Up until the 2010s, legal gambling options in Ohio were limited to pari-mutuel horse race betting (legalized in 1933), lottery games (1974), and bingo (1975).
Construction of Vegas-style casinos was authorized in 2009, when both the lawmakers and the voters realized that Ohio gamblers were spending their money in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Three years later, Ohio racetracks were allowed to install VLTs.
Ohio Gambling Law Summary
Ohio law defines gambling 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.” This definition does not cover all forms of gambling that are available online, but turning poker or casino games into a major source of income is illegal. Participating in unlawful gambling as a player is usually classified as a minor misdemeanor.
Most gambling-related matters are covered by Ohio Revised Code, section 2915.01 et seq. and 3769.01 et seq. The minimum gambling age is 18 for horse racing, bingo, and lottery games and 21 for casino-style games.
Online Gambling in Ohio
Ohio doesn’t have a clear-cut legal definition of gambling. Still, according to Section 2915 of the Ohio code, it is illegal to participate in unlicensed bookmaking or to engage in a game of chance as a substantial source of income. Consequently, the current regulations make it very hard for the authorities to go after recreational players, and if that wasn’t enough, the code doesn’t refer to online play. This means that playing on offshore sites from within the borders of Ohio is perfectly safe as long as you aren’t a professional gambler.
Ohio gambling venues can be grouped into two categories. The state has four traditional Vegas-style casinos, which are allowed to offer slots and table games, and seven racinos, which are permitted to operate Video Lottery Terminals under the supervision of Ohio Lottery. These VLTs are functionally similar to slots, but they are administered in a more centralized manner.
The traditional casinos are located in Columbus (Hollywood Casino Columbus), Toledo (Hollywood Casino Toledo), Cincinnati (Jack Cincinnati Casino), and Cleveland (Jack Cleveland Casino). Racinos, on the other hand, are located in Cincinnati (Belterra Park), Columbus (Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs), Northfield (MGM Northfield, formerly Hard Rock Rocksino), Dayton (Hollywood Gaming Dayton), Youngstown (Hollywood Mahoning Valley), Cleveland (Jack Thistledown Racino), and Lebanon (Miami Valley Gaming).
Ohio does not have a regulated online casino industry. Local businesses are prohibited from operating online gambling sites because of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Playing casino games (namely slots, roulette, or craps) on offshore sites is prohibited.
Eight live poker rooms are operating in Ohio. Four of them are operated by the local commercial casinos (Hollywood Casino Columbus, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Jack Cincinnati Casino, and Jack Cleveland Casino). At the same time, the remaining four are standalone venues located in Ontario (Mansfield Gemini Poker Club), West Chester (Ruggles Blue), Columbus (Shark Tank Poker Club), and Dayton (The Ruggles Club).
Hollywood Casino Toledo aside, the casino poker rooms operate at least 30 tables at each location. The card rooms are significantly smaller and operate 8-9 tables each. As is often the case, No-Limit Hold ’em is king, but Limit Hold ’em and Pot-Limit Omaha are also available from time to time.
In the past, Ohio had poker rooms that were operated by charities, but the last venue of this kind was closed in 2013.
Ohio has not passed an online poker bill yet. Local businesses are prohibited from operating real money poker sites. Playing on offshore sites is not explicitly banned, but engaging in such activities is risky due to the lack of customer protections.
Ohio Sports Betting
The Ohio horse racing industry has had its ups and downs, but the situation became relatively stable when local racetracks were allowed to install VLTs to boost their revenue. As of early 2019, there were seven racinos in Ohio, plus one dedicated racetrack. These facilities offer both live and off-track betting. Also, Ohio residents can engage in pari-mutuel horse race betting over the internet via TwinSpires and TVG.
Sports betting has not been legalized yet, but Ohio lawmakers have essentially reached a consensus regarding royalties for professional sports leagues and mobile betting. The current draft of the Ohio sports betting bill would allow all of the local casinos and racetrack-casinos to team up with third-party operators for both retail and online wagering. All licensees would be required to pay a one-time $100,000 fee, but Ohio politicians have decided against introducing an integrity fee. The bill would limit each licensee to just one internet betting platform.
Ohio Daily Fantasy Sports
Ohio was the 18th state in the country to enact a DFS law. The relevant bill was signed by Gov. John Kasich in January 2018 and placed DFS platforms under the oversight of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. The maximum annual licensing fee was set at $10,000, and DFS operators are not required to pay any additional taxes in Ohio, making the barrier of entry very low. Thus, Ohio-based sports enthusiasts have access to all major DFS platforms, including FanDuel, DraftKings, and Yahoo DFS.
Ohio Lottery sells tickets for Mega Millions, Powerball, and Lucky for Life, as well as five intrastate games: Classic Lotto, Rolling Cash 5, Pick 3, Pick 4, and Pick 5. In 2018, Ohio residents enjoyed purchasing draw game tickets via their mobile devices, thanks to an innovative Lottery Card program. Unfortunately, this program was discontinued, but the Lottery has declared that it might be restored soon. As it stands, all lottery tickets must be purchased from land-based retailers. However, the Lottery does give its customers an option to skip the traditional paper slips, thanks to the ePlaySlip feature of the official Lottery app.
Draw games aside, the Lottery is also authorized to offer instant games, EZPlay products, and keno.
Live bingo games can be hosted by charity organizations, religious groups, and educational organizations. As of March 2019, more than ten legal bingo halls were operating in both Columbus and Cleveland. Unfortunately, Ohio residents do not have access to any legal online bingo options. Playing on offshore sites is not explicitly prohibited due to the way Ohio gambling laws are worded, but engaging in such activities carries a financial risk due to the lack of customer protection.
Ohio Online Gambling FAQ
What types of gambling are available in OH?
Land-based gambling in Ohio is mostly about the state’s 11 tribal casinos and racinos. While most of those gambling establishments don’t offer any table games, people who enjoy slots are going to love what some of them have in store. Other than that, Ohio offers pari-mutuel horse race betting, charitable gambling and has a state-run lottery. Unfortunately, the current regulations make it impossible for Ohio-based companies to provide any regulated iGaming services.
What laws cover online gambling in Ohio?
All the local laws that have to do with gambling are listed in Section 2915 of the Ohio code. As is the case with most US-states, those regulations have been drafted before online gaming became popular or even possible, which means that playing on offshore sites isn’t considered a punishable offense.
Is real money online gambling legal in Ohio?
Yes, online gambling is legal in Ohio, as the law doesn’t regulate using internet services to play games of chance for money.
Which offshore gambling sites accept Ohio residents?
Ohio-based gambling enthusiasts can choose from a wide range of gambling operators, but we recommend playing on Bovada if you’re interested in poker, casino games, or sports betting.
What are the most popular banking options supported by Ohio-facing sites?
Once you create an offshore gambling account, you’ll be able to transfer the funds using a standard credit card regardless of the operator. Virtually every site supports Visa and MasterCard as long as your card can be used for international transactions. Once you decide to cash out, you should be able to choose between a check and a bank wire transfer.
Does Ohio offer any intrastate online gambling?
As sad as it is, the answer is no. Even though certain so-called experts consider it to be the case, the real answer is that the state of Ohio has never launched a fenced internet gambling industry. In essence, all the sites available to Ohio residents are based offshore.
Is it likely for Ohio to regulate online gambling?
With new casinos being built each year, Ohio is experiencing a rather rapid expansion of its land-based gambling industry. However, there is nothing that could indicate that this might result in any substantial changes to the current real money gaming regulations.