were added to delay their entry to the state, the legalization of online sports betting made the arrival of companies like DraftKings inevitable, despite the disdain of retail operators like Rush Street.

The legislature also passed SB 690, a casino expansion bill. This let the existing casinos expand their operations a bit, but also authorized the construction of up to six new casinos, including a Las Vegas-style integrated casino-resort in downtown Chicago.

2018

There was cause for optimism in Illinois in 2018. An active bill (H 479) was reintroduced directly into the House Rules Committee, putting it just a few steps from becoming law.

Legislators also indicated the possibility of an omnibus gaming package a la Pennsylvania, which would likely settle the issues of online gambling and DFS for good.

It’s that omnibus effort that gained traction. Subcommittees conducted hearings on a loaded-up expansion bill, which would have authorized a new Chicago casino along with all forms of modernized US gambling.

2017

Entering 2017, Illinois was still locked in its budget stalemate. The new governor and his Democratic rivals weren’t seeing eye to eye on a number of issues, a hindrance the legislative process.

Legalizing online gambling appeared to be a substantial long shot, but it turned out to be an active year on that front. A handful of bills appeared over the course of 2017, each including different provisions for land-based expansion, online gaming, and daily fantasy sports:

H 479 is the one that got the most traction, passing a vote in the Senate. The bill included both fantasy sports and online gambling, a compromise designed to appease land-based casino operators who are opposed to DFS.

Although the bill did not meet the May deadline for passage, neither did a budget agreement. The legislature was forced into a “continuous session” overtime, during which H 479 was used as a bargaining chip to try to make progress.

The bill surfaced again during the special session, but no further movement came. The state finally managed to pass a budget package in August, but it did not include any provisions for online gaming.

There were still three relevant bills active in the House, including H 479. Once again, though, hopes were extinguished by inaction, and the bills were left to stagnate until the final legislative session expired.

As a busy 2017 came to an end, nothing had actually happened on the gaming front.

2016

As was the case the year prior, 2016 was framed by fantasy sports legislation rather than movement on the online gambling front.

Rep. Michael Zalewski’s DFS bill was reintroduced in 2016 as H 3655, and a matching Senate bill, S 469 was also filed in the upper chamber. The House passed its bill in April and sent it up to the Senate for consideration. The Senate passed it a month later, returning the amended version to the House Judiciary Committee.

That’s where things went awry for H 3655.

Land-based casino operators were the primary opponents, drawing parallels between their industry and “DFS betting.” But another major stumbling block crept up during the legislative process, too.

During this time, Rep. Rita Mayfield was allegedly contacted by an industry lobbyist. Here are Mayfield’s partial comments via a report by Capitol Fax:

The email basically alleged in exchange for considerations, donations, that he could guarantee votes. That’s illegal. We have a former governor in jail right now for doing that. So it is an issue. It is why I am not comfortable voting on this bill. And I was originally a co-sponsor of this bill when it first came out….

…But because of the actions of your lobbyist, I am no longer comfortable voting on this bill. I know I have several of my members that are not comfortable voting on this bill, simply because of the implications of illegality.

In light of the pushback, Zalewski indicated that he would not call for a vote on his bill in 2016.

2015

Online gambling talks were off the table for the next two years, while daily fantasy sports endured some time under the microscope.

Zalewski introduced H 4323, dubbed the “Fantasy Contests Act.” It was the first piece of legislation aimed specifically at DFS, but it was more of a conversation starter. Zalewski seemed to know it was unlikely to see much action amid the budget struggle.

Late in the year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan was asked to give her opinion on the currently legality of DFS in Illinois. She did, and it was not favorable to the industry.

Madigan opined that daily fantasy sports operators were in violation of Illinois law and requested that they cease operations within the state:

I enclose the Attorney General’s opinion concluding that the daily fantasy sports contests offered by FanDuel and DraftKings constitute “gambling” under Illinois law. In light of the opinion, we expect that both FanDuel and DraftKings will amend their Terms of Use to include Illinois as an additional state whose residents are not eligible to participate in contests unless and until the Illinois General Assembly passes legislation specifically exempting daily fantasy sports contests from subsection 28-1(a) of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012.

Both FanDuel and DraftKings have chosen to continue to operate in defiance of the opinion. Both sites filed suit against the state AG.

2014

Part of what was hindering the progress of gambling expansion in Illinois was a nagging $100 billion public pension shortfall. Gov. Pat Quinn had called the situation an “extreme emergency” and stressed that he wouldn’t move forward with gambling expansion until the issue was settled.

In the mind of Senate President John Cullerton, that put the brakes on online gambling talks, too. “We cannot take that issue up until we resolve whether or not we’re going to have new casinos in Illinois and that again is very difficult to predict,” he said.

Cullerton went on to express some frustration with the lack of legislative progress: “I’m not a fan of gambling, but we have gambling in Illinois. It’s called Hammond, Indiana. Two thirds of the license plates over there are from Illinois. So we’re losing money. We’re helping fund the schools in Indiana, not in Illinois. So we probably should pass something.”

It was an election year in 2014, though, and nothing of any significance was moving. In a hotly contested race, Quinn lost to Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who leaned into the tape for 50.3 percent of the vote. Quinn was the only Democratic governor to lose his re-election campaign in 2014.

Rauner was the new governor of Illinois, and he was about as unfavorable to online gaming as his predecessor.

2013

Illinois first considered online gaming legislation in 2013.

The state was actually debating a bill regarding the expansion of land-based casinos, including the addition of properties in Chicago and four other spots. Quinn vetoed the initial proposal, though, citing a few key objections.

Just days later, Sen. Terry Link submitted a new gambling expansion bill, and this one included both land-based and online components.

The bill, S 1739, aimed to legalize online gambling under the supervision of a new Division of Internet Gaming. The oversight body would have collected licensing fees of $20 million and enforce a 15-20 percent tax rate for operators. The proposal also included provisions for interstate gaming and a limited bad-actor clause.

The legislation went through several hearings and amendments in the Senate throughout the months of March and April. Online gambling was never something the governor was keen on, though, and it was too much to realistically bite off. It was removed in the final amendment before the bill passed out of the Senate.

The overarching issue of gambling expansion wasn’t settled in 2013 at all, so it seemed likely iGaming would resurface in 2014.

Illinois land-based casinos

In 1990, Illinois became the second state in the US to legalize riverboat casinos (behind Louisiana). The Argosy Alton Belle was the first to open in 1991.

In 2009, the state updated its gaming code with the “Video Gaming Act” which approved he installation of video game terminals in retail establishments.

Illinois’ brick-and-mortar gambling facilities currently consist of ten casinos licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board:

  • Argosy
  • Casino Queen
  • Grand Victoria
  • Harrah’s Joliet
  • Harrah’s Metropolis
  • Hollywood Aurora
  • Hollywood Joliet
  • Jumers
  • Par-A-Dice
  • Rivers Casino

There are also three horse racing tracks and several associated off-track-betting parlors licensed by the Illinois Racing Board:

  • Arlington Park
  • Fairmount Park
  • Hawthorne

Although the latter are included in Illinois sports betting, only the actual casinos will get to engage in iGaming. In addition to the ten existing casinos, six more were authorized by a bill in 2019. Although those new casinos are still in the planning phase, they will be eligible for online gaming licenses as well.

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