Ohio Sports Betting And Gambling

Online gambling is exploding throughout the country, but Ohio residents still have a little while to wait before their turn. Ohio sports betting is likely just around the corner – all Ohio’s legislature has to do is finalize a bill and put it to a vote, and it’ll likely pass.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any current details about how the future sports wagering industry will shape up. This means we don’t have any concrete information about licensing fees, collegiate betting limitations, or other regulations.

Online casino and poker apps and sites are likely even further away. But online horseracing is already up and running in this state, as are other activities like daily fantasy sports.

Here we will break down everything you need to know about online sports betting and gambling options in Ohio. This way you’ll know what you can enjoy currently and what’s coming in the near future.

Online Gambling Options In Ohio

Online sports bettingIllegal
Online casinosIllegal
Online horse racingLegal
Fantasy sportsLegal
Sweepstakes casinosLegal
Sweepstakes poker sitesLegal
Online lotteryIllegal

Online Sports Betting In Ohio

Right now, both retail and online sports wagering are still illegal in Ohio. But this may change sometime in 2021.

2020 saw the development of HB 194, which was a prospective bill that would legalize retail and online sports wagering in this state. It passed the Ohio House of Representatives and moved to the Senate, but it eventually stalled in June 2020 (in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Fortunately, public and congressional desire for legal sports betting didn’t fade. In the year thereafter, the Ohio legislature crafted a Senate Select Committee on Gaming for the purpose of meeting with both sports wagering experts and stakeholders. The goal was to develop guidelines to use for prospective sports betting legislation in the future.

By this point, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had already vocalized support for sports wagering legalization. All this is to say that Ohio’s state legislature is likely to legalize sports betting sometime in 2021, although there is no word yet on an actual bill.

The bottom line is that sports wagering is likely to become legal sometime in the latter half of 2021 with a launch sometime in 2022 at the earliest.

Best Online Sportsbooks In Ohio

As mentioned, sports wagering is not yet legal in Ohio, so there aren’t any great online sportsbooks to check out. However, many online sportsbook operators have partnerships or economic footholds in Ohio because of other things they offer.

For instance, BetMGM, one of the most respected gambling organizations in the world, is a surefire bet for early licensure if and when sports betting becomes legal. This is because MGM Resorts International owns two racinos (institutions that offer horse race tracks along with casino activities) in Ohio: MGM Northfield Park and Cedar Downs OTB.

Furthermore, operators like DraftKings and FanDuel already provide daily fantasy sports or DFS to Ohio residents. This activity is fully legal since it doesn’t technically count as gambling. Because both operators already have online apps running in this state, they’ll likely pursue licensing ASAP to expand their offerings to include sports wagering.

Caesars has already entered into partnerships and mergers in Ohio in anticipation of a future sports betting industry. This operator has secured the rights to operate any online sportsbooks at Eldorado Resorts casinos and other locations, even though this company merged with Caesars Entertainment in 2020.

As you can see, there are lots of prospective sportsbook operators that might jump at the chance to get into this industry on the ground floor.

Each of the above sportsbooks features intuitive user interfaces, excellent opening bonuses, and player-friendly betting lines and promotions to draw in both new users and experienced sports wagerers. Ohio residents will likely have plenty of top online sportsbooks to check out when this industry finally launches.

However, we can’t say with any certainty what sports betting apps are going to launch in Ohio or which operators will be first to receive licenses. Additionally, there are no details available as of yet about whether sportsbooks will be required to have partnerships with casinos, racetracks, or other organizations in order to acquire licensure. We also don’t know if they’ll be able to provide mobile sports betting without being attached to another organization.

Betting On Sports In Ohio

When sports wagering finally comes to Ohio, residents will likely be able to wager on most or all American professional sports. These include betting lines for professional sports leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA, and more.

All of the above sportsbooks and many of their competitors offer excellent betting lines and markets for these sports, plus a variety of other betting markets for activities like darts, NASCAR races, MMA fighting, and more. In short, the larger sportsbook operators like DraftKings and FanDuel will likely have few (if any) limitations on what you can wager on.

Things become a little more complex when it comes to international sports. Your options will be limited based on the sportsbook you choose to download. Some operators, like William Hill, come from international companies and will likely have fantastic betting lines in markets for Australian rules football, rugby, and cricket.

eSports wagering lines are likely to crop up with big operators like DraftKings. More mobile sportsbook apps are now offering eSports wagers as well, showing the growing popularity of this sport.

However, you’ll have to wait and see what Ohio’s legislators say about collegiate sports wagering. Some states, like New Jersey, place strict limitations on sports wagers for college games or teams. It’s tough to say whether Ohio will allow collegiate wagering without any limitations, ban it altogether, or only prevent you from wagering on in-state teams and games but allow you to place bets on out-of-state college games.

Other Online Gambling In Ohio

Aside from sports wagering, Ohio residents have a variety of other online or retail gambling options depending on their interests and location.

Online Casinos

Just like sports wagering, online casino games are strictly illegal in Ohio, as are online poker apps or sites. But unlike with sports wagering, there hasn’t been any legislative momentum or discussion about legalizing online casino and poker sites the same way there has been a significant push for online sports wagering legalization.

That being said, the Ohio legislature has shown that it’s willing to legalize online gambling in steps. It’s likely that, once sports wagering is legalized, the Ohio legislature will notice the new income they get from taxing gambling winnings and look at online casino legalization again.

Additionally, Ohio is surrounded by states that have more robust online gambling industries. For example, both Michigan and Pennsylvania offer full spreads of online gambling activities, like casino games and sports wagering. West Virginia offers both online sports betting and casinos, while Indiana offers an online sports wagering industry that has been bringing in new state revenue since 2019.

As a result, Ohio legislators might decide to push for online casino legalization sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely that they’ll take preliminary steps to do so before sports betting is legalized.

In the meantime, Ohio residents have a variety of retail casinos to visit and sweepstakes casino sites to check out, which are legal in Ohio and throughout the rest of the US (more on those below).

Online Horse Race Betting

As with all other states, Ohio allows online horseracing and has done so since 2000. The Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 was amended in 2000 to include any wagers that were placed through electronic media such as the Internet.

After this amendment, states were allowed to decide whether they would limit online horserace wagering. Fortunately, Ohio did not place any limitations on this activity.

At the moment, you can try online horse race betting yourself through apps like TVG. TVG is one of the best horserace wagering apps on the market today, featuring integrated live streaming for most major horse meets and races, including popular international tourneys and derbies. TVG offers excellent opening bonuses, a variety of ways to make withdrawals and deposits, and an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to find the exact race you want to wager on with just a few button presses.

In short, online horse race wagering is alive and well in Ohio and is likely here to stay. 

Daily Fantasy Sports

As with most other states, daily fantasy sports are totally legal in Ohio. As of 2018, five companies including both DraftKings and FanDuel became fully licensed to offer DFS games in Ohio. They are currently regulated by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

Daily fantasy sports are legal because they don’t count as a form of wagering real money, as they use statistics and other mathematical formulas to provide players with entertainment. Because DFS doesn’t count as gambling, you can also participate when you are 18 or older instead of 21 or older.

DFS is a fun and staple activity for Ohio wagering enthusiasts and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Sweepstakes Casinos

While online casinos that have you wager real money on slot or table games are still illegal in the Buckeye State, sweepstakes casinos are fully legal here as they are throughout the rest of the country.

In a nutshell, sweepstakes casinos never have you wager real money on casino games. Instead, you can purchase valueless digital currency like “gold coins”, then use that valueless currency on slot and table games that are just as engaging and fun to play as those you can find at retail casino locations.

You can also occasionally win cash prizes by gradually accumulating sweeps coins, either as bonuses for purchasing gold coin packages or through participating in sweepstakes promotions. The sweeps coins can be exchanged for cash prizes after playing a sweepstakes casino for long enough.

Sweepstakes casinos are fully legal because you can never purchase sweeps coins directly. Ohio casino enthusiasts who lament the lack of online casino options should check out quality sweepstakes casino sites like Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots, both of which are casino sister sites and which have over 100 slot games shared between them.

Each slot game found on these sites is a unique title you can’t find anywhere else, so sweepstakes casinos can be a great way to enjoy engaging casino action even though you don’t wager real-world cash.

As an added bonus, sweepstakes sites usually only require you to be 18 or older instead of 21 or older since they aren’t a form of gambling.

Sweepstakes Poker Sites

Sweepstakes poker sites are also available in Ohio thanks to the same rules and restrictions that sweepstakes casinos operate under. As with sweepstakes casinos, sweepstakes poker sites allow you to purchase valueless digital chips or coins for money and use those chips during online poker games or tournaments.

You can also occasionally win sweeps coins or chips and exchange those for cash prizes. But just like with sweepstakes casinos, you can never purchase sweeps coins directly from online sweepstakes poker sites.

There’s only one real choice for sweepstakes poker enthusiasts: Global Poker, which is available in all 50 US states and which has the largest player base compared to all other sweepstakes poker apps. This site has regular weekday and weekend tournaments in a variety of promotions to draw in new players.

However, it’s also a bit limited in terms of poker game types. You’ll mostly spend your time playing Texas Hold ‘Em on Global Poker. Even so, this site is a much better choice than risking your information and money on an illegal or offshore poker site.

Online Lottery

Ohio does run a state lottery, but it’s not enjoyable through online interfaces except for video lottery terminals or VLTs, which appeared in Ohio’s racinos in 2012. Additionally, the video lottery terminals are closer to slot machines than real lottery tickets.

If you want to participate in the state lottery, you’ll have to purchase physical tickets from participating locations, like gas stations and convenience stores. There aren’t any plans to move the lottery to an online format at this time, although anything is possible and discussions may open up after sports wagering is legalized.

Casinos In Ohio

Ohio was a relatively quiet state in terms of gambling developments until 2012. Three years earlier, in 2009, voters approved a ballot measure to approve casino gambling in Ohio. The measure, titled the Ohio Casino Approval and Tax Distribution Amendment, allowed for the construction of one land-based casino in Ohio’s four largest cities each: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.

It wasn’t until May 2012, however, that the first retail casino opened. It was originally called the Horseshoe Casino, though it eventually underwent renovations and became the JACK Casino. The other three retail casinos opened by March 2013 and have stayed in business ever since.

Each of these casinos is owned by a commercial enterprise instead of a Native American tribe. Here’s a breakdown of each retail casino in Ohio, along with their location and owner:

  • Hollywood Casino Toledo – Toledo – Penn National Gaming
  • Hollywood Columbus Casino – Columbus – Penn National Gaming
  • Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati – Cincinnati – Hard Rock International
  • JACK Cleveland Casino – Cleveland – JACK Entertainment

Each of these casinos offers a wide range of slot and table games, as well as live poker rooms and tournaments. There aren’t any big sports wagering partnerships to speak of at this time, with the exception of Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, which is likely to provide its own sports wagering application without a partnership with another operator.

Keep an eye out on partnership announcements to see which operators are moving for licensure fast.

Ohio Gambling Versus Neighboring States

Recent pushes for online gambling expansion in Ohio have been in large part because of its geographic neighbors. Both Pennsylvania and Michigan offer a plethora of online gaming activities for the residents, including online casino games, online sports wagering, and more. Both states’ governments are likely enjoying increased tax revenue because of these expansions, much to the envy of Ohio state legislators.

Other states like West Virginia offer both online sports betting and online casino games, again showing state legislators in Ohio how the industries can work when organized correctly. Even Indiana is currently showing Ohio up in terms of online gambling freedom, as it has offered online sports betting in 2019.

The only state Ohio is beating in this regard is Kentucky, which doesn’t currently have any online gambling offerings whatsoever. Fortunately, Ohio’s online gambling offerings will likely expand shortly.

Who Regulates Online Gambling In Ohio?

It depends on the gambling activity in question. For example, the Ohio Lottery Commission is the organization in charge of all lottery activities; it may also become the overseeing or regulatory body in charge of sports wagering if and when that activity is legalized.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Racing Commission is largely in charge of all seven race tracks and any off-track horse race betting locations in this state.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission is, respectively, in charge of regulating the retail casinos currently active in this state. They may also be in charge of future online casinos. 

In short, Ohio is a relatively unique state in that there isn’t a single regulatory body in charge of all gambling activities here. More details about which organization (or possibly whether a new organization) will regulate online sports wagering will come out alongside other details soon.

Is Online Gambling Safe In Ohio?

Yes, although you only have limited options right now. In the case of online horserace wagering, apps like TVG and its competitors use high-quality digital security and SSL certification to protect both their digital records and the personal information of their users.

This prevents hackers and other cybercriminals from gaining access to your personal information and potentially committing identity theft. This kind of security also protects users’ winnings to stop them from being stolen.

Once online sports wagering apps launch in Ohio, you can rest assured that they’ll use the same SSL certification and other digital security tools to keep your information safe. For example, big operators like FanDuel are already partnered with cybersecurity enterprises like HackerOne, which work with many companies to prevent digital intrusions.

Additionally, any regulatory body responsible for sportsbook licensure in Ohio will make sure that they have good enough digital security before awarding them with a license. Bottom line: online gambling is and will continue to be safe in Ohio provided you use fully licensed and regulated apps rather than offshore or illegal gambling sites. 

Ohio Sports Betting And Gambling FAQs

Is it legal to gamble at casinos in Ohio?

Yes, although they have to be retail or brick-and-mortar casinos. Online casino wagering is still illegal in this state. Ohio has four retail casinos to check out: Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Hollywood Columbus Casino, and JACK Cleveland Casino.

How old do you have to be to gamble at any casinos in Ohio?

You have to be 21 years of age or older, which is the gambling age of entrance for most states and handling activities.

Is it safe to gamble at casinos in Ohio?

Yes. Retail casinos in Ohio are currently regulated by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which ensures safe operating procedures and fair play for all games.

Does it make sense to join a casino’s loyalty program?

Absolutely. Casino loyalty programs are great programs to join if you frequent one casino brand or location in particular, either due to proximity or just because you like what they offer. Loyalty programs reward you with points, promotions, and reward prizes as you place wagers and spend money.

Loyalty programs might even get better in the near future as sportsbooks partner up with retail casinos. Some loyalty programs may extend benefits to your sports wagers as well.

Do I have to pay taxes if I win?

Yes, but it depends on the gambling activity you participate in. For example, we don’t know what the tax rate will be for sports wagering winnings as details about current legislation are still scarce. But just remember that you will eventually have to pay taxes on any gambling winnings you make in this state, just like you already have to pay taxes on gambling winnings you get from retail casino visits.

Who owns the casinos in Ohio?

Each casino in Ohio is owned by a commercial entity instead of a Native American tribe, which makes Ohio a relatively unique state compared to many others. Penn National Gaming owns both of the Hollywood brand casinos whereas Hard Rock International and JACK Entertainment both on the casinos that include their names.

Is gambling online legal in Ohio?

For the most part, no. There’s one exception in horse race wagering, but online casino games, poker apps, and sports wagers are still illegal at the time of this writing. Daily fantasy sports are legal it doesn’t technically count as a form of gambling.

Does Ohio have a state lottery?

Yes, and it’s run by the Ohio Lottery Commission. The state lottery has to be played using physical tickets; the video lottery terminals found throughout the racinos that dot the state offer different games instead of digital lottery tickets. You can get physical tickets at participating locations.

About the Author

Amber Hoffman

Amber Hoffman is Managing Editor of Midwest Sports Fans. A recovering attorney, she's spent almost a decade developing and managing websites and writing for a variety of industries. Amber became a Cubs fan after living a handful of blocks from Wrigley Field, much to the chagrin of her Mets-loving family and Red Sox-loving husband. Amber writes for a number of online sites including the food and lifestyle site Food And Drink Destinations.