The pitfalls of losing even when you "win".

Participating in a friendly bet or a pool adds excitement to a game for many people. But even when it is legal (which it often isn’t), there are pitfalls.


You would not know if this excitement could lead to a destructive addiction until you have harmed yourself and probably others. Beware that if you sense it could get out of control, set limits for yourself. If you cannot stay within those limits, seek professional advice immediately.

Common Questions

What is the law in Illinois?

In Illinois gambling is illegal unless conducted by someone with a license. It is fairly easy to obtain a raffle or bingo license for non-profit organizations. Otherwise, it is limited to only a few casinos and the racetracks left in Illinois.

What is the Federal law?

The federal government passed a law for internet gambling sites, making it illegal to accept money from a U.S. citizen unless the state from which the bet is placed has legalized it. Illinois has not.

There are web sites on which there is a form of gambling set up to avoid the federal law – be careful as many off-shore sites are scams and do not pay winnings.

Betting on “amateur” sports is prohibited by federal law, except in Nevada. Gambling on “amateur” and “professional” sports is lawful in Nevada as an exception to the federal law.

What about "fantasy" teams?

Fantasy football, fantasy baseball, etc. have been ruled not to be gambling in Illinois because the court ruled it involved more skill than chance. You can bet on games of skill, if you are a participant and the bet is with another participant.

What about playing poker online?

Poker is not considered a game of skill as far as Illinois is concerned. It is gambling, and illegal in Illinois. In addition, you risk being caught in a scam on websites. See the section of this brochure on “Federal law”.

Can I legally bet in the pool at work or at school?

Most communities do not spend resources searching out “friendly” games with nominal bets. Check the culture of your work place and who else is participating to avoid work-rule infractions since this is not allowed in most work places, and on the University of Illinois campus is subject to discipline.

What if I go to another state where it is legal? Can I gamble?

When on vacations to certain states, gambling is legal. Be sure to check out the age limits for gambling in that state and in the gambling establishment. Twenty-one is the most common age for lawful gambling.

Being under 21 at the time of gambling does NOT mean you get your gambling losses back if arrested in most states. You also don’t want a $500.00 fine for a $10.00 win.

How could I get caught?

Your name and identification are recorded or witnessed, so be sure you can trust whoever has control of the information and who will see it.

Limits on Bets

Never bet more than you can donate to a charity. The odds are set by “the house” and, even in games of skill like the Olympics, surprises happen. While in college, you should not be betting your future on anything but your future career.

Betting for pride – a non-monetary award – is your safest bet.

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The information on this page is also available to download in brochure form.