Gambling Laws and Online Poker in Ohio

2020 Update: Is Online Poker Legal in Ohio?

Gambling is popular in Ohio but there’s still no online poker bill making its way through the legislature. There are a pair of sports betting bills though. The two bills, House Bill 194 and Senate Bill 111, were introduced last year. The bills are fairly similar, but the House bill would give power to the Ohio Lottery Commission while the Senate bill would give it to the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

The bills let people bet on college sports, which is a source of debate. College athletic directors in the state voiced opposition. There’s been a number of hearings, but the bill is still in committee. After that, it would have to go through a number of more steps before it makes it to the Governor’s desk. The legislation isn’t a priority as the state deal’s with the coronavirus pandemic, but they might greenlight it after to help raise revenue. And if sports betting is passed, online poker could be next.

Ohio Columbus Poker

Columbus, Ohio (Photo by Oz Seyrek on Unsplash)

Online Poker in Ohio and Gambling Laws

There are plenty of ways to gamble in Ohio, but the laws are strict. Most states base their gambling laws on games of “chance” and “bets”. Most states just mention these terms, but Ohio goes on to define each.

Chapter XXI, 2915.01 defines them as::

  • “Bet” means the hazarding of anything of value upon the result of an event, undertaking, or contingency, but does not include a bona fide business risk.
  • “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.

Most states don’t go into this much detail. They usually just say “games of chance” without defining those games. Here we can see Ohio names several games, including poker. Interestingly enough, a federal judge ruled that poker was a game of skill and that opened the door to states legalizing online poker. A lot of these laws haven’t been updated to reflect that ruling though. Despite that, Ohio does regulate games of chance, so poker could still be regulated easily by the state.

But can I Play Online Poker on PokerStars in Ohio?

Sadly, no. PokerStars is currently only available in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Back in the day, PokerStars was one of the most popular poker sites in the United States, but a tussle with the Department of Justice saw it leave the country.

It’s slowly come back, but you still can’t play PokerStars in Ohio. It’s coming back on a state-by-state basis. But there are some great alternatives to PokerStars that take players from every state, including Ohio. We’ve reviewed all of them extensively. Check them out below to see which one works for you:

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Legal Gambling in Ohio

While there’s no sports betting or online poker regulation in Ohio, there are plenty of ways to gamble in the state. The state has casinos, lotteries and race tracks. We break them down below.

State Lottery

The Ohio Lottery Commission was created in May 1973 by a voter-approved constitutional amendment. The first tickets went on sale in August 1974. Today, the Ohio Lottery Commission offers customers a wide variety of instant games and online games to play at more than 8,800 licensed retailer locations across the state. Since 1974, the Lottery has provided more than $20 billion to public education. The lottery contributes about 4 percent of the total funding needed for public education.

Pari-Mutuel Wagering

There is thoroughbred racing in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. There are short quarters in Cincinnati and Columbus. Additionally, there are harness tracks in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Lebanon. Harness racing takes place at 67 county fairs from June through October. An off-track betting facility is located in Sandusky. The state’s horse racing industry, governed by the rules and regulations of the Ohio State Racing Commission. Racing generates about 16,000 jobs in the state.

The state’s sixth racino, Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, opened August 28, 2014. It made $1.9 million in its first four days of business. The seventh, and final, racino opened on September 17, 2014.

Commercial Casinos

Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2009 to allow four casinos in Ohio. They’re now in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. In 2019, these casinos generated $851 million in revenue. The American Gaming Association released a study stating Ohio’s casinos contributed $3 billion to the state’s economy in 2014.

Charitable Gaming

There are three forms of charitable gaming permitted in Ohio: charitable bingo, raffles, and games of chance.

Charitable organizations have to get a license by the Attorney General of Ohio . Proceeds have to go to a charitable cause. Generally, games of chance are allowed at festivals that last for no longer than four consecutive days and are held not more than twice a year. Another option is a period of five consecutive days, just once a year. No license is required for a qualified charitable organization to conduct games of chance at festivals.

Specific State-by-State Laws

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