Gambers Guide to the State of Ohio
Up until 2012, Ohio had few gambling options to serve its population of over 11.6 million.
But they've since seen four commercial casinos and seven racinos open. Suddenly, Ohioans have plenty of gambling venues scattered across the state.
Has this casino spike furthered efforts for online gambling? What's the Buckeye State's iGaming situation right now?
We'll cover these important questions in this discussion on Ohio's gambling sites and laws.
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Online Gambling and Ohio Law
The Ohio Constitution's gambling code is long and covers many topics. Two things that it fails to address include:
- Online gambling, or terms like "Internet," "computer," and "mobile device."
- A simple definition of gambling.
Ohio's online gaming market is in a grey area due to the absence of legal language.
This means that numerous offshore gambling sites serve the Buckeye State. Although, just because these offshore sites are available doesn't mean they're legal.
Let's dive further into Ohio's criminal code to understand their stance on iGaming.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Ohio?
As just mentioned, Ohio's gaming laws are tough to decipher because there's no simple gambling definition.
Instead, section 2915.02 lays out multiple violations. Here are a few that are pertinent to our discussion:
- "Engage in bookmaking, or knowingly engage in conduct that facilitates bookmaking."
- "Establish, promote, or operate or knowingly engage in conduct that facilitates any game of chance conducted for profit or any scheme of chance."
- "Engage in betting or in playing any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood."
The first two points could be used to deem offshore gambling sites illegal.
Even though these companies offer their services online, the phrase "facilitates any game of chance conducted for profit" sums up any illegal gambling business.
The last point about not playing games of chance for a "substantial source of income or livelihood," suggests that you don't want to play online casino games professionally.
Can I Be Arrested for Gambling Online in Ohio?
Considering that Ohio's criminal code doesn't offer a general description of gambling, it's difficult to know whether or not players are in violation of the law.
The closest thing we've found is section 2915.1 (B), which describes a bet:
"...means the hazarding of anything of value upon the result of an event, undertaking, or contingency."
This is a broad definition of betting that could be used to describe online gaming. Would Ohio really use this to go after online gamblers?
Sure, anything is possible when a state fails to exempt an activity from their definition of illegal gambling, but Ohio has never arrested anybody solely for Internet gaming. Given that the activity has been around for over two decades, we don't see them starting any time soon either.
Can I Gamble on My Smartphone in Ohio?
The Buckeye State doesn't approve of smartphone gambling or any other type of unlicensed gaming. Along with online gambling in general, we don't see any language directly aimed at mobile play either.
The closest thing we see is an excerpt that occurs in code 2915.01 (C):
"'Scheme of chance' includes the use of an electronic device to reveal the results of a game entry if valuable consideration is paid, directly or indirectly, for a chance to win a prize."
This isn't the most damning law that we've seen against mobile gaming, but it could also be used to make smartphone gaming illegal.
Again, though, Ohio hasn't prosecuted anybody for Internet gambling. This means that you should be fine to play, outside of any bizarre events.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
Ohioans can find many different online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks. The question is whether it's safe to deposit your money at these sites.
The answer depends on a variety of factors.
Two of the most important aspects include a site's longevity and reputability. These go hand in hand because an iGaming site doesn't last for years without a good reputation.
Of course, you want to avoid any offshore casino, poker room or sports betting site that has scandal in its past.
Also, stay away from gaming sites that have numerous complaints about slow cashouts. Nobody wants to wait weeks or months on their withdrawals, and this could be a sign that the company is in trouble.
The best way to figure out if an offshore gaming site is legitimate is by reading reviews. Here are a few important factors that you should look for when browsing reviews:
- Bonus Terms & Conditions
- Customer Support
- Deposit Options
- Game Variety
How much will you have to wager before you're eligible to cash out deposit bonuses? Check the terms and conditions to make sure that it's not too much.
Any good site should have customer support that answers your questions and inquiries in a timely manner.
Offshore gaming sites don't normally have a lot of deposit methods. Visit their banking section and/or read reviews to ensure that they have an option you can use.
You'll have more fun at an iGaming site when you have a nice variety of games to enjoy.
Make sure that you have plenty of opportunities to earn extra money beyond just the welcome bonus.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Ohio. Gambling Venues in Ohio
Where to gamble in the state of Ohio. The History of Gaming Laws in Ohio
A brief history of Ohio laws regarding gambling. Ohio Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Ohio Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Ohio
What does the future of gambling look like in Ohio?
More Gambling Laws in Ohio
In 2009, Ohio voters approved four land based casinos.
Horseshoe Cleveland Casino became the first to open, doing so on May 14, 2012. This venue was followed by Horseshoe Casino Toledo, Hollywood Casino Columbus and Horseshoe Cincinnati.
Billionaire Dan Gilbert bought out Caesars Entertainment's stake in the Horseshoe casinos. He has since rebranded them into the Jack Entertainment brand.
In 2011, Ohio voted to allow video lottery terminals (VLTs) at racetracks. This has effectively created seven racinos around the state.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Approved charities are allowed to offer bingo, raffles and "games of chance."
The latter includes craps, poker, roulette or any "game in which a player gives anything of value in the hope of gain, the outcome of which is determined largely by chance."
Charities must donate 100% of their proceeds to the stated cause.
Approved in 1973, the Ohio Lottery is the state's oldest form of legal gambling. Available games include: Classic Lotto, Holiday Cash, Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Powerball.
Live poker is permitted at the four brick and mortar casinos.
Hollywood Casino Columbus has the largest poker room with 36 tables. They're followed by Jack Cincinnati (31 tables), Jack Cleveland (30 tables) and Hollywood Casino Toledo (20 tables).
Ohio features seven racetracks, with three dedicated to thoroughbred racing and four used for harness racing.
The thoroughbred tracks include Belterra Park, Beulah Park and Thistledown. The harness tracks are Lebanon Raceway, Northfield Park, Raceway Park and Scioto Downs.
The Ohio State Racing Commission oversees this industry. They allow off track betting parlors as well as simulcast wagering at the tracks.
As mentioned earlier, Ohio voters approved VLTs in 2011 in order to help the struggling horseracing industry. Any racetrack that didn't have enough space for VLTs was allowed to move to another location for more room.
Columbus' Scioto Downs became the state's first racino in June 2012.
Social Gambling: Legal
Social gaming is legal in Ohio, provided that the host isn't taking rake, imposing a house edge or profiting in other ways (i.e. selling food/drinks).
As mentioned with code 2915.02 (4), it's against the law to earn a "substantial source of income or livelihood" through casino gaming.
TThis means that winning big profits through high stakes poker and other forms of social gambling is technically illegal.
Gambling Venues in Ohio
Ohio features almost a dozen casino and racino options. In total, they offer over 19,000 slot machines and 315 table games to players.
The state's biggest venue is Hollywood Casino Columbus, which features 2,500 gaming machines and 80 table games. Hollywood Casino Toledo has the second largest casino, featuring 2,050 gaming machines and 60 table games.
The biggest gaming venue by square footage is Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield, which spans over 200,000 sq. feet. You can see this casino and more below.
Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment
6301 Kellogg Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45230
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield
10777 Northfield Road, Northfield, OH 44067
Hollywood Casino Columbus
200 Georgesville Road, Columbus, OH 43228
Hollywood Casino Toledo
1968 Miami Street, Toledo, OH 43605
Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway
777 Hollywood Blvd, Xenia, OH 45385
Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course
655 North Canfield Niles Road, Youngstown, OH 44515
Jack Cincinnati Casino
1000 Broadway St, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Jack Cleveland Casino
100 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44113
JACK Thistledown Racino
21501 Emery Rd, North Randall, OH 44128
Miami Valley Gaming
6000 OH-63, Lebanon, OH 45036
Scioto Downs Racino
6000 S High St, Columbus, OH 43207
History of Gambling in Ohio
The Buckeye State's history is littered with failed attempts to legalize casino and racino gambling.
The first proposal came in 1980, which would've made Ohio one of the earliest states with commercial casinos. This legislation failed without gaining much support.Voters rejected the same idea in 1990. This was followed by voters rejecting riverboat gambling in 1996, racinos in 2001 and two racino proposals in 2002.
Finally, voters approved a constitutional amendment to add four casinos in 2009.
On May 14, 2012, the Horseshoe Cleveland (now Jack Cleveland) became the state's firstcasino to open. Since then, other casinos have opened in Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo.
In 2011, the state voted to allow video lottery terminals at Ohio's racetracks. The Buckeye State now features several racinos.
Despite all this commercial gambling, Ohio has yet to make any serious legislative efforts towards online gaming. Perhaps this will change in the future, though, if they see Pennsylvania legalize iGaming.
State Legislature adds amendment to ban lotteries.
Amendment added to allow Ohio Lottery.
Casino legislation fails.
Voters reject riverboat gaming.
Ohio Constitution amended to allow four commercial casinos. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo are all granted one casino.
Horseshoe Cleveland becomes state's first casino.
Sweepstakes cafes banned.
Ohio Lottery sells a record $3 billion in tickets.
Ohio Lottery Commission approved.
Voter referendum rejects casino gambling.
Racino bill fails to advance past Ohio Senate Committee of Ways & Means.
Two more racino proposals falter in Ohio Senate and Ohio Senate Committee of Agriculture.
State Legislature legalizes racinos.
Ohio Gambling FAQs
Given that Ohio doesn't address Internet gambling in their constitution, it leaves many questions for online gamblers. Below, you can see some of the FAQs that we've received from Internet gamblers.
Ohio hasn't had any legislative efforts to legalize Internet gambling. Given this, it'll be a while before we see licensed and regulated online gambling in the Buckeye State.
2013 article from Cleveland.com explains many of the issues surrounding Ohio's non-activity on iGaming.
Jack Entertainment owner Dan Gilbert is pushing for legal online gambling, but one of the biggest problems is the 2009 Casino Amendment that Gilbert pushed for in the first place.
This constitutional amendment limits casino gambling to Gilbert's two Jack Entertainment (formerly Horseshoe) venues and Penn National's two Hollywood casinos.
This makes iGaming a tricky subject because it allows players to make bets outside of the four approved casino gambling establishments.
"It says casino gaming can take place in the following four locations," gaming attorney Christy Prince told Cleveland.com. "If I want to go home tonight and play poker . . . there's an argument that I can't go and play it on my computer."
Ohio could adopt a similar model to New Jersey to get around the confining casino laws.
New Jersey has a constitutional amendment that restricts casino gambling to Atlantic City, but they bypass it by requiring online gaming servers to be located in Atlantic City casinos.
If Ohio adopted the same format, iGaming servers would be placed in the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and/or Toledo casinos.
But agaBut again, no serious legislative efforts have taken place since the aforementioned article was written.
The Buckeye State doesn't so much allow offshore gaming as they do tolerate it.
Typically, states only take action against an offshore operator when its owners are living on U.S. soil. When the owners live outside of America, it becomes infinitely harder to take action.States like Maryland, Kentucky and New York have taken legal action against offshore gaming sites. In these cases, only New York was successful.
New York made this a federal case, with attorney Preet Bharara calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to deliver indictments.
Long story short, it's not worth Ohio's manpower and resources to go after offshore gaming sites that are serving dozens of other American states too.
No. This is part of what makes choosing an offshore site so important.
A few bad apples have closed down without repaying player deposits. They can get away with it, too, because these sites aren't licensed in the U.S.
Of course, you can take precautions to avoid this by using the steps we covered in the Online Gambling section.
We recoWe recommend staying away from any site that's taking forever to process transactions. After all, these sites may be having financial difficulties.
Ohio hasn't made a ruling on daily fantasy sports (DFS). This means that industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel continue serving Ohio's unregulated DFS industry.
The good news is that both DraftKings and FanDuel are reputable companies that operate in licensed markets.Ohio had two DFS bills proposed in 2016. One sought to make the activity illegal while the other would've created a regulated market - neither one passed.
As of now, Ohio's DFS industry is still in a grey area. Daily fantasy does lean more towards the legal side than offshore gaming sites though.
One reason why is because DraftKings and FanDuel are licensed in certain U.S. states and have avoided violating any laws.
Another is that fantasy sports are exempt from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which makes it illegal for banks to process iGaming transactions.
Our guess is that Ohio legalizes DFS at some point in the near future. Until then, players can enjoy unregulated daily fantasy without any fear because it's not illegal.
The main agencies that govern the Ohio gambling industry include the Ohio Casino Control Commission, Ohio State Racing Commission and Ohio Lottery. You can find info on these groups as well as the Buckeye State's gaming laws below.
Ohio Casino Control Commission - The CasThe Casino Control Commission handles licensing and regulation matters for the casino industry. They also ensure that fair gaming is taking place and also investigate sensitive matters.
Ohio Lottery - The Ohio Lottery handles the eight lottery games for the states, and distributes payouts to winners.
Ohio State Racing Commission - The OSRThe OSRC oversees the state's seven racetracks. They also hold meetings to approve race dates, ensure that licensees are adhering to rules and decide on other important racing matters.
Ohio Gambling Laws - This site lays out all of Ohio's revised gambling codes. You can also use a search box on the right hand side to quickly look up what you need to know.
The Future & Your Views
Ohio has had mild discussions on Internet gambling, but no politicians have made any serious legislative efforts to make it happen.
The biggest effort we've seen is Dan Gilbert's lobbying. Other than this, few seem overly concerned with the issue.
This is due to the fact that Ohio's casinos have only been operating since 2012. With the casino industry still maturing, most politicians don't see a reason to push for iGaming yet.
Another problem is that none of Ohio's neighbors have legalized Internet gambling either. Michigan and Pennsylvania have had legislative efforts introduced, but they've yet to approve anything.
We assume that one or both states will have legal online gambling in place by 2019 or 2020. If this happens, Ohio will feel more urgency to regulate the activity and keep up with their neighbors.
The good news, though, is that the Buckeye State has no interest in chasing iGaming operators or Internet gamblers. This means that you should be fine to play at offshore sites until Ohio begins serious legislative efforts towards online gaming.