Ohio Casinos and Gambling Laws

The state of Ohio currently allows all gambling, except for Indian casinos.  The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 requires that tribal gambling must be conducted either on land within an Indian reservation, or on land held in trust for the benefit of a tribe or an individual, by the United States.  As there are no federally-recognized Indian tribes located in Ohio, and no Indian reservations in Ohio, none of these US-held “trust” lands exist within the borders of Ohio.

This does not mean that there are not Indian tribes in Ohio, even if they do not have reservation casinos.  The Erie, Kickapoo, and Shawnee tribes were all native to Ohio, and other tribes, such as the Iroquois and the Seneca, migrated there following European colonialism.  However, these tribes opening even an “off-reservation” casino is an uphill battle and since 1988 only 3 Indian tribes in the United States have successfully done it.  Opening the “off-reservation” casinos came with the approval of the governor – the Potawatomi’s casino in Wisconsin, the Kalispel Tribe’s casino in Washington, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s casino in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  The Wyandotte Nation tribe from Oklahoma owns nad operates an out of state casino in Kansas.  Kansas is currently arguing that the casino is operating illegally, and is going to disputing legality of the casino.

Ohio does not have an official definition of what gambling is.  However, in order to get some sense of a definition in the state of Ohio, we can look at the wording of the Section 2915.02 misdemeanor gambling charge.  This charge covers bookmaking, games of chance, and participating in “any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood” (Section 2915.02(4)).

However, players who don’t meet the standard of drawing a “substantial source of income” can still face criminal charges, but it is not straightforward.  Section 2915.04, for instance, makes it a misdemeanor crime to play games of chance in public places like resorts and halls.

Ohio Law defines “Games of chance” very specifically as:

“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” (Section 2915.01 (D)).

Online Gambling in Ohio

While Ohio has a variety of regulated land-based gambling activities, there is nothing offered by the state when it comes to regulated online gambling options.  Like other states, this does not mean that online betting and other forms of online gambling do not exist legally in Ohio – it simply means that there is no such thing as an online poker room, online casino, etc. that is license or regulated by the state.

Gambling is growing in Ohio and in the future we could see this translated to a drive for online gambling that is regulated by the state.  Their is no doubt that the casino industry is flourishing in Ohio, as it is increasing in popularity; however, the state has yet to introduce any bills that is directly related to online gaming.

Ohio has seen an increase of state regulated brick and motor casinos, but there are currently no options for online gambling that is regulated by the state.  Anyone in Ohio who wants to partake in gambling online will have to take their chances playing at a riskier gambling site that is regulated off-shore.

Recent Developments

Media coverage has been dominated in Ohio by the roll-out of commercial casinos in the state, which are (obviously) legal.  The revenue numbers have so far been quite impressive, though there are still a number of growing pains that are faced by Ohio casinos.  Ohio has recently seen a rise in gambling issues and problems, and there was also a major cheating bust at the casino in Columbus.



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