The question posted in the headline above isn’t one that lends itself to a simple answer. While it’s safe to say that Illinois has some legalized gambling, it wouldn’t really be accurate or prudent to make a simple blanket statement that gambling is legal here.
To clarify, here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions about the legality of gambling in Illinois.
Q: So, is gambling legal here?
Answer: Yes, as long as it’s specifically authorized by the State of Illinois. Anything that isn’t sanctioned by the state’s laws and regulations is, by definition, illegal.
Q: That seems kind of broad. Can you be more specific about what’s considered illegal gambling in Illinois?
A: No problem. For starters, unless the State of Illinois is involved in regulating the gambling activity — and, therefore, receives a share of the proceeds from that activity — it’s illegal in any form. However, the state does not sanction any kind of betting on sporting events, fantasy sports wagering or online gaming, which is legal in some other jurisdictions that permit gambling.
Q: Okay, so what kinds of gambling are sanctioned by the State?
A: Pursuant to Illinois’ Criminal Code of 2012, a person commits ‘gambling’ in Illinois when he or she ‘knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value,’ unless the conduct is specifically exempt from the definition of gambling. Additional conduct is considered gambling pursuant to the Code, but this first definition is what people most commonly think of as ‘gambling,’ and encompasses a wide range of activity.
The Criminal Code exempts several different types of gambling, meaning it authorizes them as legal. These include casino gambling, video gaming, horse racing, lottery, bingo, pull tabs, raffles, poker runs and charitable gaming. (You can read the whole statute here.)
A: Some, but not all. Various state agencies provide oversight and regulatory control over these different forms of gambling. For example, the Illinois Gaming Board is the authority over riverboat gambling at 10 licensed casinos and video gaming at more than 6,300 licensed locations across the state. The Illinois Racing Board oversees horse racing. The lottery is run by — no surprise here — the Department of Lottery in conjunction with a private management company, Camelot Illinois. And the Department of Revenue has authority over bingo, pull tabs, raffles, poker runs and other forms of charitable gaming.