Ohio Guide To Legal Gambling

The Latest News And Notes From The Nascent Ohio Casino Scene

OhioFor many years, Ohio was not a player in casino gambling. Players had to make the trip to neighboring states like Indiana and Pennsylvania to scratch their itch.

However, in 2009, Ohio decided to authorize the licensing of four land-based casinos. One in each of the major cities (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo). It took three years, but between May 2012 and March 2013, each of the four casinos opened its doors.

Slot machine-type gaming was further expanded by a legislative action in 2012 that put video lottery terminals (or VLTs) into the seven racetracks. VLTs are functionally the same as slot machines. They are actually administered differently and considered a form of lottery gambling, rather than a pure slot machine.

Still, in just five years, Ohio has managed to provide its residents with more than 18,000 video gaming and slot machine options – along with table games, poker, and horse racing.

Ohio now finds itself in an odd position: perhaps having too many casinos available for its own good, both inside and near the state. Many of the state’s gambling options are clustered in its northeastern quadrant. Revenues are declining for the four Las Vegas-style casinos. The drop is largely being blamed on the proliferation of racinos throughout the state. These attract some of the vital slots gamblers away from the four big-city venues (sometimes to racinos inside the same city).

Many experts believe that the northeastern United States in general is over-saturated with casinos. There are simply not enough customer dollars to go around.

Still, as long as state legislatures have budget overruns and a desire not to raise taxes on consumer products, casino gambling will likely be a go-to option for states in years to come. This is especiallytrue if the door for gambling has already been opened. Below are the 11 casinos and racinos in Ohio.

Land-based slots options

Property Location Number of Slots
Belterra Park Gaming and Entertainment Center Cincinnati 1,300
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park Northfield 2,200
Hollywood Casino Columbus Columbus 2,200
Hollywood Casino Toledo Toledo 2,000
Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway Dayton 1,000
Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course Youngstown 850
Jack Cincinnati Casino Cincinnati 1,900
Jack Cleveland Casino Cleveland 1,500
Miami Valley Gaming Lebanon 1,600
Scioto Downs Racino Columbus 2,200
Jack Thistledown Racino North Randall 1,500

Online gambling options

There are no laws on the books for or against online gambling in Ohio. As such, there are no officially-regulated options for residents and visitors to the Buckeye State.

However, the state just received a commissioned study from Spectrum Gaming Group. Among other recommendations, it suggested the state legalize online gambling to maximize its tax revenue. So, it is possible that an Ohio iGaming bill could happen – particularly after legislators have a chance to see how online gambling performs in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Social casino site options

Several of Ohio’s casinos have free sites available through their websites. The two Hollywood Gaming casinos (Dayton Raceway and Mahoning Valley) and the three Jack casinos (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Thistledown) all offer visitors the opportunity to sample the brands of slots available at their land-based operations for free. This practice continues to be a wise idea. It both familiarizes and desensitizes customers and potential customers with the variety of games they can play.

In effect, customers will know what machines they want to play as soon as they step through the door. Jack’s play money site even offers free poker and table games, further enhancing the experience. All the sites allow players to link their player cards to their play money accounts. This leaves open the possibility that the casinos could link comps to the play money functionality and increase the likelihood of new and returning customers entering the premises.

As usual, Zynga, Slotomania, Big Fish, and Doubledown are all accessible from Ohio social media sites.  MyVegas, the ubiquitous MGM-owned free comp site is also available. However, its usefulness is limited, as there are no MGM-owned properties nearby. As it stands, House of Blues and Gray Line Tours are likely the only options for redemption. Still, Ohioans have some avenues if they’d like to play the games without risking any money.

Operator profile

Jack Entertainment

Jack Entertainment LLC is a Detroit-based proprietor of several casinos and racetracks throughout the United States. Though the majority of its holdings are in Ohio, it also has properties in Michigan, Kentucky, and Maryland. The company is a subsidiary of Quicken Loans, which means it is in the same family of companies as the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The CEO for the company is Matthew Cullen. He also serves as a principal in the Rock Ventures holding company, which is the chief administrator of all Quicken’s portfolio. However, the company’s more industry-specific expert is its chief operating officer, Mark Dunkeson. Prior to taking this role at Jack, Dunkeson served as a senior vice president for Station Casinos. They are a Las Vegas-based company that operates a chain of casinos targeting the locals market, rather than the tourist segment. This fits in well with the market of regional casinos like the Ohio offerings.

Like most Ohio casinos, Jack’s portfolio is facing increasing competitive pressure, and its revenues are suffering.

In fact, Jack Cleveland Casino’s revenues for December 2016 are down 32 percent from 2013. However, in that four-year span, three racinos have opened nearby, squeezing the market and making exceptional returns more difficult. The casino (and others in the company’s portfolio) are also no longer novelties for Ohioans. The initial furor – whatever it may have been – is gone.

Still, the Cleveland location reported revenue north of $200 million in 2016, so there is still significant cashflow. It remains to be seen how companies like Jack will navigate an increasingly congested market. It is reasonable to assume the consumer is in a good place to benefit from competition.

Ohio slot players and other gamblers, keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. Amazing promotions could happen anytime.

State legal environment

  Permitted/Offered? Notes & Restrictions
Land-Based Gambling Yes Clustered in northeast part of state
Online Gambling No State-commissioned study in 2016 recommended legalization, so it may not be far away
Lottery Yes Includes video lottery terminals at seven racinos
Charitable or House-Based Gambling Yes Bingo only – charity poker disallowed
Minimum Gambling Age 18 for horse racing; 21 for casinos