Casino gambling in Illinois is currently only available at brick-and-mortar establishments located across the Prairie State. Online Illinois casinos are not yet live but plans to legalize internet casino betting are in the works.
Soon after Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the Sports Wagering Act in 2019, plans to build a mega-casino in Chicago were put in place, but little has been done since then. The city made an initial release of its summary of feedback from prospective casino operators back in December 2020.
City officials, potential operators, and other stakeholders have also scouted out possible sites for the massive casino. There seems to be a consensus to go with a spot somewhere in downtown Chicago, though that might present a new set of challenges.
The complex tax structure for the casino is another major hurdle that may hinder potential developers. While the casino is projected to be the largest ever in the Land of Lincoln, it could also become the most taxed gambling entity in the state.
Several pieces of legislation are also pending in the General Assembly, including House Bill 3142 (aka Internet Gaming Act), House Bill 3214, and House Bill 3169. All of these bills were tabled by Illinois lawmakers in a bid to address the issue, plus Chicago’s city leaders have also made headway in securing a spot for the mega-casino.
Legislation aside, Illinois is gearing up for massive changes in the online casino gambling arena, and we’ve got the scoop right here. We are going to walk you through everything you need to know about Illinois casinos, including projected tax structure, potential casino sites, existing gambling spots you can visit, and how to choose the best casino for you.
Chicago Casino Project’s Timeline
The establishment of a mega-casino in Chicago has been a long-time coming, and here are the milestones that have been achieved thus far:
June 28, 2019: Gov. JB Pritzker signs into law the bill which authorized the Chicago casino project
July 8, 2019: The deadline to choose a company to carry out a feasibility study of the Chicago casino is missed by the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB)
August 13, 2019: Union Gaming Analytics concludes its preliminary study, specifying five critical locations for the casino. The study also says the proposed tax structure is unattainable.
November 2019: Illinois lawmaker Bob Rita introduced the first amendment to restructure the tax code for the Chicago casino project.
December 2019: Bob Rita’s amendment to the tax code fails to sail through the Illinois General Assembly by five votes.
January 2020: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes public her office’s preferred site for the mega-casino in downtown Chicago.
May 2020: The Fifth Amendment to the tax code for the Chicago casino passes in the Illinois Legislature and is signed into law.
August 27, 2020: The city of Chicago issues a Request for Information (RFI) for a casino site downtown.
October 21, 2020: The deadline for RFI closes, and the city leaders receive responses from prospective casino operators.
December 3, 2020: City leaders release the summary of responses from the RFI for the Chicago casino project.
March 18, 2021: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she hopes to see gaming companies from Las Vegas bid for a spot in the Chicago mega-casino.
April 22, 2021: The City of Chicago announces a Request for Proposal (RFP) for one casino license, with the deadline for submitting RFPs slated for August 23.
April 30, 2021: During its earnings call, the global hospitality brand and well-known casino operator MGM Resorts International says Chicago’s casino tax structure and process are complicated. That makes it clear that MGM Casino wouldn’t be seen in Chicago.
July 12, 2021: Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the bidding process for the Chicago casino is wide open during her speech at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) conference.
July 26: 2021: Following in the footsteps of its rival MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts says the Chicago casino project is complex, meaning that the city won’t see a Wynn casino any time soon.
August 6, 2021: City mayor Lori Lightfoot increases the deadline for submission of a request of the proposal from August 23 to October 29, 2021.
Where Will the Chicago Casino be Located?
A Chicago casino study conducted in 2019 concluded that a downtown location would carry more merit than a site in the city outskirts. The study cited downtown’s safety and proximity to hotels, amenities, and other Chicago’s major attractions.
In early 2020, Mayor Lightfoot released a preliminary proposal specifying five potential sites for the Chicago casino on the west and south side of the city’s downtown. It wasn’t long before Gov. Pritzker showed a preference for one of the five proposed sites in a bid to encourage economic growth in the said neighborhoods.
On August 27, 2020, the city issued a Request for Information (RFI) on a casino in the City of Chicago under the express direction of city Mayor Lori Lightfoot. At its core, the RFI was a formal request for a public opinion from potential developers, prospective casino operators, and other key stakeholders by Chicago.
In this particular RFI, the city sought after feedback and collected data on multiple aspects of the proposed Chicago casino-resort, including:
- How ready the local hospitality industry and tourist attraction sites are in terms of handling the additional stream of business from the new casino resort.
- Effect of the upped foot and motor traffic on Chicago neighborhoods near the site
- Amenities that prospective casino goes would want
- Interest in building a smaller casino in the region
- Feasibility of developing the casino with coronavirus safety protocols
Accordingly, the city of Chicago started collecting responses from potential casino operators and developers through October 21, 2020. It received proposals from four high-caliber operators, namely Rush Street Gaming, Hard Rock International, Wynn Resorts, and MGM Resorts International.
One significant milestone was attained towards the end of October 2021, in which the city leaders received five proposed bids to operate the Chicago casino. This essentially brought the city one step further towards accomplishing its long-standing goal of establishing a Chicago casino.
The five proposals were made by:
Rivers 78 Gaming LLC: The developer proposed a single site to the city of Chicago, and it would be located at the South of the Loop’s 78 Chicago development site. The operator went on to state that Rush Street Gaming would operate the proposed casino location.
Rush Street Gaming: The operator already has a presence in the Prairie State, as it co-owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in conjunction with Churchill Downs Inc. The site proposed by Rush Street Gaming will be located at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center, the convention center nestled in the former East Building at 2301 S Lake Shore Drive.
Rivers Chicago at McCormick LLC: In line with the other proposals, the Rivers Chicago at McCormick proposed a single location for the casino resort project. Rush Street Gaming will be in charge of the casino if the bid goes through.
Bally’s Corporation: Bally’s Corporation is the most probable contender to win the bid for the operation of the Chicago casino resort. The world-renowned gaming software and hardware developer submitted a proposal for two sites. The first site would be at the McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard near DuSable Lake Shore Drive and 31st Street. The second proposed site will be located on the corner of Halsted St. and Chicago Avenue at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center.
HR Chicago LLC: The company proposed one site, and if its bid sails through, the Chicago casino will be run by Hard Rock International on behalf of HR Chicago.
Even after that, the Chicago casino project faces significant challenges in the next few months as the mayor’s office sifts through the proposals to select the successful candidate. As of writing, it is not apparent where all of the proposed sites would be located, but there’s a general consensus that the casino should be established in and close to the city.
What Makes the Chicago Casino Project Different from Other Illinois Casinos?
The mega size of the Chicago casino project is the single biggest differentiator between this and other Illinois casinos. The amendment to the state gambling law allows the developer of the Chicago casino to install up to 4,000 gaming positions at the site.
As of writing, traditional land-based casinos in Illinois are authorized to have up to 2,000 gaming positions, including slot machines, casino tables, and gambling terminals.
Add restaurants, a convention center, cafes, entertainment halls, and a hotel, and the proposed Chicago casino may well be one of the largest gambling establishments in the country. If it is going to be built downtown, it would really marry well with the skyscrapers, tourist attractions, and other elements of the sprawling city landscape.
In addition to that, Chicago suburbs will also have multiple off-track betting locations. For example, BetRivers Casino offers in-person, mobile, and online sports betting services in partnership with Rivers Casino Des Plaines.
Meanwhile, its rival DraftKings at Casino Queen is in the advanced stages of opening a retail sportsbook attached to the Wrigley Field.
If it ever comes to fruition, this Chicago project could quickly become one of the largest Illinois casinos and the grand jewel of the Prairie State. Despite the slow start, we hope to see some significant movement towards accomplishing this long-awaited goal.
How to Choose the Best Illinois Casinos and Sportsbooks
Illinois residents and tourists have a wide range of online and land-based gambling options. More than ten retail casinos, dozens of online sports betting platforms, poker houses, and a great choice of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks operated by top-tier brands.
With so many gambling options, it can feel overwhelming when you are trying to choose the perfect sportsbook or casino to enjoy some wagering action. Don’t worry – we’ve put together a list of handy tips to help make your decision easier.
– Do a safety and background check
You must kick off your investigation by examining the casino’s trustworthiness, credibility, and security. This is particularly important when choosing an online sportsbook or casino. After all, you want to entrust your personal data and funds in good hands online.
To make sure the casino or sportsbook is offering a legitimate, fair, and secure gambling service, you must check for the following:
- Independently audited – The gambling operator must show evidence that it is audited and regulated for fairness and security by an independent third party like TST, eCOGRA, or Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).
- Licensed and regulated – This is one area you don’t want to skip. Your preferred casino must display a valid license from IGB. A lot can go wrong in the gambling world, and you want your disputes to be handled by a just and trustworthy regulatory body.
- SSL encryption – Here’s another non-negotiable element of a trustworthy Illinois casino and sportsbook. The website, mobile app, and other aspects of the gambling platform must be secured through SSL encryption.
– Check the game selection and gaming software
The casino games offered the casino must be impressive, and so should the gaming software. As the primary feature of any noteworthy casino, the games should be plentiful and varied, including multiple slot machines and gaming tables for popular titles like blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and craps.
If it’s an online casino or sportsbook, it should not skimp on the game software. Expect to see lots of gaming titles from top-notch providers like Playtech, IGT, Bally’s, BTG, Microgaming, NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, Novomatic, and more.
– Great promotions, rewards, and bonuses
We are sure you love a bonus to perk up your bankroll and boost your chances of walking out of the casinos with your pockets lined with big winnings. We highly recommend that you seek out sportsbooks and Illinois casinos that offer impressive bonuses, promotions, and ongoing rewards.
Keep your eyes out for lucrative welcome offers, deposit bonuses, reload bonuses, rebates, free spins, free bets, and much more. Unreasonable terms and conditions shouldn’t tie down these bonus offers. On top of that, peel your eyes out for VIP schemes and loyalty rewards redeemable for free credits and casino comps.
– Deposit and withdrawal options
Payment options should be your first point of call when choosing a casino or sportsbook. The deposits and withdrawals should be easy and secure to make. You must also check all the accepted payment methods and ensure popular ones are included, such as bank transfers, cash deposits, debit/credit cards, Play+, and e-wallets like PayPal.
– Quality of customer support
Before joining a sportsbook or casino, you must ensure that its customer support is offered 24/7 through major avenues like telephone, in-person, email, and live chat. Is the customer support team responsive, helpful, and courteous?
It is essential to play at a casino that puts your best interests at heart through easy access support, money/time management tools, data protection, and available responsible gambling resources.
– Try out free games
As with most gambling operators, online Illinois casinos and sportsbooks offer free games that you can try without having to sign up. It’s an excellent way to get a feel for the casino’s offerings before you decide to open an account and make a real money deposit.
– Avoid shady online casinos
IGB has not started issuing licenses for online casino gambling, so tread carefully when gaming online. As of writing, you can only gamble legally online on sports through IGB-licensed and regulated sportsbooks.
How can you spot a shady gambling site? Look out for the following tell-tale signs:
- Lack of website security, such as HTTPS and SSL encryption
- Slow or unresponsive customer support
- Unfair confiscation of winnings/funds or unjustified losses
- Slow payouts or withdrawal processing
- Games are not independently audited and regulated
- Difficulty claiming the bonus and meeting wagering requirements
- Misleading advertisements, especially when it comes to bonuses
- Low-quality games
- Lack of a valid license
How Do You Deposit Funds at Illinois Casinos and Sportsbooks?
The ease of making a deposit is very crucial for any casino. Luckily, you will find dozens of ways to fund your online casino or sportsbook account. Most deposit payment methods involve electronic wallets, bank cards, bank transfers, and trusted online payment processors.
Please note that while you must place a bet while physically within the borders of the Prairie State, you can fund your gaming account from pretty much anywhere on the planet. The most common deposit options you’ll see at online Illinois casinos, and sports betting platforms include:
Debit and Credit Cards
All Illinois casinos accept credit/debit cards, and many allow players to deposit using their MasterCard and Visa-branded cards. Some also accept Discover, American Express, JCB, and Diners Club cards.
Deposits made using credit and debit cards are typically fast, secure, and hassle-free; however, the success rate can be quite low for online gambling sites. You can expect funds to be available immediately in your gaming account.
Most Illinois casinos and sportsbooks will accept PayPal deposits. It is an incredibly secure, trendy, and safe electronic payment method. It provides a certain degree of anonymous gambling by serving as a bridge between your bank and the casino.
Automated Clearing House, or ACH for short, is a form of an instant electronic check that has become a popular way to deposit money at online casinos. If your online checking account allows you to draw electronic checks, this is definitely an easy, fast, and affordable way for you to transfer funds to your gaming account.
Cash at a Land-based Casino Cage
Several Illinois casinos and online sports betting platforms allow you to make a cash deposit into your gaming account at the cage of a partner casino. For example, DraftKings online sportsbook customers can walk up to the cashier at the cage of Casino Queen in East St. Louis.
On the other hand, sports bettors who want to deposit into their BetRivers sportsbook accounts can visit their partner Rivers Casino Des Plaines. The same goes for Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, BetMGM Sportsbook, PointsBet, and FanDuel. Note, however, that you can deposit using cash or playing chips at the casino cage.
PayNearMe is another popular option for depositing cash into your gaming account, but you don’t have to visit the partner casino to do so. The cash-depositing service is available at various Walmart, ACE Cash Express, Dollar Family, 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, and Casey’s General Store locations throughout the state.
Funds deposited via PayNearMe should show up in your gaming account within 15-30 minutes after the cashier at the participating store has processed the payment.
Neteller and Skrill
Although not as popular as PayPal, Skrill and Neteller are great e-wallets for online casino deposits and withdrawals. Deposits made via these e-wallets are usually instant and free of charge.
How Do You Withdrawal Winnings from Illinois Casinos and Sportsbooks?
Methods for withdrawing money from Illinois casinos and sportsbooks vary depending on where you decide to patronize. If you are playing at a retail sportsbook or casino, you can simply take your winning slip or chips to the cashier at the casino.
In online gambling platforms, the withdrawals are usually made through the payment method you deposited with, except for credit/debit cards and cash methods. Using online checking accounts and e-wallets are generally the most preferred methods for withdrawals at Illinois casinos.
There are specific terms and conditions that you must first meet before being allowed to withdraw your winnings. These include completing the Know Your Customer (KYC) check and meeting wagering requirements associated with bonuses you may have claimed.
Once you have met these conditions, the withdrawal process is usually straightforward and intuitive. When selecting the withdrawal method, make sure it’s secure, trusted, and suitable for you. Here are the most common ways we think future online Illinois casinos will feature:
ACH echeck – We expect Illinois casinos to offer standard ACH options like VIP Preferred e-checks. Withdrawals made through this method are generally fee-free and take 1-3 business days to clear.
PayPal – If what we’ve seen in other online casinos in the US is going to happen once Illinois legalizes online casino gambling, we expect PayPal to be one of the most popular withdrawal methods. PayPal withdrawals are usually processed within 24 hours at no extra charge.
Prepaid Cards – The most common prepaid cards offered by online casinos include Play+ and those from MasterCard. These withdrawals are typically cleared within 24 hours.
Skrill/Neteller/Paysafecard – These e-wallets are extremely popular for online gambling withdrawals, and we expect to see the same treatment at Illinois casinos.
Courier Check – This is one of the oldest ways of withdrawing money at casinos and sportsbooks. You should expect to get your physical check via USPS, UPS, or FedEx within 5-14 business days.
Cash at the Cage – If your sportsbook or gambling site has a land-based partner, you can visit the latter to withdraw some money at the cage.
What Are The Most Common Games You Can Play At Illinois Casinos?
The best Illinois casinos let you play a variety of games from many different providers. In most land-based casinos, you can expect to see between 1,000 and 2,000 slot machines, as well as dozens of gaming tables.
Whether it is poker, video poker, keno, roulette, blackjack, or slots – a good selection of games is vital for any casino. Below we’ve listed some of the most popular casino games you can play for real money at Illinois casinos:
Slots – Expect to see many rows of state-of-the-art slot machines at the majority of land-based Illinois casinos. However, the state law caps the number of gaming positions at any Illinois casino at 2,000, so you won’t find more than 2,000 slot machines. The house edge (defined as the game’s advantage to the casino over the player) for the best slots can range from 2% and 5%.
Blackjack – One of the most popular card games, blackjack is well-represented in Illinois casinos. Blackjack Switch, Atlantic City Blackjack, Spanish 21, and Pontoon are some of the most common blackjack variations found on the gaming floors.
Roulette – While American Roulette is the mainstay feature at riverboat and land-based casinos in Illinois, some offer European and French roulette versions. The best house edge you will get at blackjack tables is 0.5%.
Baccarat – Here’s another popular card game that you won’t miss at Illinois Casinos. Punto Banco is hands down the most played version, and the house edge for baccarat bets starts from 1.01%.
Video Poker – If you like playing slots and poker, then video poker may be an ideal casino game for you. Illinois casinos boast a massive array of video poker games, including the all-time favorite Texas Hold’em, Jacks or Better, Aces or Faces, Deuces Wild, Joker Poker, and Double Bonus Poker – just to name a few.
Pai Gow Poker – This is a popular two-handed poker game that has taken the Illinois gambling market by storm. It is usually found alongside Sic Bo and Caribbean Stud.
Craps – Expect to see at least one gaming table dedicated to the table game Craps at most Illinois casinos.
Poker – If you want to take your bluffing to the next level, you will be glad that poker rooms are found aplenty at these casinos.
Top Illinois Casinos and Retail Sportsbooks
Along with mobile and online sports betting platforms, the Prairie State also offers some of the country’s top land-based casinos and sportsbooks. Here are the top Illinois casinos and sportsbooks that you should check out:
DraftKings at Casino Queen
Location: 200 S. Front St., East St. Louis, IL 62201
Rebranded DraftKings at Casino Queen in 2020, this Illinois casino swung its doors open for the first time in mid-1993 as a riverboat casino called the White Star One. It upgraded to a land-based casino in 2007, considerably expanding its gambling operations.
The rebranding was done to meet Illinois Gaming Board’s co-branding requirements and help DraftKings acquire an online sports betting license.
The modestly sized casino now boasts a gigantic on-site retail sportsbook, 34 gaming tables, and more than 1,000 slot machines. There’s also an RV park and a hotel within the casino complex.
Location: 21 Blackjack Blvd., East Peoria, IL 61611
Nestled smack in the middle of the Land of Lincoln, Par-A-Dice is a riverboat casino floating on Peoria Lake. It opened in 1991 and now offers more than 800 slots, 25 gaming tables, a retail sportsbook, multiple restaurants, and a hotel.
Par-A-Dice Casino is one of the largest Illinois casinos outside of St. Louis and Chicago. Its online sports betting partner is FanDuel.
Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel
Location: 777 Ballys Blvd., Rock Island, IL 61201
Initially opened in 1991 as a riverboat casino called Jumer’s, it was renamed Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel following the 2021 takeover by Bally’s Corporation. Its location on the Mississippi River makes it one of the most popular Illinois casinos for out-of-state visitors, most notably Iowans.
The casino offers a great choice of over 850 slot machines, 25 gaming tables, a poker room, and much more. You will also find four first-class restaurants, a hotel, and plans to launch a sportsbook called Bally Bet.
Hollywood Casino Aurora
Location: 1 W. New York St., Aurora, IL 60506
You’ll have probably heard of Hollywood Casino, and this is its debut casino boat location. Currently owned and operated by Penn National Gaming, Hollywood Casino Aurora is one of the oldest gambling institutions in Illinois.
The casino’s gaming floor has over 53,000 square feet of space, with more than 1,100 slot machines, 26 gaming tables, and three restaurants. It’s docked on Fox River and has partnered with Barstool for online sports betting.
Hollywood Casino Joliet
Location: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Joliet, IL 60436
Hollywood Casino Joliet is a Penn National Gaming-owned casino boat that has been operating since 1992. The casino itself is modest, with five restaurants, 1,100 slots, and 18 gaming tables. Guests will also find a 100-room hotel for their accommodation needs.
Location: 100 E. Front St., Metropolis, IL 62960
Moored along the Ohio River, the Harrah’s Metropolis is the most prominent Illinois casino in the area. The Caesars-owned property boasts 25 gaming tables, more than 800 slot machines, a massive event space, and five restaurants. There’s also a 258-room hotel on-site.
Location: 151 N. Joliet St., Joliet, IL 60432
Caesars owns several Illinois casinos, and Harrah’s Joliet is one of the most impressive. It launched in mid-1993 as the Northern Star boat casino. The casino itself rests on a couple of barges and sports a reasonably large 40,000-sq.ft—gaming floor with 1,100 slot machines, 31 gaming tables, and several dining spots.
Grand Victoria Casino
Location: 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, IL 60120
If you are looking for a decent gambling spot in Chicago’s far northwest suburb area, Grand Victoria Casino won’t disappoint. It is Caesars’ leading Illinois casino and its preferred online sports betting partner for Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. The impressive casino has 36 gaming tables, more than 1,100 slot machines, an event space, and multiple dining options.
Argosy Casino Alton
Location: 1 Piasa St., Alton, IL 62002
Argosy Casino started offering gambling services on a riverboat in 1991. It was replaced by the bigger Alton Belle II in 1993, expanding its gaming offerings. The casino is still located on the same riverboat, boasting 12 gaming tables, over 800 slot machines, and a retail sportsbook offered in partnership with Barstool.
Rivers Des Plaines
Location: 3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018
If you’re looking for the best Illinois casino in or near Chicago proper, you can’t do any better than Rivers Des Plaines Casino. It is one of the youngest Illinois casinos, having launched in July 2021.
Rivers Des Plaines has over 1,000 slot machines, upwards of 65 gaming tables, a large retail sportsbook, and six restaurants. Unsurprisingly, it is the online sports betting partner of BetRivers Illinois sportsbook.
Are there legal online casinos in Illinois?
In the past few years, Illinois has joined scores of other states in legalizing online gambling. However, Prairie State has implemented local licensing for only online sports betting. Illinois currently represents the third-largest sports betting market, with several options for IL bettors in sportsbooks.
As of writing, the Illinois Gaming Board hasn’t issued a single online casino gambling license, but plans to do so are in the pipeline. So, all online casinos that purport to accept players from the Land of Lincoln are flat-out lying and illegitimate.