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Illinois Criminal Code of 1961

Article 28: Illinois Gambling Law

Although entering into a bracket pool during March Madness may seem like a harmless act, it is a crime in Illinois to gamble. While this example might not land you a criminal conviction, more serious gambling can result in prison time.

Under Illinois criminal law, a person commits gambling when he or she plays a game of chance or skill for money, makes a wager on the result of a game or contest, operates any gambling devices, or commits a variety of other similar offenses. It should be noted there are many exceptions to this law, which may be brought as a theory of defense if facing criminal charges. For example, gambling games conducted on riverboats are authorized. Depending on the nature of the gambling, a violation of this law is either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 4 felony.

In addition, this section outlines the crime of syndicated gambling. This law was drafted with an eye towards eliminating crime organizations, which often engage in types of gambling called policy games and bookmaking. Anyone who participates in these activities is liable to be criminally prosecuted, and a conviction carries a Class 3 felony status.

Need an Illinois criminal defense attorney? If you've been arrested or charged with a crime in Illinois, call our Chicago criminal defense attorneys today at (312) 466-9466 to discuss your case.

The text below comes from Article 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961. This law may have changed -- please read the important legal disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 - Article 28

Sec. 28-1. Gambling.
    (720 ILCS 5/28-1)

(a) A person commits gambling when he:

(1) Plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section; or

(2) Makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or election; or

(3) Operates, keeps, owns, uses, purchases, exhibits, rents, sells, bargains for the sale or lease of, manufactures or distributes any gambling device; or

(4) Contracts to have or give himself or another the option to buy or sell, or contracts to buy or sell, at a future time, any grain or other commodity whatsoever, or any stock or security of any company, where it is at the time of making such contract intended by both parties thereto that the contract to buy or sell, or the option, whenever exercised, or the contract resulting therefrom, shall be settled, not by the receipt or delivery of such property, but by the payment only of differences in prices thereof; however, the issuance, purchase, sale, exercise, endorsement or guarantee, by or through a person registered with the Secretary of State pursuant to Section 8 of the Illinois Securities Law of 1953, or by or through a person exempt from such registration under said Section 8, of a put, call, or other option to buy or sell securities which have been registered with the Secretary of State or which are exempt from such registration under Section 3 of the Illinois Securities Law of 1953 is not gambling within the meaning of this paragraph (4); or

(5) Knowingly owns or possesses any book, instrument or apparatus by means of which bets or wagers have been, or are, recorded or registered, or knowingly possesses any money which he has received in the course of a bet or wager; or

(6) Sells pools upon the result of any game or contest of skill or chance, political nomination, appointment or election; or

(7) Sets up or promotes any lottery or sells, offers to sell or transfers any ticket or share for any lottery; or

(8) Sets up or promotes any policy game or sells, offers to sell or knowingly possesses or transfers any policy ticket, slip, record, document or other similar device; or

(9) Knowingly drafts, prints or publishes any lottery ticket or share, or any policy ticket, slip, record, document or similar device, except for such activity related to lotteries, bingo games and raffles authorized by and conducted in accordance with the laws of Illinois or any other state or foreign government; or

(10) Knowingly advertises any lottery or policy game, except for such activity related to lotteries, bingo games and raffles authorized by and conducted in accordance with the laws of Illinois or any other state; or

(11) Knowingly transmits information as to wagers, betting odds, or changes in betting odds by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore or similar means; or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of such information; except that nothing in this subdivision (11) prohibits transmission or receipt of such information for use in news reporting of sporting events or contests; or

(12) Knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any game, contest, political nomination, appointment, or election by means of the Internet. This item (12) does not apply to activities referenced in items (6) and (6.1) of subsection (b) of this Section.

(b) Participants in any of the following activities shall not be convicted of gambling therefor:

(1) Agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance including without limitation contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life or health or accident insurance.

(2) Offers of prizes, award or compensation to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength or endurance or to the owners of animals or vehicles entered in such contest.

(3) Pari-mutuel betting as authorized by the law of this State.

(4) Manufacture of gambling devices, including the acquisition of essential parts therefor and the assembly thereof, for transportation in interstate or foreign commerce to any place outside this State when such transportation is not prohibited by any applicable Federal law; or the manufacture, distribution, or possession of video gaming terminals, as defined in the Video Gaming Act, by manufacturers, distributors, and terminal operators licensed to do so under the Video Gaming Act.

(5) The game commonly known as "bingo", when conducted in accordance with the Bingo License and Tax Act.

(6) Lotteries when conducted by the State of Illinois in accordance with the Illinois Lottery Law. This exemption includes any activity conducted by the Department of Revenue to sell lottery tickets pursuant to the provisions of the Illinois Lottery Law and its rules.

(6.1) The purchase of lottery tickets through the Internet for a lottery conducted by the State of Illinois under the program established in Section 7.12 of the Illinois Lottery Law.

(7) Possession of an antique slot machine that is neither used nor intended to be used in the operation or promotion of any unlawful gambling activity or enterprise. For the purpose of this subparagraph (b)(7), an antique slot machine is one manufactured 25 years ago or earlier.

(8) Raffles when conducted in accordance with the Raffles Act.

(9) Charitable games when conducted in accordance with the Charitable Games Act.

(10) Pull tabs and jar games when conducted under the Illinois Pull Tabs and Jar Games Act.

(11) Gambling games conducted on riverboats when authorized by the Riverboat Gambling Act.

(12) Video gaming terminal games at a licensed establishment, licensed truck stop establishment, licensed fraternal establishment, or licensed veterans establishment when conducted in accordance with the Video Gaming Act.

(c) Sentence.

Gambling under subsection (a)(1) or (a)(2) of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor. Gambling under any of subsections (a)(3) through (a)(11) of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction under any of subsections (a)(3) through (a)(11), is a Class 4 felony. Gambling under subsection (a)(12) of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction under subsection (a)(12) is a Class 4 felony.

(d) Circumstantial evidence.

In prosecutions under subsection (a)(1) through (a)(12) of this Section circumstantial evidence shall have the same validity and weight as in any criminal prosecution. (Source: P.A. 96-34, eff. 7-13-09; 96-37, eff. 7-13-09.)

Sec. 28-1.1. Syndicated gambling.
    (720 ILCS 5/28-1.1)

(a) Declaration of Purpose. Recognizing the close relationship between professional gambling and other organized crime, it is declared to be the policy of the legislature to restrain persons from engaging in the business of gambling for profit in this State. This Section shall be liberally construed and administered with a view to carrying out this policy.

(b) A person commits syndicated gambling when he operates a "policy game" or engages in the business of bookmaking.

(c) A person "operates a policy game" when he knowingly uses any premises or property for the purpose of receiving or knowingly does receive from what is commonly called "policy":

(1) money from a person other than the better or player whose bets or plays are represented by such money; or

(2) written "policy game" records, made or used over any period of time, from a person other than the better or player whose bets or plays are represented by such written record.

(d) A person engages in bookmaking when he receives or accepts more than five bets or wagers upon the result of any trials or contests of skill, speed or power of endurance or upon any lot, chance, casualty, unknown or contingent event whatsoever, which bets or wagers shall be of such size that the total of the amounts of money paid or promised to be paid to such bookmaker on account thereof shall exceed $2,000. Bookmaking is the receiving or accepting of such bets or wagers regardless of the form or manner in which the bookmaker records them.

(e) Participants in any of the following activities shall not be convicted of syndicated gambling:

(1) Agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance including without limitation contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life or health or accident insurance; and

(2) Offers of prizes, award or compensation to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength or endurance or to the owners of animals or vehicles entered in such contest; and

(3) Pari-mutuel betting as authorized by law of this State; and

(4) Manufacture of gambling devices, including the acquisition of essential parts therefor and the assembly thereof, for transportation in interstate or foreign commerce to any place outside this State when such transportation is not prohibited by any applicable Federal law; and

(5) Raffles when conducted in accordance with the Raffles Act; and

(6) Gambling games conducted on riverboats when authorized by the Riverboat Gambling Act; and

(7) Video gaming terminal games at a licensed establishment, licensed truck stop establishment, licensed fraternal establishment, or licensed veterans establishment when conducted in accordance with the Video Gaming Act.

(f) Sentence. Syndicated gambling is a Class 3 felony. (Source: P.A. 96-34, eff. 7-13-09.)

Sec. 28-2. Definitions.
    (720 ILCS 5/28-2)

(a) A "gambling device" is any clock, tape machine, slot machine or other machines or device for the reception of money or other thing of value on chance or skill or upon the action of which money or other thing of value is staked, hazarded, bet, won or lost; or any mechanism, furniture, fixture, equipment or other device designed primarily for use in a gambling place. A "gambling device" does not include:

(1) A coin-in-the-slot operated mechanical device played for amusement which rewards the player with the right to replay such mechanical device, which device is so constructed or devised as to make such result of the operation thereof depend in part upon the skill of the player and which returns to the player thereof no money, property or right to receive money or property.

(2) Vending machines by which full and adequate return is made for the money invested and in which there is no element of chance or hazard.

(3) A crane game. For the purposes of this paragraph (3), a "crane game" is an amusement device involving skill, if it rewards the player exclusively with merchandise contained within the amusement device proper and limited to toys, novelties and prizes other than currency, each having a wholesale value which is not more than $25.

(4) A redemption machine. For the purposes of this paragraph (4), a "redemption machine" is a single-player or multi-player amusement device involving a game, the object of which is throwing, rolling, bowling, shooting, placing, or propelling a ball or other object into, upon, or against a hole or other target, provided that all of the following conditions are met:

(A) The outcome of the game is predominantly determined by the skill of the player.

(B) The award of the prize is based solely upon the player's achieving the object of the game or otherwise upon the player's score.

(C) Only merchandise prizes are awarded.

(D) The wholesale value of prizes awarded in lieu of tickets or tokens for single play of the device does not exceed $25.

(E) The redemption value of tickets, tokens, and other representations of value, which may be accumulated by players to redeem prizes of greater value, does not exceed the amount charged for a single play of the device.

(a-5) "Internet" means an interactive computer service or system or an information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, and includes, but is not limited to, an information service, system, or access software provider that provides access to a network system commonly known as the Internet, or any comparable system or service and also includes, but is not limited to, a World Wide Web page, newsgroup, message board, mailing list, or chat area on any interactive computer service or system or other online service.

(a-6) "Access" and "computer" have the meanings ascribed to them in Section 16D-2 of this Code.

(b) A "lottery" is any scheme or procedure whereby one or more prizes are distributed by chance among persons who have paid or promised consideration for a chance to win such prizes, whether such scheme or procedure is called a lottery, raffle, gift, sale or some other name.

(c) A "policy game" is any scheme or procedure whereby a person promises or guarantees by any instrument, bill, certificate, writing, token or other device that any particular number, character, ticket or certificate shall in the event of any contingency in the nature of a lottery entitle the purchaser or holder to receive money, property or evidence of debt. (Source: P.A. 95-676, eff. 6-1-08.)

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DISCLAIMER: These excerpts from the law are provided for reference purposes only. Visitors to our Chicago criminal defense lawyer website should be aware that Illinois criminal laws have been amended many times and that Illinois crime laws posted on this site may not be current. In addition, Illinois criminal case law defines precedents for legal determinations that are not defined in the original laws.

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