Is Sports Betting Legal in Ohio?

Try finding a fanbase more embroiled in passion and disappointment across basically every sport than the one located in Ohio. Go ahead. It won’t work. From the perpetual incompetence of the Cleveland Browns, to the performance fluctuations of the Cleveland Cavs, to the soul-sundering campaigns from the Cleveland Indians, the state of Ohio constantly finds their emotions and hopes being toyed with. [+]

All of which is to say, this is a big-time sports state, with longstanding rooting interests in the very teams and championship pursuits and pennant races that have long betrayed them again and again.

Ohio Sports Betting Law

Ohio does not stand out in the sports betting sphere. Sportsbooks are not allowed to operate out of their casinos, they don’t have any domestic online sportsbooks or poker rooms and all the usual liberties and restrictions found in gambling laws apply to them. In a way, when it comes to all forms of betting, Ohio is the poster child for being average.

More Than a Few Full-Service Casinos

Ohio currently has 11 total casinos and racinos, with four of them serving as standalone entities that offer the full Las Vegas-style experience. The other seven all have race tracks attached, so their casino-level options aren’t as expansive. There also no discernible casino clusters in Ohio.

This should come as no surprise, either. With race tracks at more than half of the operating gambling halls, the casinos would cannibalize each other’s business by being located too close to one another, in a strip-like setting. Patrons can, however, enjoy hotel stays at a handful of these establishments, even though the off-floor entertainment isn’t exactly a pulling draw.

Daily Fantasy Sports Still Pending

Ohio is another state that hedges its stance on daily fantasy sports. They acknowledge it exists. They note that it would be considered illegal if deemed a game of chance, but legal if it’s one of skill. But, even with all these “clarifications,” they have yet to pick a side.

A bill to legalize daily fantasy sports is pending, and until a decision is rendered, the legality of registering with sites like Draft Kings and FanDuel is non-specified at best.

Hooray for Ambiguous Social Gambling Laws(?)

Ohio’s failure to provide specific distinctions extends to their social-wagering policies. All games of chance are considered gambling in the state and therefore illegal unless regulated in an official capacity. But Ohio also concludes that betting doesn’t bend the line of morality unless someone is turning a profit. Theoretically, then, you can legally play poker, orchestrate fantasy football pools, sell Super Bowl boxes, etc. without breaking any rules.

But in the event you are compensated outside the game for your services, you’ve technically done something illegal. You won’t be prosecuted, obviously, when it happens on a smaller slant. But this is a necessary disclaimer for anyone who might think they’re able to squeeze through certain loopholes on a the macro scale.

Indifferent to Sports Betting Bill

Here we have even more indifference from Ohio. Though they don’t explicitly oppose the Gaming Enhancement and Modernization Act, which seeks to legalize sports betting in the United States, they aren’t among the places pushing for its successful completion. This probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, at least not until a far-flung or local vote is needed. Then again, with 11 casinos—four of which are full-bore Vegas-esque—operating within their boundaries, it’s a tad weird that Ohio wouldn’t join the attempt to extend their revenue reach.

Ohio Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren’t allowed in Ohio at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Legal
  • Tribal Gambling: Legal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Not specified (but there is a pending proposal)
  • Social Gambling: Legal (with caveats)
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Online Gambling: Not specified

Ohio Sports Teams

Cleveland Browns (NFL)

The Cleveland Browns have a P.H.D. in sucking. 

Sure, they have six championships to their name. But none of them came during the Super Bowl era. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002; have only made the postseason once since 1995; and have only made it twice since 1990.

That’s an unfathomably bad showing over a nearly three-decade span. And things don’t appear to be getting any better. The Browns are forever rebuilding, forever tinkering, forever looking for a head coach and franchise quarterback, and most of all, they’re forever failing.

Case in point: In the 14 years since they last made the playoffs, they have finished above .500 just once. During this time, they’re averaging less than five wins per season. 

So, yes, they are the masters of sucking.

Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the closest Ohio comes to a sport-team savior. It was them, after all, who ended Ohio’s 52-year championship drought, which began in 1962 and stretched across every sport, by beating the Golden State Warriors in a miraculous comeback during the 2016 NBA Finals.

And yet, even the Cavaliers’ success, however indelible, comes with disclaimers.

The organization is run poorly by owner Dan Gilbert, and when everyone’s not worrying about LeBron James leaving soon, they’re thinking about Kyrie Irving demanding a trade, or about Kevin Love’s cratering value on the chopping block, or about how the Cavaliers probably won’t win another title so long as the current iteration of the Warriors exists.

Ohio will be eternally thankful and indebted to the Cavaliers for pulling them out of the championship-less dungeon. But man oh man is this franchise closer to Browns status than not.

Cleveland Indians (MLB)

The Cleveland Indians have been around for 117 MLB seasons when you factor in their four name changes. As far as Ohio’s professional sports scene goes, they’ve been consistently relevant, earning nine playoff appearances and two World Series cameos since 1995.

Of course, this isn’t that impressive. It more so speaks to the low bar some of Ohio’s franchises are held to these days. But Cleveland did make a World Series bid in 2015. But it also hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. But it has also won racked up pennants. But only three of those pennant victories have come since 1955.

You get the point.

Ohio’s Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

Ohio is home to the annual Arnold Sports Classic, which is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger and features a multitude of physique-related contests, including bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini. It was established in 1989 and takes place typically sometime in late February or early March over the course of one weekend.

Random? Absolutely. But it’s the biggest annual sporting event Ohio has to offer.

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