Legal Illinois Online Poker

Illinois Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Illinois?

The Prairie State has laws on the books about poker that are just as strict as other states in America, but as in many parts of the USA, there are a few legal ways to play poker. Illinois is one of the states in the US that has a general restriction against gambling, but the law includes some exceptions that make certain forms of card gaming legal. Following the guidelines established by the state government may seem inconvenient, but if you want to stay out of legal trouble playing poker in Illinois, you should pay attention to what the state code has to say.

Illinois Laws Regarding Poker

What's life like for a poker player in Illinois legally-speaking? In general: better than some, worse than others.

To be more specific, Illinois poker players have a variety of regulated ways to play real-money poker, but fewer choices outside of those regulated options than players in the average state.

Let's begin with Section 28-1 of Illinois state law, where gambling is defined as participating in any "game of chance or skill" when something "of value" is at stake. That's a fairly standard definition except for the "chance or skill" aspect - most states don't explicitly include games of pure skill in their definition of gambling. With such a broad definition, it's certain that poker is considered gambling for the purposes of Illinois law.

So the next logical question is when are poker and gambling legal in Illinois? We'll start with the most obvious answer: poker is legal in Illinois if you're playing in a poker room at one of  Illinois' properly regulated casinos, such as the Grand Victoria in Elgin.

Real-money poker is also legal if it takes place in the context of a correctly administered charitable event. Sorting out the legitimate charitable gambling events from the less-than-reputable is the charge of the Illinois Department of Revenue and must be conducted in accordance with the Illinois Charitable Games Act (230 ILSC 30/1-30/15).

Outside of poker played in a regulated casino or a qualifying charitable event / venue, few options exist for explicitly legal real-money poker in Illinois. Many U.S. states make an exception for so-called "social gambling" (such as home poker games), but you won't find any such language in Illinois law.

Now, does that mean the cops are planning to raid your Friday night poker game? Probably not, but by the letter of the law it appears social gambling - including poker played for real-money stakes - is not clearly legal in Illinois.

Learn About Other State Laws

Casino Poker in Illinois

Casino gambling is legal in Illinois, and it is actually a big revenue-earner for the state government. The increased revenue from legalizing gambling in casinos has made the state’s lawmakers a little more accepting of gambling in most forms. Poker is allowed in Illinois casinos, but for some reason is difficult to find. As of this writing, only three of the existing casinos within state lines offer poker games. Strangely enough, it can be most difficult to find open poker rooms at casinos in Illinois on the weekends, a time you’d think the poker tables would do their best business.

Playing poker in government-regulated casinos is completely legal in Illinois, so if you are looking for a fully-legal game and don’t want to mess around with online restrictions or home game laws, check out one of the three Illinois casinos that host poker games.

Legality of Home Poker Games in Illinois

If you read Article 28, Section 1 of Illinois’ penal code, it is clear that any home game, no matter how private, that involves gambling for real money is illegal. The law actually says: “A person commits gambling when he plays a game of chance or skill for money or other things of value.” This restriction doesn’t make any distinction between games of chance and games of skill, so a private poker game is illegal in Illinois.

If you do operate a home poker game that uses real-money wagers and you get caught, you’ll not only be charged with illegal gambling, you can also face another offense for “operating an illegal gambling house,” usually a charge applied to the host of the game. There is a lot of risk associated with playing private poker games in Illinois, so to avoid trouble with the law, don’t play for real money or any valuable commodity.

Unlike some other states, undercover law enforcement officers have infiltrated private poker games, formed a case, and even confiscated money, playing cards, and gaming chips from those playing illegal private home poker games.

Online Poker & Illinois Law

The state of Illinois is one of the few states that actually uses the phrase “online poker” in its state law, though online poker players themselves appear to be in the clear. Check out Item 12 of Article 28, Section 1, which says it is illegal for any citizen of Illinois to “operate an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money of other things of value by means of the internet.” What that means for online poker players in Illinois is that you can’t be charged with any crime simply for playing poker online, but that operating an online poker site within the state’s borders will earn you a visit from several different law enforcement agencies.