Ohio Real Money Online Gambling Guide
Ohio is in the upper echelon as far as gambling friendly states go, with a casino in each of its four largest cities in addition to allowing slots at each of its 7 horse racing tracks. While many states have casinos, state governments themselves may not permit them and many states only have casinos because of their inability to stop tribal gaming.
Ohio, on the other hand, is fully on board with allowing casino gambling in their state, although they have yet to open their minds to adding online gambling to their offerings. It turns out though that this doesn’t really matter much because Ohioans have been able to gamble online legally all they want over all this time, with or without the state getting on board.
There’s plenty to enjoy in either world though, so read on as we discuss the Ohio gambling situation, what the state does offer now and what they may offer in the near future.
History of Gambling in Ohio
As has been the case with many states, Ohio began its history without the existence of anti-gambling legislation, where people gambled as they pleased without interference from anyone. However, Ohioans in the 19th century were a pretty conservative lot, where conservative here means conserving prudishness towards gambling.
This element still substantially exists today, even though they have been pushed back enough by those who take a more pragmatic view of gambling, which has seen the legalization of various forms of gambling as time has passed.
It was the existence of lottery gaming that offended the personal preferences of Ohioans enough to see the passage of widespread anti-gambling legislation in Ohio early in its state’s history, a prohibition that lasted until the betting on horses bug that was going around in the 1930’s bit them hard enough for legislators to turn away from the contempt that so many people held in the state toward gambling in general to permit this form.
In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Ohio passed a bill legalizing pari-mutuel horse race betting, as the dire financial situation every state was in at this time served to cause them to re-think gambling prohibitions. This stimulus wasn’t near enough though, or other forms, especially a state lottery, should have come to mind as well, but impetus for a state lottery needs to come from the will of the state itself, which was decades away.
Being petitioned by outside agencies who bring briefcases of money to the state capital to help their voices be heard, at a time where money spoke more loudly than usual as states struggled so much financially, was the winning ticket here.
Ohio was far from alone from having a big gap between horse race betting and the lottery, although like with horse betting, fashion no doubt played a big role, especially what was fashionable in neighboring Pennsylvania, who have always been more forward thinking as far as gambling was concerned. The lottery was in fashion in 1973, so the state decided to create the Ohio Lottery.
Once casinos started to open up in Pennsylvania in 1990, as well as elsewhere in the country in many states, Ohio started taking a serious look at doing this themselves, although casino gambling was met with more passionate opposition than horse betting and the lottery had.
Unlike in the past, Ohio drew the line with allowing casinos, and watched their players travel to nearby states to enjoy their favorite real money casino games. Finally, in 2009, a bill was passed that finally allowed the creation of 4 casinos, one in each of the major cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. The state’s 7 major horse race tracks were also allowed to add slot machines to become “racinos.”
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 that eased the minds of many states in their pursuit of regulated sports betting caused this to become in fashion as well. Ohio has shown an interest in this but the opposition from conservative politicians once again needs to be overcome, although as was the case with casinos, Ohio has the will to do it, even though once again they will be fashionably late when that day does come.
Ohio Gambling Laws
There are three main sections of Ohio law that pertain to gambling, and all need to be accounted for in order to understand its scope and applicability. The first deals with what we could term professional gambling. Ohio seems to have it in for professional gamblers in particular with the following:
No person shall do any of the following:
(4) Engage in betting or in playing any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood.”
Some commentators have misunderstood this to refer to players who may have occasional wins of a substantial amount, but the law referring to substantial sources of income and also using the term “livelihood” clearly is aimed at those who actually earn their living or a substantial part of it through gambling, as a professional poker player or sports better would. This refers to income, which means net income, not an occasional win due to luck. This section would therefore not apply to casual players at all, those who play for fun and lose money on the balance of probabilities.
The second part deals with what types of gambling are prohibited under Ohio statutes:
No person, while at a hotel, restaurant, tavern, store, arena, hall, or other place of public accommodation, business, amusement, or resort, shall make a bet or play any game of chance or scheme of chance
This section makes all public gaming illegal, and while there is no provision here to allow this law to be overridden by gambling made explicitly legal, and therefore exempt, these exceptions are contained in the enabling laws that have made various forms of gambling legal. The net effect is the same, where all public gambling where a bet is made on something or a game of chance is played is against the law unless otherwise authorized by law.
It is interesting that this provision does not even make any mention of the need for money or other consideration being exchanged to qualify as illegal gambling under this statute, and therefore playing for anything, even for fun, at these games in a public place would be illegal.
Although incorporating the term “bet” in the prohibitions would surely encompass all forms of gambling since all gambling by its very nature involves making a bet of some sort, Ohio takes no chances and defines games of chance as follows:
“Game of chance” means poker, roulette, or any other game in which a player gives anything of value in the hope of gain, the outcome of which is determined largely by chance
This puts to end any arguments that poker is a game that is influenced by chance but ultimately is not a game of chance, but a game that is ultimately decided based upon skill. It does leave out sports betting though, which is entirely a game of skill, using skill to determine how a game of skill will play out. However, it turns out that this section is superfluous as sports betting surely involves placing bets which are not allowed, at least those made in public.
When we put all this together, we’re left with two requirements, that one not derive a substantial portion of one’s living from gambling, and that gambling shall not be offered to anyone in public places unless otherwise authorized. This leaves gambling in any form in private, including gambling online, unaddressed, provided one is not playing it professionally.
Land-Based Gambling in Ohio
Aside from the state-run Ohio Lottery, Ohio boasts 7 racinos, offering both horse race betting and slots, 4 stand-alone casinos offering a full range of casino games including poker, and 2 smaller poker clubs.
This collective offering may not be all that much for a state with over 11 million people, but unlike in many states where the casinos are kept well away from the main population, Ohio actually concentrates them where the people live, with one casino in each of their four largest cities.
Having all those slots at the state’s horse racing tracks also helps ensure good access, and all have a good number of video terminals for their patrons to enjoy. These racinos are all located in smaller cities which help extend the reach of Ohio’s casino gaming at least somewhat.
All of these racinos started offering slots in the period between 2012-2014, immediately following the opening of the state’s first genuine casinos in 2012. Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming and their Hollywood Casino brand has had a hand in both the casino and racino action, who operate 2 of the 4 casinos in the state as well as 2 of the 7 racinos.
The number of slots at these racinos range from 850 to 2,500, with all of them being limited to offering slots only alongside their horse racing cards and none are allowed to offer real money casino table games at this time.
Ohio’s 4 dedicated casinos do offer a full range of casino gaming, including table games. Ohio doesn’t have any tribal casinos per se, but they do have one owned by an Indian tribe, the 100,000 square foot Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, operated by Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It features 2,000 slot machines, 85 casino gaming tables, and a 31 table World Series of Poker room.
2 of the 4 casinos in Ohio are Hollywood Casino branded. The Hollywood Casino Columbus features 160,000 square feet of gaming space. The Hollywood Casino Toledo, the state’s first to be built, boasts 125,000 square feet of space. The Jack Cleveland Casino rounds out the group with their 100,000 square feet of gaming.
The City of Dayton is noticeably absent from this list, which has a metropolitan area of over a million, the fourth largest metropolitan area in the state and considerably bigger than Toledo, which has a casino. Casino players in the Dayton area have to drive an hour to Cincinnati to visit a casino.
Ohio residents are fortunate to have even 4 casinos in their state given that they didn’t have any until recently, and even though we still are stuck at 4, as time goes on and resistance against gambling in Ohio continues to recede, the prospects of more are certainly in the cards.
Ohio Online Casinos & Slots Gambling
There is at least some interest among casino operators, including Caesars Entertainment, to get online gambling legislation passed in Ohio, but these talks have stalled. The fact that Pennsylvania now has it isn’t a real concern, since online gambling is by necessity limited to residents of a particular state, and Ohioans cannot gamble online in another state like they can visit land-based casinos elsewhere.
Ohio officials do need to realize though that offshore online gaming does indeed compete with Ohio’s 4 casinos or their racinos, and stop pretending that these things do not exist just because they are so easily ignored. There is a market for online gambling, and it therefore comes down to whether the market will be served by state approved means where the state uses this to generate the tax revenue that they crave or see this business taken to other countries where they collect nothing.
It is true that the reach of state sponsored online gambling is greater due to the greater publicity that domestically regulated online gambling gets, but if existing operators are concerned about seeing this cut into their business, the obvious solution is to get existing operators involved in the process so that they may benefit as well on a net basis.
The rationale is certainly there for Ohio to one day regulate online gambling as their neighbor Pennsylvania has recently done, and these things do serve to whet the appetite of Ohioans to want in on this as well as they look across the state lines with envy. It seems only a matter of time before Ohio joins them in seeking to reap these benefits.
In the meantime, there’s nothing really stopping Ohioans from enjoying gambling online now. There isn’t even anything in Ohio law that would make gambling all you want online against the law as long as you weren’t playing professionally and are playing in the privacy of your own home, and there are many good real money online gambling sites out there that are more than happy to serve players from Ohio.
The biggest difference in playing at a state regulated real money gambling site and an offshore one is that you don’t have local authorities holding your hand as you venture off to find suitable sites on your own. You do have to do your due diligence, but that does not mean that you need to do it yourself, as you can instead rely on expert guides to ensure you end up at the right places.
This includes getting help on what deposit and withdrawal methods that you can use at real money offshore gambling sites, and the sites that cater to Americans who are left orphaned by their state’s lack of regulated online gambling work hard to gain and keep your business, and this includes making your financial transactions as easy as they can make them.
The use of Bitcoin in making payments to gambling sites has served to make things a whole lot easier, and Bitcoin is perfect for this since its transactions are anonymous and players can use it to transact all they want out of the view of everyone but you and the site. While Ohioans gambling online does not constitute illegal gambling that would have its transactions illegal under the UIGEA, major transaction processors have exited the U.S. market regardless of whether offshore real money online gambling may be legal or not in a given state.
That’s just part of the reality of online gambling these days, and it has not prevented millions of Americans, including plenty of people from Ohio, from enjoying all the real money online gambling that they wish in spite of whether or not their state wants in on this.
Future of Gambling in Ohio
Ohio is one of the biggest gambling markets in the country in terms of potential, but like in most states, this potential remains fairly untapped. We can’t be critical of Ohio’s approach, given that they are actually pretty progressive compared to most states, but we still wonder how much growth their land-based gambling scene could see if the market and not state legislators decided the matter.
We require various amounts of regulation with all commercial activities, to protect the public from unscrupulous operators, and this is certainly needed with gambling operations. Regulators need to keep the goal of regulation in mind, which is to serve the interests of patrons and not use this monopoly for other means that are not consistent with this, such as intentionally limiting the size of markets and see people underserved.
Ohio has gone from their market being completely underserved prior to their 4 casinos being opened to at least modestly serving it now, and there’s no reason why this trend should not continue. We need to consider just how many years it has taken for some states to allow casinos, which in Ohio’s case was from the time they became a state until 2012, so the fact that these changes may not be proceeding as quickly as we may hope should not surprise us much.
Ohio was believed not that long ago to be at least somewhat open to real money online gambling regulation, although this has been shelved for now. The most likely scenario is that they will start with online sports betting to get their feet wet, as many states have already done, and then look to open things up as they get more comfortable with the idea.
Ohio is one of the better states as far as gambling goes, and the outlook for the future remains well above average as well.
Ohio Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
What is the law in Ohio say about gambling?
Unlike in some states which focus on going after gambling operators, Ohio law is focused on gamblers, making it a crime to place bets in a public place. This law becomes subject to further laws permitting certain forms of gambling, which cashes out to people only being allowed to gamble in public at state licensed establishments. Earning a substantial portion of your living from gambling is also prohibited.
Is it legal to gamble online in Ohio?
Ohio law obviously wasn’t written to address the issue of online gambling, although that’s quite common in state gambling legislation. This often results in confusion as to whether old laws designed to prohibit land-based gambling apply to online gambling as well, but there is no such confusion with Ohio’s laws. Ohio has chosen to explicitly prohibit public gambling instead of all gambling, and gambling online is in the private domain and outside the scope of this law.
What types of land-based gambling does Ohio have?
Ohio has 7 horse racing tracks which now offer slots in addition to betting on horse races. While table games have yet to be allowed at these racinos, they have served to extend the reach of Ohio’s land-based gambling well beyond just the 4 stand-alone casinos located in each of Ohio’s 4 biggest cities. The casinos offer a full range of gambling options, including casino table games and live poker rooms. Ohio also has 2 stand-alone poker rooms. There is no live sports betting available in Ohio as of yet.
Why do racinos play such a big role in Ohio gambling?
It is not that unusual for states to permit their horse race tracks to also offer slot machines, and in some cases, even table games. It’s not even that they already have the facilities, even though that is part of it, it’s more about race track owners being handed out the goodies alongside any new entrants that a state may allow. All 7 of Ohio’s horse racing tracks got to punch their ticket as far as offering slots goes although none as yet may offer table games and therefore are a lighter version of the state’s actual casinos.
Does Ohio offer online gambling?
Ohio has discussed the possibility of their regulating online gambling but have decided not to move forward. This certainly is closer to it not coming up at all yet, and it is typical for these actions to require that they be considered several times before implementation. While players wait for the day to finally come where they can gamble for real money at Ohio licensed sites, there are some good offshore sites that are happy to take them.
Are home games allowed in Ohio?
Since Ohio’s anti-gambling laws only pertain to gambling in public, and home games take place in a private setting, home games are permitted under Ohio law. People don’t set up casinos in their homes and have people come over and play against the house, with the house being the host, as home games are situations where players insist on an equal chance of winning, which excludes casino games and limits these home games to poker.
Why doesn’t Ohio have more casinos?
Ohio has a total of 13 land-based gambling establishments, including 4 casinos and 7 racinos, horse racing tracks that also offer real money slot machine gaming. These are the original licenses that were issued by the state when casino gambling was approved in 2009. License approval for land-based gambling is decided arbitrarily, where the normal process with seeking market equilibrium would be to license establishments to the point where the market can bear no more. Instead, Ohio has chosen this number without regard to whether it’s the right one.
Why doesn’t Ohio have online gambling like Pennsylvania now does?
The biggest objection by far that a state may have toward online gambling is that they don’t approve of gambling period. The biggest threshold to having various forms of gambling allowed to be played online is having them permitted on land, and once that is breached, the reasons not to do it significantly lessen. However, they often still persist, and there is generally a gap between seeing certain types of gambling available on land and online. Ohio is currently stuck in this gap.
Does it really matter that much whether Ohio licenses online gambling or not?
Since Ohioans are free to gamble online legally if they wish, regardless of who is licensing the sites that they play on, while many players may find it preferable to play on Ohio sanctioned sites, there are other options out there to take advantage of. There are some excellent real money online gambling sites out there that are not only happy to allow Ohioans to play on their sites, they work hard to make all of their players happy.
How do we know which offshore sites that accept Ohioans are trustworthy?
Determining whether an offshore regulated online site has little to do with the regulation and everything to do with a real money online casino site’s reputation and quality of its offerings. There is a lot that goes into this analysis, but most of it is based upon a familiarity and knowledge of the various options out there that take the task well beyond what players may want to attempt themselves. This is why the right guidance is so important when you go off the beaten track and venture out into the world of online gaming.