Charitable Gaming in Ohio

Casino gambling is legal and available in Ohio, but there are plenty of options for charitable gaming, as well. There are more than a thousand bingo halls in the state. The law also permits raffles, game nights, and other charitable games to take place at any time, sometimes even without a permit.

Let’s talk about all the options available to charitable organizations in the Buckeye State seeking to raise money by offering various games of chance.

What is charitable gaming?

“Charitable gaming” is a broad term that serves as an umbrella for a series of activities that are legal in Ohio. The designation of a game as charitable is not so much due to its rules. Rather, it refers to the organization that hosts the game and where the profits from such a game go.

Charitable games must serve as fundraisers for a charitable organization and must not benefit a for-profit entity or pay any of the workers who might help to run a charitable event.

In Ohio, any organization wishing to receive a designation as a charitable group must qualify under Chapter 2915 of the Ohio Revised Code. The state attorney general’s office regulates charitable gaming in Ohio.

The office does not require organizations to obtain licenses to offer many forms of gaming. This can include raffles, poker, casino nights, or other “games of chance.” However, charitable organizations in Ohio that wish to offer bingo must obtain a license to do so.

Since bingo is the most popular form of charitable gaming in the state, we go over how that works below.

Legal bingo in Ohio

There are several requirements that charitable organizations must meet in order to offer this type of game to Ohioans. Each organization wishing to receive a license for bingo in Ohio must qualify to do so under the law. An organization must also do the following in order to apply:

  • Verify its tax-exempt status with a copy of its IRS Determination Letter.
  • Register with the Ohio secretary of state and attorney general.
  • Show that it has been resident and active in Ohio for at least two years.

In addition, veterans groups must prove from their Ohio headquarters that they are in good standing with the state-level organization.

Once an organization has met these requirements, it can apply for one of three types of bingo licenses:

  • Type I: Standard bingo games with paper sheets and numbers from a hopper.
  • Type II: Instant bingo games selling at the same time as a Type I session.
  • Type III: Instant bingo games that sell outside of Type I sessions.

Fees for initial licensing vary according to the type of license and the number of days in the year that the organization wishes to offer bingo. License renewal fees, on the other hand, use the organization’s reported profits from the previous year’s games to determine their value.

Type III licensees can contract with convenience stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments to sell instant bingo tickets. Regardless of the type of license, each organization will have to specify a sales location and will not be able to offer tickets outside of that location. Thus, many authorized organizations have multiple locations and licenses on file with the state.

Bingo locations in Ohio

Despite the numerous rules and regulations, there are organizations that offer bingo in almost every town of any size in Ohio. The state’s list of authorized bingo locations is several thousand entries long. Since we can’t list every single place you can play a game of bingo in Ohio, here are the number of bingo locations in each of Ohio’s largest cities:

  • Akron — 95 locations
  • Cincinnati — 113 locations
  • Cleveland — 120 locations
  • Columbus — 174 locations
  • Dayton — 91 locations
  • Toledo — 69 locations

Needless to say, this list is not comprehensive in any way. If you want to attend a bingo session in Ohio, it is almost certain that there is one nearby.

Other charitable games

Other charitable games that organizations may offer in Ohio under the purview of the attorney general’s office include raffles and other games of chance. None of these games require organizations to get a license, but the organizations themselves must be eligible to participate.

Charitable organizations, veterans organizations and schools are among the groups that can offer raffles. Essentially, as long as the organization can prove that it is a nonprofit group, it can hold a raffle. The only catch is that the organizations must keep records in accordance with the relevant Ohio law.

Other games of chance include basically any type of gambling other than bingo. Bingo, of course, is a different category of charitable game. The attorney general’s informational page mentions poker, craps and roulette as viable options for charitable organizations to offer.

However, a separate policy statement from the AG adds seemingly contradictory restrictions to this policy, describing craps and roulette as specifically disallowed. Organizations also cannot offer the games outside of their festivals and no more than five days per year.

Practically speaking, most organizations can offer just about any type of game that they like. It’s just a good idea to get clearance from law enforcement before they do so.


What is the minimum gambling age for charitable gaming in Ohio?

You must be 16 or older to play bingo in Ohio. Other games are likely to require players to be at least 18, but there does not seem to be a hard and fast rule for these types of games.

Who regulates charitable gambling in Ohio?

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Although the Ohio Casino Control Commission oversees most gambling in the state, Ohio’s highest law enforcement officer oversees bingo and other charitable gaming.

Do I need a license to offer charitable games?

If you are an eligible organization in Ohio, then you only need a license if you plan to offer bingo. There are three types of bingo licenses that you can secure, and their fees vary according to the number of times that you want to offer a bingo game. Otherwise, however, you do not need a license as long as you qualify as a charitable organization or other nonprofit entity.

Can I play bingo at Ohio casinos?

No. Ohio casinos cannot offer bingo, as the casinos are for-profit entities.

Can I play bingo online in Ohio?

No. There is no provision allowing Ohioans to play bingo for real money online. Although the state recently legalized “e-bingo” for use in bars and restaurants, the Ohio Lottery operates those machines, which are more like slots than bingo games.