There has been some talk recently about Ohio considering the legalization of online poker. The talk, however, is not coming from lawmakers or the governor…or anyone with the power to make laws.
Much of the chatter comes from the state’s location. Ohio borders several states with legal online poker and other forms of i-gaming. For example, Michigan is to the north of Ohio, Pennsylvania is to the east, as is West Virginia (though no poker sites have launched there yet), and other states on the border like Kentucky and Indiana have been seriously considering legalizing online gambling.
Ohio joining the club of online poker states would make sense due to its location but also because it is a state that takes its gambling seriously. There are numerous casinos throughout the state, as well as racinos (racetracks with casino games). The state also recently legalized sports betting via retail locations and betting apps, and the first sites launched in 2023.
Online poker and gambling would be a logical step to take Ohio’s gambling industry into the future. The casinos and racinos in the state could benefit from partnering with online poker and online casinos, as other states have done so and shown that the online and land-based entities complement each other. Cross-promotions have proven beneficial for corporations, operators, and customers alike.
In addition, the few states in America with online gambling during the pandemic were the only ones with revenue when the live venues shut down.
Nevertheless, Ohio lawmakers are not yet ready to consider this option for their state.
There are options. While the Ohio Casino Control Commission does not issue licenses for online poker and gambling websites – because the state has yet to formally legalize those games – players do have a couple of choices.
For online poker, there are social poker apps and sweepstakes apps for free-play poker, as well as sweepstakes apps with the ability to use an in-app currency to play real money online poker.
Finally, there are offshore poker sites. These are not sites that we recommend, as the environment in which they operate in many states is a legally grey area. However, many Ohioans do use those sites for real-money poker.
The most popular poker apps in the world – by far – are social poker apps, ones that operate through free poker apps or through Facebook, and sometimes even through a web browser.
The most popular example of this is Zynga Poker, which is the longest running online poker app, having launched in 2007 and still operating. In just four years, Zynga attracted more than 38 million players. By 2014, more than 350 million people had played the game. It is still wildly popular.
The biggest competitor for Zynga in the free-play poker market is the WSOP Poker Texas Hold’em app. It launched in 2013 and quickly rose to prominence by nature of the free-play poker it offered as well as the name recognition of the World Series of Poker. It only offers virtual WSOP gold bracelets, but it is free poker online.
While there are many casual players on the free poker apps, players who are more active in poker have used them as well. Not only are the apps enjoyable and free, they provide online tables at which to practice various strategies, learn more about positions and bet sizing, and get comfortable with online poker before trying to play for real money.
There is a misconception about sweepstakes online poker sites like Global Poker. Some think they are the same as offshore poker sites or state-licensed sites. They are different in several ways, which we will explain, but most importantly, sites like Global Poker are free to play.
The online poker account is free to set up. And the site awards free virtual chips every day. Log in, get free chips, play Texas Hold’em or Omaha, and play cash games or tournaments. Global Poker, in particular, continually has more options as the site’s popularity keeps increasing.
While the site is free, there is a way to make money. That is why so many semi-pro and pro players have been joining the site, which can be played from any web browser. No app download is necessary.
About the currencies on Global Poker, players sign in to play and receive Gold Coins, the basic virtual currency used by Global Poker on the site. Players receive Gold Coins, also known as GC, just for logging in, though players can buy extra GC if they choose. (For a special sign-up deal to received bonus GC, use our link to join.)
From there, another currency comes into play, but so does real-money poker.
The site’s popularity has grown as more players used the site, discovered that it is easier than it sounds and very valid, and the prize pools have increased with the player pool. Global Poker also holds a full online poker license in good standing from the Malta Gaming Authority.
Best of all, using the sweepstakes model, Global Poker is legal in Ohio and almost every other state in America.
This is where things get tricky. Many poker players in Ohio play real-money poker online at sites based outside of the United States.
These sites often maintain gaming licenses but not from state-based gaming commissions or any entity that could be policed by the US government. While that has its perks, it also means that there is no law enforcement body that can enforce the rules. Players do trust some of the offshore sites, as they have been operating in good faith for years. If those operators ever choose to do otherwise, though, players will have no recourse.
With that said, the sites are popular. They host the largest online poker tournaments and most cash game options for US players in the current environment.
Just be aware that there are risks associated with those choices.
This section will be short. There is no state-licensed online poker or online casino games for players located in Ohio.
Lawmakers in Ohio have left players without the most ideal online choices.
This section will be short as well.
In 2012, the then-director of the Ohio Lottery said that he was going to investigate online gambling possibilities. As Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware were doing so, Ohio’s gaming regulator was going to do the same.
Since that time, there have been no efforts to introduce bills to legalize online poker and casino games. No lawmakers or state officials have been outspoken about their support for this type of legislation.
Sports betting was not an option for most states in America for many years due to PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to authorize their state to offer sports betting. However, then-Governor Chris Christie faced off with the major sports leagues in the United States that sued New Jersey over that new law. They took it to court, and the case finally made its way to the US Supreme Court. And in mid-May of 2018, New Jersey won, as a significant majority of the justices voted to overturn PASPA as unconstitutional.
Every state in America then had the option to legalize sports betting.
Ohio lawmakers began examining sports betting proposals in 2019. Hearings were inconclusive. A 2020 sports betting bill made it through the Ohio House of Representatives with a positive vote, but the Senate did not act.
Enter 2021. Lawmakers introduced a bill that followed a very curvy path through the state legislature over the course of the year, eventually changing shape but making its way to Governor Mike DeWine during the December holidays. He signed it.
Online sports betting launched on January 1, 2023. In about eight months, the operators have shown that they collected more than $578.8 million in revenue. That translated into more than $61.7 million in taxes paid.
This happens. Poker players have choices for live poker in Ohio. The state currently has 11 casinos – four independent casinos and seven casinos attached to racetracks (racinos). Four of the 11 total establishments offer major poker rooms.
All of the casinos have hosted major poker tournament series except the Toledo Hollywood Casino. On the other hand, Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati is hosting the Moneymaker Poker Tour in 2023, and the Mid-States Poker Tour make JACK a regular stop on its tour.
According to Poker Atlas, these are the current available poker rooms:
The people of Ohio wanted more poker. So, entrepreneurs decided to work around the law to operate poker clubs.
Instead of offering casino games, these establishments offer poker in membership-style clubs. Players can pay an entry fee or hourly fee to play poker, and those fees eliminate the need for rake, which allows them to operate within the loophole of the law. As private clubs that don’t make money from particular hands, they have been able to continue operating for years.
Similar to the situation with Texas poker clubs, there are risks associated with operating clubs that are not licensed by the state of Ohio. Even so, they remain popular.
Notice that several of the rooms, such as Elks and Rosemack, Dicicco’s and Ciccarelli’s, are charity poker rooms. This means that they donate a portion of their proceeds to one or more charities.