Ohio Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Ohio is one of the last states in the US to regulate the gambling landscape. For many years, Ohio residents were deprived of casino games, being limited to charity bingo, lottery, and horse racing. All this changed in 2009 when casinos and “racinos” were legalized in the Buckeye State. Nowadays, Ohio is home to the flourishing casino industry, with several major projects under construction in the state’s largest cities.

What’s the legal status of different forms of gambling in Ohio? Keep reading to find out, as we delve into the most significant extracts from the Statute books to give you the basics of gaming law in the state.

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Gambling Laws in Ohio — The Law Overview

Before 2010, there wasn’t much gambling going around in Ohio. Pari-mutuel horse race betting was legalized in 1933, State lottery was established in 1974, and bingo was legalized in 1974 — and that’s it. It wasn’t until 2009 that the state authorized the construction of Vegas-style casinos when both voters and lawmakers realized that Ohio gamblers were spending too much money in neighboring states — Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Nowadays, Ohio gambling laws allow for betting on horse racing, including several satellite facilities, as well as gambling on Tribal land. The state also allows non-profit and charitable organizations to host limited-gambling activities for fundraising purposes, and this includes bingo and raffles.

Bookmaking, or the process of placing bets on sporting events of any kind, is explicitly forbidden in Ohio. The Ohio Casino Control Commission oversees the gambling activities in the state.

Most gambling matters are covered by Ohio Revised Code, section 2915.01 et.seq. and 3769.01 et seq.

Ohio Revised Statutes

Under Ohio gambling laws, gambling is defined as:

“Bookmaking; facilitating schemes or games of chance for profit; betting on schemes or games of chance for one’s livelihood; possession of gambling devices; playing craps; roulette or slot machines for money.”

As you can notice, there’s no definition of the term gambling. The key factors in this definition are “bet” and “game of chance”. Like in most other states, gambling is considered illegal unless the law books permit it. There’s a significant distinction here — unless the authorities can prove that you made a substantial amount of money from a gambling game, they probably won’t press any charges. In our estimation, this law has been written in a way to protect individual bettors, as long as they’re not professional gamblers.

By Ohio lawmakers, “games of chance” include:

‘’Game of chance means poker, craps, roulette, or other game in which a player gives anything of value in the hope of gain, the outcome of which is determined largely by chance, but does not include bingo.’’

As far as we can tell from this section, if a game’s outcome is shown to rely “largely on skill”, it’s not illegal. Ironically enough, poker is regarded as a “game of chance”, whereas bingo is not.

The Statutes can be changed through a referendum.

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed?

Casino gambling in Ohio was legalized in 2009, after two decades of legislative efforts. Since 2012, the cities of Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo have been the focal point of casino gambling in Ohio. There are currently eleven casinos and racinos (racetracks with casino gaming) in the state. Keep in mind that not every venue in Ohio is licensed to provide poker or table games.

The Ohio Lottery dates all the way back to 1973 when this form of gambling has been legalized as part of a wave of lottery regulations. Around 10,000 kiosks and retail shops sell Ohio Lottery tickets, and it’s estimated that an average Ohio citizen spends about $200 each year on lottery tickets.

Bingo games are allowed in Ohio, and each bingo hall runs with their own rules. These rules are controlled by the charity gambling laws in the state, along with raffles. Non-profit groups can host a variety of games — raffles, pull-tab games, bingo, and even casino-style games, but as long as the proceeds go 100% to benefit a charity.

Social gambling is allowed in Ohio, as long as it abides by a few rules. First, the game has to be hosted entirely in private, with a locking door and closed windows. Also, all participants must have a “legitimate social relationship”. This means that you can’t just pick five random guys on the street and ask them for a game of poker. Lastly, the host can’t post house odds, charge admission, earn rake, or any special consideration in exchange for hosting the game. Judging by these rules, home poker games and private office sports pools should be legal.

Sports betting is limited to horse racing only — prior-deposit and remote betting options are available. You can place horse racing bets in one of the seven racinos in Ohio.

Ohio’s state legislature fails to address online gambling, meaning that it’s not explicitly illegal to gamble online. However, that doesn’t mean that the activity is legal either.

The Buckeye state has a sharply-defined set of laws related to the operation of “gambling devices.” Ohio law states that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if they:

acquire, possess, control, or operate any gambling device.”

Delving further down into the same section of the law, a gambling device is defined as:

“Gambling device means … any equipment, device, apparatus, or paraphernalia specially designed for gambling purposes.”

Judging by this definition, a gambling device would include casino gambling software, or even the platform used by sportsbooks to accept bets. Your laptop or computer, however, is not considered illegal, as they are not designed “specifically for gambling purposes.”

We would like to point out that Ohio authorities never pressed any charges against a person who placed online bets. With that in mind, we believe that it is highly unlikely that anyone in Ohio will be charged with a crime for playing online games of chance and skill at offshore sites.

Where to Gamble in Ohio?

There are currently eleven gambling establishments in Ohio, four of which are casinos, and the other seven are racinos, located at racetracks. We’ll briefly discuss the top ones, in our humble opinion.

Hollywood Casino Columbus

Hollywood Casino Columbus offers non-stop entertainment through 2,000+ slots, 100+ live table games, and the largest poker room in Ohio. Every time you set your foot at this lavish resort, you have a chance to win big through multiple exciting promotions. As a VIP member of the casino, you can win fantastic prizes — all you have to do is play your favorite casino games. If you decide to relax from the exciting gaming action, you can always go to the smoking & gaming patio that features a large bar, high ceilings, an entertainment stage, and a top-notch heating and cooling system.

Jack Cleveland Casino

Jack Cleveland Casino has taken the meaning of the word “fun” to a whole new level. This first-class gaming venue features slots, table games, several restaurants with live music, and a buffet. No matter if you head down to the slots section and try out some of the hottest slots in the industry or spin the roulette wheel in the table games lounge — you’re up for a special treat at Jack Cleveland.

Poker fans are bound to have a blast at this casino, as this is the place they’ll experience the most exciting poker action in all of Cleveland. Choose between Live Action Hold’em or Live Action Omaha,or sign up for the monthly tournaments to make the big bucks. Whoever enters Jack Cleveland has a hard time leaving, but can you really blame them?

MGM Northfield Park

Ever since Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park opened its doors in 2013, it has been providing its guests with a thrilling gaming and exciting atmosphere. This sought-after entertainment destination serves world-class gaming both inside the vast Rocksino and outside in the open air.

In 2018, MGM Growth Properties (we all know who they are) bought the property from Milstein Entertainment turning the place into a Vegas-style casino. If you’re a horse racing fan, there’s no place you’d rather be, as Northfield Park conducts over 200 harness racing nights every year. The casino is spacious with plenty of slots. There’s a downside, though — table games are nowhere to be found.

FAQ

What forms of gambling are illegal in Ohio?

Dog fights, betting on sports/games, home poker games in an unregulated setting, and greyhound racing.

Are daily fantasy sports legal in Ohio?

Daily fantasy sports is still in a grey area in Ohio. Industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings provide their services to Ohio residents, and players enjoy unregulated daily fantasy games without any fear because it’s not illegal.

Is online gambling legal in Ohio?

It’s neither legal nor illegal, at least not according to Ohio statutes. The state of Ohio hasn’t prosecuted anyone for gambling online so far.

What games are offered in Ohio casinos?

Casino operators in Ohio are allowed to offer slots, video poker, and electronic table games.

What is the minimum legal gambling age in Ohio?

It’s 16 for bingo, 18 for keno, horse racing, and lottery, and 21 for casino games.