Is Sports Betting Legal in Illinois?

Sportsbetting interests a lot of people in Illinois given the number of popular teams that represent the state. The Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Blackhawks—there are a ton of teams from which to choose. Unfortunately for the most avid gamblers, Illinois’ gambling laws aren’t exactly gambling friendly. But, on the other hand, they’re not too restrictive either.

Illinois Sports Betting Law

It seems the state has managed to strike a nice balance in the past few years—especially with its most recent changes. You won’t find sportsbetting options on the ground in Illinois. Casinos aren’t offering sportsbooks like they do in Las Vegas, and just about every other form of sports gambling imaginable would be classified as illegal—including, technically, social wagering like fantasy football pools, living-room poker games, etc.

Odd Casino Rules

By letter of Illinois’ laws, casinos are technically illegal…on land. That’s why riverboat casinos have popped up. They allow for the complete gambling experience while ensuring establishments capitalize on profits that come with also providing entertainment.

To be clear, these riverboat casinos aren’t actually ships that set sail. There is such a thing as gambling cruises, but this isn’t it. These places are simply docked—or rather, built—on the water, which in turn allows them to skirt around the land-based laws.

Horse Racing? Yes. Dog Racing? No.

Many states typically legalize both horse and dog racing, but Illinois isn’t one of them. They focus on horse racing, which is the only form of live-event gambling that is permitted on land—i.e. outside a riverboat casino. The industry as a whole is on the decline, as people move more toward online gambling, but Illinois still has four operating tracks for bettors to choose from.

Fantasy Sportsbetting Is Allowed

Speaking of online gambling, Illinois just recently passed a bill that makes it legal to use daily fantasy gambling sites like Draft Kings and FanDuel. The proposal was ratified at the beginning of July with overwhelming approval—which is hardly surprising.

Illinois was one of the first states to allow the sale of lottery tickets online, so it always felt as if this move was only a matter of time. Plus, according to multiple reports, the state stands to make a killing off companies that operate within its jurisdiction.

Daily fantasy sites are expected to be taxed at 10 percent for the first $100 million in profit they turn, and then 15 percent on everything made after that. Considering how popular daily fantasy betting has become, this is going to result in tens of millions of extra state revenue every year.

Iffy Territory in Social Gambling

So Illinois approves of charitable gambling, poker rooms in its riverboat casinos and now daily fantasy betting. Social gambling has to be legal, right?


Your tiny little basement poker game isn’t in danger of being shut down, and there are underground poker rooms you could try out. Just know that every form of this, by letter of the law, remains illegal. Any event you attend is an at- your-own-risk affair.

And while that’s hardly incentive enough to skip your buddy’s weekly poker night, it’s all the motivation you should need to steer clear of those seedy, high-stakes, high-occupant games that have no legal precedent to exist outside riverboat casinos.

Illinois Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren’t allowed in Illinois at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Legal (except for Tribal)
  • Tribal Gambling: Not legal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Legal
  • Social Gambling: Not legal
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Online Gambling: Unspecified

Illinois Sports Teams

Chicago Cubs (MLB)

Up until recently, the Chicago Cubs were best known for their century-long World Series drought. But they finally ended it with a championship in 2016. That team, which went 103-58 during the regular season, will go down as the most memorable squad in franchise history—not to mention one of the most important groups from any sport, period.

Chicago Bears (NFL)

Although the Chicago Bears remain one of the NFL’s more storied organizations, with a total of nine championships (seven non-Super Bowl) to their name, Illinois’ fans haven’t really known anything other than disappointment since their Super Bowl title in 2006.

This 10-year span has included just three above-.500 seasons and only one playoff appearance (2010). Things aren’t necessarily looking up either. The Bears went 3-13 during the 2016 schedule and don’t project to be that much better in the immediate future.

Chicago Bulls (NBA)

Michael Jordan’s career put the Chicago Bulls on the map for good. They haven’t sniffed the NBA Finals since his final championship in 1998, but it doesn’t matter.

They will forever be relevant because of his legacy. 

Besides, it helps that they’ve been able to routinely chase playoff berths. They’ve missed the postseason just twice since 2005, and despite their rampant bad luck and misuse/mis-evaluation of assets, they’ve been fortunate enough to employ recognizable faces such as Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade who help them sell tickets and garner national appeal even when they’re not legitimate championship contenders.

As of summer 2017, though, Bulls fans will want to prepare themselves for a long rebuilding process. They’re trying to recapture the from-scratch magic they lost with Jordan’s departure, and that’s going to take some serious time—assuming they’re successful at all.

Illinois’ Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

Aside from the opening days and nights of Illinois’ favorite sports teams, the Chicago Marathon is the state’s biggest yearly sporting event.

Combined with the Boston, Berlin, Tokyo, New York and London Marathons, it makes up the six World Marathon Majors, while counting as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

The race usually take place early in October, has been ongoing since 1977 and, as of 2017, allows for 45,000 participants who have just under seven hours to finish.

Though anyone can technically sign up, it’s recommended you get an actual full marathon or two under your belt before doing one of these World Marathon Majors.

Time constrictions are not as stringently employed for most local races, so they offer the best opportunity to ensure your time is good enough to handle a contest like this.

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