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Major events in Illinois gaming history


The first Washington Park opens in Chicago


Hawthorne Park opens in May


Racing is banned in Chicago


Racing returns to Chicago for good after several previous attempts


Aurora Downs opens


Lincoln Fields opens in August as a Thoroughbred racetrack
The modern Washington Park Race Track opens


Pari-mutuel wagering is legalized
Arlington Park opens in October


Hawthorne becomes the first major track in the United States to use an electrical timer


Sportsman’s Park opens in May


The Illinois Racing Board is created


Lincoln Fields closes for several years as its meets are run at Hawthorne and Washington Park through 1953


Maywood Park opens as the state’s first harness track


Thoroughbred racing returns to Lincoln Fields
Cahokia Downs opens in July


Lincoln Fields is sold and renamed Balmoral Park; its Thoroughbred meetings are held at Washington Park, Arlington Park and Hawthorne through 1977


The Balmoral track is converted to harness racing


Balmoral’s track is changed again to accommodate both Thoroughbred and harness racing
Quad City Downs opens


The Lottery begins ticket sales on July 30


The Lottery offers its first instant scratch ticket in October


Last year of racing at Aurora Downs


The Washington Park grandstand burns down in February and the track closes for good


Thoroughbred racing resumes at Balmoral Park


Last year of racing at Cahokia Downs


In February, the Lottery launches Pick 3, its first daily game


Lotto is introduced in February


 Intertrack wagering is introduced


Arlington Park burns down on July 31


Off-track betting begins, the first racetrack-owned OTB system in the country


The rebuilt Arlington Park opens on June 28


Last year of Thoroughbred racing at Balmoral Park, which continues to offer harness racing
The Riverboat Gambling Act was enacted in February


 In September, the Alton Belle is the first riverboat casino to open; it is followed by the Par-A-Dice in November


The Lottery offers keno as a limited test game during the Illinois State Fair
The Casino Rock Island, Empress Casino Joliet and Emerald Casino open


The Metropolis Casino, Harrah’s Joliet, Aurora Hollywood and Casino Queen open


The Elgin Grand Victoria casino opens


Last year of racing at Quad City Downs


The Lottery joins other states in The Big Game (now Mega Millions)


The Emerald Casino shuts down on July 29


The Riverboat Gambling Act is amended to allow dockside gaming without a cruising requirement
Sportsman’s Park is converted to a combination horse racing and auto racing track


Last year of horse racing at Sportsman’s Park


Balmoral and Maywood are the first U.S. racetracks to conduct common-pool wagering from Canadian racetracks


Advance deposit wagering is authorized
The legislature legalizes video lottery terminals and approves a measure to outsource the sales and marketing functions of the Illinois Lottery


The last casino license under the original gaming legislation is awarded to Midwest Gaming and Entertainment


In January, a private management agreement is signed with Northstar Lottery Group, outsourcing the Lottery's sales and marketing functions
The Rivers Casino opens in Des Plaines in July


The Lottery launches Internet-based play in March
Video lottery terminals launch in October
ADW legislation expires December 31


ADW wagering resumes in June after new legislation is signed


Maywood Park closes in October
Balmoral Park closes in December


Online gaming

The Illinois Lottery began selling tickets via the Internet to in-state players on March 25, 2012. Only Mega Millions and Lotto tickets were included at the launch; Powerball was added at the end of November. Illinois was the first U.S. lottery to offer regular ticket sales online.


Casinos and casino-style gaming

Riverboat casinos were launched in September, 1991, after 1990 enabling legislation authorizing up to ten casino licenses. Each riverboat gaming operation is authorized to offer up to 1,200 gaming positions, consisting of a mix of electronic gaming devices and table games.

Argosy Casino, Alton – 825 slots, 12 tables
Hollywood Casino, Aurora – 1,100 slots, 29 tables
Rivers Casino, Des Plaines – 1,022 slots, 51 tables
Par-A-Dice, East Peoria – 919 slots, 30 tables
Casino Queen, East St. Louis – 1,079 slots, 26 tables
Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin – 1,088 slots, 42 tables
Hollywood Casino, Joliet  – 1,100 slots, 19 tables
Harrah’s Joliet Casino, Joliet – 1,100 slots, 39 tables
Harrah’s Metropolis Casino, Metropolis – 836 slots, 21 tables
Jumer's Casino & Hotel, Rock Island – 996 slots, 28 tables


In July, 2009, video gaming terminals became legal in Illinois. The Video Gaming Act allows video gaming terminals to be placed in certain liquor establishments, truck stops and fraternal/veterans clubs throughout the state. A central system was awarded to Scientific Games in May, 2010.

The first VLTs went live October 9, 2012. As of February 2017, 25,363  machines were operating in 5,824 establishments.

Illinois Gaming Board
800 South Seventh Street, Suite 400 - South
P.O. Box 19474
Springfield, IL 62794
Phone: (217) 524-0226


The Illinois Lottery was launched on July 30, 1974. The current game offerings include instant tickets, Powerball, Mega Millions, Lotto, Lucky Day Lotto, Pick 3 and Pick 4. The lottery also offers limited-run raffle games. Illinoiis became the first lottery in the United States to offer regular sales through the Internet on March 25, 2012, when Mega Millions and Lotto became available through that channel; Powerball was added in November.

Proceeds benefit the Illinois Common School Fund. Special-run instant games may benefit specific worthy causes.

Illinois Lottery                        
101 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62702
Phone (217) 557-6493


Pari-mutuel facilities

There are currently three licensed race tracks in Illinois after the closures of Balmoral and Maywood in 2015. All offer Thoroughbred racing, while Hawthorne offers both Thoroughbred and harness racing. Each track may hold a number of off-track betting licenses; a total of 37 OTB facilities are authorized by statute. As of November 2016, 21 OTB facilities were operating. Advance deposit wagering was authorized in 2009, but legislation expired December 31, 2012. New legislation was passed in June 2013, enabling ADW to resume.

Arlington Park
2200 Euclid
Arlington Heights, IL 60006

Hawthorne Race Course
3501 S. Laramie
Cicero, IL 60804

Fairmount Park
9301 Collinsville Road
Collinsville, IL 62234

There are also fairs at Springfield, DuQuoin and Brown County

Illinois Racing Board
100 West Randolph, Suite 7-701
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-2600


Charitable gaming

Bingo and pulltabs are among the charitable games offered in Illinois, which also include bang, beat the dealer, big six, blackjack, chuck-a-luck, craps, five-card stud poker, gin rummy, hold-em poker, keno, merchandise wheel, poker, pulltabs and roulette.

Bingo and pulltab operators must be a licensed bona fide religious, charitable, labor, fraternal, youth athletic, senior citizens’, educational, or veterans’ organization in Illinois, operating as a non-profit entity.

Illinois Department of Revenue
Office of Bingo & Charitable Games
P.O. Box 19480
Springfield, IL 62794-9480
Phone: (217) 785-5864


Last updated on March 18, 2017