The Bean in Chicago, the biggest city in Illinois. Illinois is a strong contender to be the next to legalize online poker and casino gaming. The Bean in Chicago, the biggest city in Illinois. Illinois is a strong contender to be the next to legalize online poker and casino gaming.
Christopher Alvarenga, unsplash

In this series, we will look at six states considered the most likely to offer regulated, legal online poker within the next year. For the fifth installment, we focus on Illinois — a state that authorized riverboat casinos back in 1990 and tacked on online sports betting 29 years later. Illinois is also on analysts’ radar — the state recently made a short list of states expected to expand into online poker and casino gaming in the near future.

In the states that do legalize iGaming, we expect revenue to be around double sports betting. Real money US online poker is currently legal and operational in five states — Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Illinois could be the sixth.

The two lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly, who sponsored a bill in 2021 calling for expanding online gaming to include casino gaming and poker, were both re-elected in November.

Meanwhile, analysts with Morgan Stanley believe Illinois will be one of the next states to launch online casinos and poker rooms, and issued a report to that effect.

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The Last Effort Failed, But Backers Re-Elected

Illinois has had legal online sports betting since 2019. Legislation to expand legal iGaming to include online casino gaming and poker fell short in 2021.

Under House Bill 3142, the state’s land-based casinos and racetracks would have been authorized to have up to three skins for online casino gaming. The bill, aka the Internet Gaming Act, also called for enacting a 12% tax rate.

Reps. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook) introduced HB 3142 in February 2021. That month, the bill had its first reading in the state House of Representatives before being referred to the House Rules Committee. The bill was assigned to the House Executive Committee and re-referred to the Rules Committee in March 2021, but did not advance.

HB 3142 was important for another reason — *it would have authorized the state to join a multi-state online poker compact like the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which allows poker and some casino games to share liquidity. The bill specifically said that the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) “may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions to facilitate, administer, and regulate multijurisdictional approved Internet games, including, but not limited to, poker.”

Carroll defeated Republican Rory Welch in the 57th District race, while Rita dispatched Independent Paris Walker-Thomas, a write-in candidate, in the 28th race.

Morgan Stanley Optimistic on Expansion

Last May, analysts with Morgan Stanley issued a report on expanding iGaming that included revenue forecasts for four states that don’t currently offer online poker or casino — Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.

In a 114-page report — US Sports Betting & Online Gambling Primer 3.0 — Morgan Stanley analysts projected that if Illinois legalized online poker and casino gaming in 2024, the state would generate $868 million in iGaming revenue in 2024. That figure increases to $1.3 billion in 2025, $1.5 billion in 2026, $1.6 billion in 2027, and $1.7 billion in 2028.

If those figures were realized, Illinois would generate more revenue than New Jersey and Pennsylvania by 2028 but still trail Michigan. Illinois would dwarf all of the other states where online poker and casino were either currently legal or projected to be in the near future.

Also, Morgan Stanley said, “in the states that do legalize iGaming, we expect revenue to be around double sports betting.” The state reported adjusted gross revenue of $610 million in fiscal year (FY) 2022, which ended on June 30.

Considering revenue in a launch year will likely be a little lower — since the market is new and it will take time for operators to build customer bases — the Morgan Stanley estimates for 2025 onward appear to match the “double sports betting” projection.

Major Poker Operators Already Active in IL

Three of the biggest online poker operators in the US — BetMGM, PokerStars, and WSOP — already have access directly and indirectly in Illinois as they already operate in the state, offering online sports betting. WSOP is owned by Caesars, while PokerStars and FanDuel are both brands owned by Flutter Entertainment.

A fourth operator, BetRivers, doesn’t currently have a poker platform, but parent company (and Chicago-based) Rush Street Interactive (RSI) is rumored to be building one after acquiring and onboarding the development team behind Phil Galfond’s Run It Once Poker (RIO) platform in March.

If BetRivers offered online casino and poker, it would likely be through the land-based casino license of Rivers Casino Des Plaines. a land-based casino built above a few inches of water in order to comply with Illinois law governing riverboat gambling. Illinois has since allowed such facilities to move onto land.

BetMGM runs an online sportsbook at Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, a riverboat in East Peoria. BetMGM would likely offer expanded iGaming through its partnership with Par-A-Dice if online poker and casino gaming were legalized.

As in neighboring Indiana, PokerStars could launch online poker in Illinois at a facility where FanDuel currently offers sports betting.

In Illinois, FanDuel offers online sports betting through the license of Fairmount Park, a horse racing track in Collinsville. FanDuel also operates a retail sportsbook at Par-A-Dice, but a launch through there seems unlikely, given the online book is through BetMGM.

WSOP could launch through the license of Grand Victoria Casino, an Elgin riverboat owned and operated by Caesars.

Caesars also owns two more riverboats — Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel and Harrah’s Metropolis Casino. While the IGB has issued sports betting licenses to both, the former hasn’t been launched yet, and the latter has been issued but not authorized to start sports betting.

Potential Online Poker Operators in IL

Operator Likely to Launch Poker? Land-Based Casino Partner
BetMGM Yes Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
BetRivers Maybe Rivers Casino Des Plaines
PokerStars Yes Fairmount Park
WSOP Yes Grand Victoria Casino

Want to learn more about the best online poker rooms in the US? Check out our complete guide!