Ohio Online Poker & Gambling Laws

Ohio Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Ohio?

In every US presidential election, Ohio is one of those bell weather states which help decide whether the country votes Democrat or Republican. Because Ohio is full of several big metropolitan areas like Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, it has a good share of city voters, who tend to be more liberal. Yet Ohio has a larger rural population than you might think, which tends to skew conservative. Ohio acts as a good indicator for the laws in the country and how those reflect public perceptions on key issues. The gaming laws of Ohio reflect the general outlook of the American public on gambling.

The charitable bingo games in Ohio play a major role in the state's gambling industry, enough so that three separate types of licenses are issued by the state's gambling authorities. Racetrack betting is also a key contributor to gambling revenues in the state. Both sectors of the gaming public are regulated by their own state office. When you take it all in, you'll see that Ohioans want to have civilized gambling on horse races and gambling which pays nonprofits and education funds, but they don't want what is considered crass or immoral gambling going on in their state. This characterizes how the American public thinks about gaming--or at least what American political leaders and lawmakers think Americans want.

Playing Poker Legally in Ohio

While some states have definitions of gambling that appear to leave wiggle room for poker (North Carolina and New Hampshire come to mind), Ohio has a definition of gambling that not once, but twice, clearly sits poker among activities considered gambling under state law.

The first comes in the statutory definition of "bet" provided by Ohio in Section 2915 of the state code. As Ohio sees it, wagering on anything counts as betting - unless you're taking a "bona fide business risk." Poker involves betting, so playing poker counts as betting in Ohio. Further clarification is offered in the Ohio definition of "game of chance" (found in the same section, subsection D), which specifically names poker as a game of chance.

As any reader of our state guides knows, U.S. states tend to outlaw all gambling and then make exceptions for the types of gambling they wish to allow (and, usually, tax). Ohio is no different. So what are the exceptions in Ohio, and what are the resulting options for poker players?

The most prominent exception is for commercial casinos, which have expanded rapidly in Ohio over the last few years. Ohio players can now take their pick from live poker rooms at casinos that include the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland and the Hollywood Casino in Toledo.

Another exception that should please poker players in Ohio: If you're not raking or charging in any way, your home game is completely legal - and you can play for any stakes you want. That's thanks to the requirement found in Ohio law that a game must be operated for "profit" in order to count as a gambling offense.

The final common avenue for legal poker in America: charitable gambling. Here the picture becomes a bit unclear, as the legal status of poker events operating under the charitable exception to Ohio gambling law is a subject of some debate. Players with concerns about the legality of a specific card club or event should check with the Ohio Attorney General, the office responsible for charitable gambling in the state.

Is Bingo Legal in Ohio?

Bingo is a major component of gambling inside Ohio. The Ohio Charitable Gaming Board has authority over all bingo parlors in the state, issuing licenses for Type I, Type II, and Type III charitable game. Type I is requires organizations to conduct games no more than twice a week and then only for 5 hours at a time. Type I bingo halls often have a Saturday night bingo session in the evenings, while offering a bingo night one other time in the course of a week. The bingo establishment can open their doors for customers for a 14 hour period, but for only 5 of these hours is gaming allowed.

Type II bingo licenses is designed for the instant bingo card games. Selling for these licensees is allowed two hours before and two hours after the normal times for sales. The instant bingo vendors sell cards, instead of holding traditional bingo events. 

If you have a Type III license, you're either a member of a sports association, a fraternal brotherhood, or a veterans-of-foreign-wars organization. These groups hold bingo games to raise money for their nonprofits, but they are allowed to hold events lasting up to 12 hours. The hours of these events don't have to be consecutive, unlike Type I license holders. Also, Type 3 bingo vendors get to sell their games seven days a week.

Learn About Other State Laws

Is Betting on Horse Races Legal in Ohio?

Horse racing laws in Ohio allow parimutuel wagers at 7 different racing venues spread throughout the state. Racetracks include the five harness racing venues found in Toledo, North Randall, Northfield, Grove City, and Lebanon. Also, Ohio gambling laws allow for the quarterhorse races held in Columbus and Cincinnati. The Ohio Horse Racing Commission administers laws for all of the pari-mutuel tracks in the state.

Besides handling law enforcement at those establishments, the Horse Racing Commission oversees harness races at 67 different annual county fairs located throughout the rural counties of Ohio. The harness races are big events at local fairgrounds every June through October. Those wanting to contact this horse racing authority will want to know that the race commission meets once a month in Columbus.

Ohio State Lottery

The State of Ohio was one of the earliest states to allow a lottery, as the Ohio State Lottery was created by voter consent in 1973. State senator Ron Mottl was a leader in the campaign to establish a legal lottery for the sake of raising funds from non-tax revenues.

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