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:

  1. Online gambling, or terms like “Internet,” “computer,” and “mobile
    device.”
  2. 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:

  1. “Engage in bookmaking, or knowingly engage in conduct that facilitates
    bookmaking.”
  2. “Establish, promote, or operate or knowingly engage in conduct that
    facilitates any game of chance conducted for profit or any scheme of
    chance.”
  3. “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?

Probably not.

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
  • 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.

  • Customer Support
  • Any good site should have customer support that
    answers your questions and inquiries in a timely manner.

  • Deposit Options
  • 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.

  • Game Variety
  • You’ll have more fun at an iGaming site when you have a
    nice variety of games to enjoy.

  • Promotions
  • Make sure that you have plenty of opportunities to
    earn extra money beyond just the welcome bonus.

Also On This Page

More Gambling Laws in Ohio

  • Casino Games: Legal
  • Sports Betting:Illegal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Racing Betting:Legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Bingo: Legal
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Social Gambling: Legal

Casinos: Legal


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.

Lottery: Legal


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.

Poker: Legal


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).

Racing: Legal


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.

Ohio Map

    1) Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment

    6301 Kellogg Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45230

    2) Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield

    10777 Northfield Road, Northfield, OH 44067

    3) Hollywood Casino Columbus

    200 Georgesville Road, Columbus, OH 43228

    4) Hollywood Casino Toledo

    1968 Miami Street, Toledo, OH 43605

    5) Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway

    777 Hollywood Blvd, Xenia, OH 45385

    6) Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course

    655 North Canfield Niles Road, Youngstown, OH 44515

    7) Jack Cincinnati Casino

    1000 Broadway St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

    8) Jack Cleveland Casino

    100 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44113

    9) JACK Thistledown Racino

    21501 Emery Rd, North Randall, OH 44128

    10) Miami Valley Gaming

    6000 OH-63, Lebanon, OH 45036

    11) 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.

1851

State Legislature adds amendment to ban lotteries.

1973

Ohio Lottery Commission approved.

1975

Amendment added to allow Ohio Lottery.

1980

Casino legislation fails.

1990

Voter referendum rejects casino gambling.

1996

Voters reject riverboat gaming.

2001

Racino bill fails to advance past Ohio Senate Committee of Ways & Means.

2002

Two more racino proposals falter in Ohio Senate and Ohio Senate Committee of Agriculture.

2009

Ohio Constitution amended to allow four commercial casinos. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo are all granted one casino.

2011

State Legislature legalizes racinos.

2012

Horseshoe Cleveland becomes state’s first casino.

2013

Sweepstakes cafes banned.

2016

Ohio Lottery sells a record $3 billion in tickets.

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.

Why Hasn’t Ohio Legalized Online Gambling?

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.

Why does Ohio Allow Offshore Gambling Sites?

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.

Are there Any Protections for Ohio Online Gamblers?

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.

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Ohio?

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.

Additional Resources

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 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 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 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.