Online Poker Ohio Laws

There’s still no online poker bill making its way through Ohio, but there has been some online sports betting fervor taking over the state legislature. Rep. Brigid Kelly is leading the charge and will be introducing a bill in April 2021. A similar bill passed the House in the previous session but stalled in the Senate. 

But now, with the coronavirus pandemic hitting state coffers hard, there’s more incentive to pass it than ever before, especially since the bill offers an 8 percent tax rate for the state. On top of that, the state’s pro teams are on board and vocally throwing their support behind sports betting. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals have all come out in and voiced their approval of the legislation. The teams also see it as a potential source of revenue for them since the CFO of the Cincinnati Reds suggested teams should be allowed a license they could operate. 

There’s plenty to be had by all and some estimates see the state receiving up to $30 million in taxes a year. There’s a good chance the bill will pass this time around and any expansion of gaming, especially online gaming, bodes well for the future of online poker.

Ohio Columbus Poker

Columbus, Ohio (Photo by Oz Seyrek on Unsplash)

Online Poker in Ohio and Gambling Laws

There are a few different ways to gamble legally in Ohio, but the laws are actually pretty strict. Most states base their gambling laws off a few key definitions. In Ohio, there are two key terms that the state uses for its gambling laws. Those terms are “games of chance” and “bets”.

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.

Lots of states just use the term “games of chance” without defining it further. This leaves it open to a lot of legal interpretations and challenges. Most times that also excludes poker because it has been ruled to be a game of skill by a federal judge. But Ohio has a very specific definition that directly says “poker”. It also leaves the door open for more games by using the phrase “outcome of which is determined largely by chance”. This is an interesting definition since the term “largely” can be interpreted in different ways. If poker wasn’t already explicitly outlined in the definition it could be argued that it wouldn’t qualify as a game of chance.

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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Live Poker in Ohio

If you’re a fan of live poker as well, Ohio is a great place for you. The state has several casinos with poker rooms scattered throughout the state. The Hollywood Casino in Columbus itself has 34 poker tables in its poker room. That’s right, 34. In total there are dozens of different casinos with poker rooms throughout the state.

Most are clustered around the Toledo/Detroit area followed by a handful of card rooms in Cincinnati. Columbus is up next with three rooms and Cleveland has two that you can play at. Aside from that, private poker games (despite being illegal) also flourish. The Columbus Dispatch even published a story on the thriving private poker scene in Ohio.

There’s no doubt there’s a big appetite for poker in Ohio and there’s no doubt this translates over to online poker as well.

Legal Gambling in Ohio

While there are 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.

Top-Earning Ohio Poker Players

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns and Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t the only sporting powerhouses to come out of Ohio. The Buckeye State has also produced an impressive amount of top-notch poker players. Two-time World Series of Poker Bracelet winner and high roller extraordinaire David Peters hails from Ohio. Byron Kaverman, another WSOP bracelet winner is also an Ohio native.

There are plenty of poker millionaires from the state, the top 15 are:

1: David Peters – $33,737,541
2: Byron Kaverman – $15,578,447
3: Keven Stammen – $6,117,466
4: Jacob Bazeley – $4,491,894
5: David Reese – $3,999,090
6: Joe Ebanks – $3,304,995
7: Adam Friedman – $3,120,886
8: Joseph Couden – $2,344,305
9: Shawn Cunix – $2,291,203
10: Samuel Phillips – $2,163,814
11: Don Williams – $1,765,221
12: Jeremy Kottler – $1,654,618
13: Peter Vitantonio – $1,447,053
14: Bradford Albrinck – $1,419,060
15: Douglas Carli – $1,404,530

State-by-State Laws

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