Poker Laws in Ohio

Is Online Poker Legal in Ohio?
Poker Laws in Ohio
Last Updated November 14, 2019

Ohioans now have some of the richest variety of land-based poker options in the US, but thousands and thousands of poker players from Ohio are still choosing to play their poker online.  It’s fast, it’s easy and it beats a drive through traffic and a multi-hour wait list at the casino poker room.

Despite the popularity of the game, a number of potential online poker players in Ohio still have questions about playing poker for real money online, and it’s our goal with this Guide to Ohio Online Poker to answer those questions – and provide a richer picture of poker in Ohio along the way.

Most Recent Online Poker Happenings in Ohio

There has been no talk of legalizing online poker in Ohio.

Oddly enough, many of Ohio’s neighboring states have either proposed bills or officially legalized online poker and casino games. Pennsylvania legalized online gaming in 2017 and launched its first poker and casino sites in 2019. West Virginia legalized online gaming in 2019 and plans to launch sites by 2021. Kentucky and Michigan have both discussed online poker in their respective legislatures.

Ohio, on the other hand, has yet to propose it.

Land-based casinos have been legal since 2012, and daily fantasy sports was legalized in 2017.

The Ohio Lottery is in the process of constructing a proposal to officially put its lottery ticket offerings online. And many lawmakers want legal sports betting, though it is likely to be in brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and not online.

There have been several sports betting bills introduced to the legislature in the past year. One would put the Ohio Lottery Commission in control of the industry and give oversight to the Ohio Casino Commission, but the other would give all control to the Ohio Casino Commission. Even Governor Mike DeWine is supportive of sports betting in general, but the delay seems to be with the agency that would control it.

The Basics of Online Poker and Ohio

You like the action of poker, but you hate the drudgery of getting to the casino.  Now you’re ready to try online poker, but searching for Ohio-friendly poker sites just returns a bunch of noise and third-rate websites – until you find our guide. It’s updated.  It’s objective.  It’s built on the observations of several actual online poker players, players who want the same things out of an online poker room that you do.

Based on those observations and that experience, we’ve built this list of the top Ohio online poker sites for real money.

Can Players From Ohio Play Poker?

If you’re residing in Ohio and hoping to play real-money online poker, you’re in luck.  There are several sites that accept players from Ohio.

Whether you start with a site from our list of the top Ohio online poker rooms above or choose one of the other options for Ohioans, you’ll be looking at a simple process that will have you battling it out with other players from around the world in under an hour.

Ohio Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

Type/CodeSummary
State Code Section(s)2915; 3763; 3769-3670; 3772; 3774
Definition of Game of ChancePoker, 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.
Definition of Gambling DeviceA book, totalizer, or other equipment for recording bets; a ticket, token, or other device representing a chance, share, or interest in a scheme of chance or evidencing a bet; a deck of cards, dice, gaming table, roulette wheel, slot machine, or other apparatus designed for use in connection with a game of chance; any equipment, device, apparatus, or paraphernalia specially designed for gambling purposes.
Definition of Gambling ProhibitedEstablish, promote, or operate or knowingly engage in conduct that facilitates any game of chance conducted for profit or any scheme of chance; knowingly procure, transmit, exchange, or engage in conduct that facilitates the procurement, transmission, or exchange of information for use in establishing odds or determining winners in connection with bookmaking or with any game of chance conducted for profit or any scheme of chance; engage in betting or in playing any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood.
Online Poker/GamblingThere have been no solid efforts to legalize and regulate online poker or other types of internet gaming.
Live PokerPoker rooms are available in the large casinos throughout Ohio, each with cash games and tournaments.
CasinosThe Casino Control Act of 2009 legalized casinos in four major cities, and the first one opened in 2012. The law also allowed racetracks to upgrade to racinos by installing video gambling machines in order to compete with the new casinos, though they do not offer table games like poker.
Sports BettingThere is a bill pending in Ohio that could be constructed to legalize sports betting, but legislators have chosen not to address it yet.
DFSOhio lawmakers legalized daily fantasy sports in late 2017.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse racing and on-track pari-mutuel betting, bingo and games of chance for charitable organizations, lottery, social gambling.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Ohio in the News

Is Playing Online Poker Legal in Ohio?

We’re not lawyers, nor are we qualified to offer legal advice.  Our solitary goal with this section is to communicate the absolute basics of Ohio gambling law and to encourage you to then review the Ohio statutes yourself (online version can be found below).

After doing so, you’ll realize what many others have already learned: Ohio gambling law is complicated and involves a good deal of information beyond the statutes to fully comprehend.  That’s why we always encourage players with questions about the legality of online poker to consult with a lawyer for authoritative answers.
Let’s walk through some of the basic points of Ohio gambling law:

Unlike most states, Ohio does not offer a formal definition of gambling.  Instead, we can arrive at their working definition by looking at the misdemeanor charge of gambling (Section 2915.02), which covers bookmaking, promoting games of chance, exchanging information that facilitates bookmaking or games of chance and engaging in “any scheme or game of chance as a substantial source of income or livelihood” (Section 2915.02(4)).

That last part is important.  Ohio law is specifically constructed to dole out heavier punishments to those who gamble for a living.  Note that taking part in an illegal poker game would not necessarily be illegal in and of itself; players must draw a “substantial source of income” from the activity to trigger the charge detailed above.

Players who don’t meet that standard could still face some criminal exposure under Ohio law, but it’s a bit of a longshot.  For example, Section 2915.04 makes it a crime (misdemeanor) to play games of chance in public places like resorts and halls.

On to “games of chance,” which are defined very specifically under Ohio law:

“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)).

Famous Ohio Poker Players

There are some live poker rooms in Ohio, namely in Toledo, Columbus, and Northfield. There are few large live tournament series that play in those casinos, but the poker rooms do provide a breeding ground for new players.

Many players in Ohio also got their start playing online poker. David Peters is one of them, who is now a high-stakes live poker player who is the sixth winningest player in the world with more than $33.4 million in live winnings.

Byron Kaverman certainly got his start in poker in home games with friends and in the poker rooms in Ohio, and he has gone on to win more than $15 million in his career. He spent years honing his game online and was one of the launching pads for him and many others in his generation of players.

David “Chip” Reese hailed from Ohio. His live poker winnings totaled nearly $4 million before his untimely death in 2007. He is one of the most respected players in the game’s history, known mostly for his fierce cash game play.

As of August 2019, the top-ranked live poker players in Ohio history were listed as:

1. David Peters ($33.4 million)
2. Byron Kaverman ($15.1 million)
3. Keven Stammen ($6.1 million)
4. Jacob Bazeley ($4.5 million)
5. David Reese ($4 million)
6. Joe Ebanks ($3.3 million)
7. Adam Friedman ($3.1 million)
8. Shawn Cunix ($2.3 million)
9. Joseph Couden ($2.3 million)
10. Samuel Phillips ($2.2 million)

Ohio Gambling Overview

List of Regulated Gambling Options in Ohio

The sole major form of regulated gambling not on the menu in Ohio is tribal gambling.  Otherwise, you can run the gamut in the state – play the lottery, get in a few pari-mutuel bets on races, engage in any of the multiple forms of charitable gambling that get the official state nod or spend a night at Ohio’s brand-spanking new commercial casinos.

List of Regulated Online Gambling Options in Ohio

While Ohio has a bountiful assortment of regulated land-based gambling, the state offers exactly zero regulated online gambling options.  This doesn’t necessarily disqualify all forms of online betting from existing legally in Ohio – it just means there’s no such thing as an online poker room or casino licensed or regulated by the state.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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