Illinois Legal Poker

Last Update: March 20, 2015

Online poker

Illinois prohibits all forms of online gambling except for the sale of lottery tickets over the internet. ICS §28-1(a)(12) is clear that maintaining or operating an Internet site that allows people to play games of chance or skill for money is against the law. That law, however, as applied to operators outside of the state is less clear. If it’s legal to operate an internet gambling site in England, and that site offers games to Illinois residents, the site may not run afoul of Illinois law.

The play of online poker is probably illegal as well, given that §28-1(a)(1)’s definition of gambling is so broad. However there is no record of a prosecution against an online poker player under this statute.

In March 2013 Illinois began considering changing its stance on online gambing (including online poker) under a proposed overhaul of the state’s gambling laws. Part of the bill included fully authorizing and regulating online gambling, in addition to greatly exapnding live gaming in Illinois. The proposal cleared a committee vote on March 6, 2013. Amendments were made to the bill a few weeks later that barred any online gaming license applicant “who has been *convicted* of accepting wagers via the Internet in contravention of… United States law in the 10 years preceding the application date.” The conviction requirement would allow maximum amount of competition in Illinois, because almost no U.S.-facing site that accepted bets after the UIGEA was enacted in 2006 has been convicted of any wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, state lawmakers stripped the online gaming provisions out of the bill in late April. The internet gaming legislation is likely to return to the Senate in a separate bill, but without the weight of other gambling provisions that have widespread support behind them, it’s difficult to see how the internet gambling legislation will survive the legislative process.

2014 brought new possibilities with an informal hearing on online gambling expansion held in the legislature in February, but as of yet no bill has been introduced. Still, Illinois continues to be a dark horse candidate for online gambling expansion.

Illinois is one of several states that has approved online lottery sales.

Live Poker

Illinois was the second state in the nation to legalize riverboat gambling by passing the Riverboat Gambling Act. The Act led to the formation of the Illinois Gaming Board, the state agency that licenses and regulates the 10 riverboat casinos for operation in the state.

Live poker is a fully legal game at those 10 riverboat gambling operations. Outside the casinos, however, playing poker for money is definitely considered “gambling” under the state’s gambling law. Illinois Compiled Statutes §28-1(a)(1) states that a person commits gambling when he plays a game of chance or skill for money. There is no distinction in Illinois law for games of chance or games of skill.

There is no social or home game exception to Illinois gambling law. Home games are technically illegal for being unlicensed gambling, but there’s no record of any prosecution ever having taken place.

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