Illinois casinos, and gambling in general, is something that has a bit of an interesting history. In fact, whether casino games and their many variations are legal has been a point of contention since before Illinois was even recognized as a state. Nowadays, all you need to know is that there are plenty of casinos in the state. As far as Midwestern US states are concerned, Illinois is a gambling mecca of sorts. Though many of the sites exist in less populated areas, there are plenty of gambling options no matter what part of the state you are in.
Hollywood Casino Aurora
Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
Hollywood Casino Joliet
Argosy’s Alton Belle Casino
Jumer’s Casino & Hotel
The name “riverboat casino” tells you more or less all you need to know about the casino in question. Riverboat casinos are really no different than their land-based counterpart, with the one exception being that they must be situated on the water in order to comply with state law. Something else worth noting about Illinois’ riverboat casinos is that they are not able to remain open 24 hours a day.
In the early days of legalization, riverboat casinos in Illinois were forced to literally float on the river in order to be considered legal. Shortly thereafter, however, it was determined that this does not have to be the case. That is why you will notice that despite technically being labeled a riverboat casino, most that exist in Illinois are moored to the ground and not making any riverboat ventures anytime soon.
While some casinos standalone as nothing more than a gambling floor, other casinos offer hotel rooms, bars, restaurants, and other amenities. The game offering at Illinois casino resorts is about on par with what you will find at traditional land-based gaming sites. In fact, a full range of games, including blackjack, baccarat, slots, and even live poker can be found at riverboat gambling destinations. Despite the existence of casino gambling being just a bit different than what you might find on the Las Vegas Strip, any game that can be played in the Nevada desert can also be played on bodies of water in Illinois.
The history of Illinois casinos can be traced back to the early 1800s when many East Coast states began illegalizing the games thanks to their being viewed as a detriment to society in general. As states along the eastern seaboard began doing this, casino-style gambling, along with betting on horse and dog races, began moving westward and found a home in Illinois. By the mid-19th century, there were plenty of racetracks around the Chicago area and a burgeoning riverboat gambling business that called the Mississippi River its home.
After the Civil War, the riverboat gambling industry in Illinois had all but ceased to exist, but gambling still happened all throughout the state. The unfortunate part of this is that with the early 1900s came the Prohibition-era in the United States, which basically made all forms of gambling illegal. What this really worked to do was exasperate already-growing organized crime.
As far as casino gambling as we know it today is concerned, that did not make an official appearance in Illinois until the early 1990s, when state legislators passed a law approving riverboat gaming sites. The main impetus behind the move to legalize riverboat gambling was the fact that Iowa had done the exact same thing already. Fearing, as many states do, that state tax revenue would cross the border into Iowa, Illinois lawmakers voted to approve a measure that allowed the state to license 10 riverboat gambling sites. Since this law was first passed in the 1990s it has not changed at all. To this day there are only 10 licenses available and all 10 of them are spoken for. Despite there being multiple moves made to expand the scope of casino gambling in Illinois, these have not gotten very far.
The only real advancement as far as gambling in Illinois is concerned is that, in 2009, a law was passed that made it legal for places like truck stops and bars to offer a limited quantity of video poker machines. It took 3 years, but in 2012 the aforementioned sites began playing host to video poker and its many variants. This may not seem like an entirely big deal, but the fact of the matter is that video poker existing in bars is something that many states have spent many years unsuccessfully trying to authorize. Pennsylvania, to this day, still has lawmakers working on ways to get video poker into bars and restaurants. All told, Illinois is a great place for gambling. Even though the idea of riverboat gambling might throw you off at first, you will quickly realize that most riverboat casinos are more like traditional land-based establishments than anything else.