Until recently, Ohio offered very few options to its residents when it came to live betting. Fortunately for bettors in the state, recent laws have made casino gambling more accessible across the state, especially in the most largely populated areas.
For sports bettors and poker players, a state constitution that offers no specific laws against placing bets online or offline offers a relatively safe environment in which players can place their wagers. The next step for gambling in Ohio is currently unknown, but recent pro-gambling changes to legislation show signs that things are moving in the right direction.
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Gaming Laws in Ohio
For much of Ohio's history, casino gambling was illegal. This changed in 2009 when the Ohio Casino Initiative was passed. The initiative won narrowly with 52.97% of the state's vote.
The Ohio Casino Initiative
The law approved the building of four casinos, one for each of Ohio's four most populated cities in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. A 33% tax would be placed on each casino with that money being distributed throughout the state to help with schools and other various programs. The Ohio Casino Control Commission was also created as a result of this law being passed. The OCCC was formed to license and regulate casino operators and oversee casino gaming in the state of Ohio.
The first of these approved casinos opened on May 14, 2012 when the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened its doors. It was followed by the Hollywood Casino Toledo on May 29, 2012, the Hollywood Casino Columbus on October 8, 2012 and the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati on March 4, 2013.
The Ohio Casino Initiative was subject to lots of debate in the months leading up to its passing and it is still debated to this date. The state has profited and created jobs from these casinos, but at a much lower rate than was originally projected.
Sports Betting in Ohio
While the Ohio Casino Initiative did bring casino gambling to the state of Ohio, it didn't do anything to help sports bettors in the state. Fortunately, there aren't specific laws in place against sports gambling in Ohio's state laws.
Ohio does take a strong stance against engaging in bookmaking, and also against cheating or corrupting a game. But interestingly, the only mention that Ohio makes of sports betting being illegal from the players' perspective is in Penal Code 2915.02, in which it is stated as illegal to “Engage in betting or in playing any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood.” This can be interpreted to mean that gambling on a recreational level is okay while doing so professionally is not.
With recreational betting not explicitly forbidden in Ohio's state laws and no mention whatsoever of online gaming being made, the best option for sports betting in Ohio seems to be to bet online at offshore books. Ohio doesn't allow bookmaking within the state, but it has no legal jurisdiction over offshore sportsbooks and has no laws in place against placing bets on a recreational level. To date, no one has ever been arrested for online gambling in Ohio.
Poker and Casino in Ohio
Bettors throughout the state of Ohio have access to casino gambling with a Vegas-style casino located in each of the state's four biggest cities. These casinos offer all standard forms of gambling including slot machines, table games, and poker.
In addition to the four regular casinos in the state of Ohio, there are also a handful of “racinos” located throughout the state. A racino is a horse racing track that also offers casino gaming. Racinos in the state of Ohio are limited to only include video lottery terminals, however. There are no table games offered at these locations.
Ohio residents are able to play live poker in the four casinos located in the state. These casinos feature cash games and tournaments, but options are limited and games will vary based on time of day or night.
For poker players in Ohio that want a more consistent game with more options, online poker at an offshore location is a good option. Ohio's state laws only mention poker in describing it as a “game of chance”, which is prohibited by Ohio law as a “substantial source of income or livelihood” but not as a recreational event. No resident or visitor of Ohio has seen legal trouble for playing online poker to date.
Other Gaming Options in Ohio
Each of Ohio's racinos features live horse racing in addition to the video lottery terminals at these locations. Cedar Downs is located in Sandusky, Ohio and is the only off-track betting location in the state of Ohio.
The Ohio Lottery was founded in 1973 and is overseen by the Ohio Lottery Game Commission. The state offers local games such as a Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Keno as well as interstate games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Ohio residents can also play the lottery through scratch-off tickets that are sold across the state.
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