Illinois is rich in history, which includes Al Capone and organized crime, having a population of 12 million residents, being a state with quite a big population. The state is ranked fifth in terms of population and twenty-fifth in terms of area.

Gambling History and Scenario

Horse Racing

The first legal gambling in Illinois was horse race betting. The racetracks were the first place gambling was found as far back as the 1920s, and residents were able to head over for some action with pari-mutuel betting. A day at the racetrack could be a family event or a day out for just the guys.

Currently, we can find horse racing at five tracks, where it’s possible onsite betting. Apart from these five venues, Illinois also features 37 legal off-track betting where wagering on horse racing is possible.


The lottery was the next implementation of gaming which opened in 1972. The lottery is a very popular type of gaming throughout the United States because it helps fund the public school systems and brings in revenue for the state.

Among the existing lottery games, we find the state lottery as well as multi-state, among which we have Mega Millions and Powerball, and the lottery terminals are available in several retail establishments.

Casinos and Riverboats

Aside from the lottery and pari-mutuel betting, the state also has riverboats. The fact is that all the casinos are riverboats by law. The riverboats were something like a trial run where the state would see how the players took to gaming on the river.

As it’s easy to understand from the above scenario, it’s a unique situation in what concerns the casinos. The flourishing of riverboats in the 1990s was one of the first casino activities apart from Atlantic City and Las Vegas, is a historical marker and also an opportunity to visit the Land of Lincoln.

The river boat seat around 1200 passengers, like casinos you will need to be at least 21 or over to play the games and to board the ships. The first casino or riverboat in Illinois opened in September 1991, in Alton, Missouri.

If at first, they had to be serviceable boats, the amendments to the law now require that they only float on water or a small pool of water in some cases.

The existence of riverboats is made possible thanks to the Riverboat Gambling Act, from 1990, which determined the legality of casinos considering they were sitting on the water. From then until today we find ten riverboats, with close to 10.000 slots and more than 500 table games among them all.

After the success of the riverboats, the state furthered their gaming with land-based casinos because the revenue being pulled in by the boats was enough to keep the state in good financial standings.

Rivers Casino

The Rivers Casino Des Plaines is a riverboat casino close to Chicago, being one of three casinos property of Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, which opened in 2011, the last legal license for Illinois.

There’s an interesting story behind this license, as it was meant to be to the Rosemont riverboat. When Rosemont closed, the license was to be awarded to a nearby venue, but the transfer was canceled because the general attorney said the new owners had connections with organized crime.

Finally, Rivers got the license, and it sits on a few inches of a man-made water pit. Inside there are over 1000 slots, 50 table games, and seven bars and restaurants. The fact that there is no hotel means the goal is local gambling, suiting perfectly to a city like Chicago, whose citizens want to spend a good time and unwind.

Other types of gambling

In 2009 the Video Gaming Act was approved, enabling that restaurants, bars and truck shops could host lottery terminals, which are nothing more than slot machines, with the difference they are connected to the main server, a legal extension of the Illinois lottery.

This made the use of slots widespread throughout the state and is currently available in over 5.600 locations, more than 24.000 slots, which add up to the existing over 10.000 slots at the riverboats.

Charitable gaming is legal too, considering its run by non-profit organizations. The available games for charity are bingo and other fourteen table games.

Summing it up, there is a bright present and future for gambling in the state, as there are several gaming options and the future promises to bring more.