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Ohio law as it relates to gambling is quite unique in that gambling itself isn’t a crime, although deriving a substantial source of your income from it is against the law:
“2915-02 Gambling: (A) 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.” (1)
The law sets out quite a number of other situations where gambling related activities are deemed to be illegal but this is the only one within the crime of gambling that involves the participation in gambling.
However, gambling in a public place is also a crime:
“2915-04 Public Gaming: (a) 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” (2)
So gambling in general is illegal if you derive a substantial amount of your income is illegal, and all gambling in public places is illegal, unless the gambling activities are specifically authorized by law of course, which is also set out in the statute.
Is poker included as a game of chance? This is not left up to any doubt:
“2915-1 (D): “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…” (3)
We may argue about whether or not poker is determined largely by chance, but they specifically mention poker, so that certainly includes poker playing in the definition.
So What Kind Of Poker Playing Is Allowed In Ohio?
So playing poker in a public place is out obviously – unless at a sanctioned poker room – and playing for a living is out as well, although what constitutes a substantial portion of your income is left undefined, and therefore would be left up to the courts to interpret.
So we can play poker in a private place in Ohio, including at home on the internet, as well as in private live games, as long as we don’t derive a substantial amount of our income from it, and we can also play in a public place provided that it is licensed by the state.
This does leave us grappling a bit with how substantial is to be understood here. If you’re playing for a living then that would be substantial for sure. If you’re a losing player then you’re not making money off it at all. You would likely have to derive a significant portion of your income from poker playing to qualify here though. It’s hard to put a number on this though, but the higher the percentage, the more likely this would fit.
The intention seems to be to go after professional gamblers though and not recreational players, so if you’re just a recreational player and don’t make a good part of your overall income from gambling you are probably fine.
Live Poker In Ohio
Ohio has a total of 6 live poker rooms in the state with a good amount of both cash game action and tournaments. Ohio’s casinos offering poker are first rate and run by several world class casino operations such as the Hollywood Casino and the Horseshoe Casino, ensuring players will not only enjoy great poker but first class treatment as well.
Ohio’s live poker rooms include the Hollywood Casino Columbus in Columbus (36 tables), the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati in Cincinatti (31 tables), the Mansfield Gemini Poker Club in Ontario (8 tables), the Hollywood Casino Toledo in Toledo (20 tables), the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland in Cleveland (30 tables), and the Shark Tank Poker Club in Columbus (8 tables). (4)
Online Poker Prospects In Ohio
There does seem to be some interest in making online poker legal and regulated in Ohio, particularly since neighboring state Pennsylvania appears poised to bring in online poker sooner rather than later.
With the fairly recent approval and building of several large casinos in the state of Ohio, support for gambling in general has increased, as has the interest of large casino companies who would like to expand their reach beyond the land based casinos that exist in the state now.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert, who also owns one of the new casinos in Ohio, has also expressed an interest in getting into online gambling, as has Caesar’s Entertainment. Casino operators often oppose online gambling, seeing it as potentially affecting their land based operations, and having support from this camp certainly doesn’t hurt its chances.
Online gambling in Ohio may require a constitutional amendment though as gambling is currently only permitted in four cities, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati. An online poker or online gambling bill would make it available state wide, thus the need for the amendment.
If the political will to do this exists though, and it seems to, then this shouldn’t be a problem, although it certainly would serve to slow down the process. There’s nothing on the horizon as of yet. (5)
Playing ACTUAL Online Poker In Ohio
Residents of Ohio need not wait for online poker regulation as there are several online poker sites which they are welcome to play at right now. Among these are two of our top recommended online poker sites, Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom – click on either to go straight to their respective reviews.
In 2016, Ignition Poker purchased the software that powered Bovada for many years. They re-branded as Ignition in 2016 and still offer the same great poker services their predecessor had before them, including anonymous tables, fishy cash games, huge tournament schedules and big bonuses.
Americas Cardroom is another long time favorite of Americans and have no problem at all accepting Ohio residents either. Get up to $1,000 in free cash just by making your first deposit with them and experiencing for yourself all they have to offer.