For casino newcomers, stepping into an Ohio casino might feel intimidating or overwhelming. The casino environment is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, alive with lights and the sounds of video slot machines and table game chatter.
With heaps of games to choose from, unfamiliar rules, bet minimums and game strategies, it’s hard to know where to start.
We’ve put together a round up of things to know when visiting Ohio casinos.
Casinos vs. racinos
The first thing to know about Ohio casinos is the difference between a casino and a racino. Casinos in Ohio feature slot machines in addition to live table games, including roulette, blackjack and poker, among others.
The four casinos in Ohio are:
Those are the only four properties in Ohio that offer live table games.
The other gambling houses, known as racinos, only offer slot machines and are regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission. As such, the machines are also known as video lottery terminals (VLTs).
Racinos, as the name implies, also feature horse racing and parimutuel betting on those races. While horse racing can be entertaining and has its own learning curve, it’s outside of the realm of casinos, so we won’t cover that here.
Casino games with best odds
The next thing to know is that you’re likely to win more often on certain games than on others. That even applies to different slot games. Every game also has what’s called a “house edge,” meaning that over time, the house (or casino) can expect to make a certain amount of money on the bets placed.
Blackjack is one game with great odds. You’re only playing against the dealer, and with a simple standard strategy your odds of winning a hand are 49%. An expert Blackjack player can enjoy a house edge below 1%.
Essentially, that means that over time, the player will lose money more slowly than they will on a game with a higher house edge. This gives the player a better chance at scoring short-term gains on big hands.
Baccarat is a game with great odds, a low house edge and just about no strategy required. Players bet on either the Banker or the Player to win the hand, or for a Tie to occur. Both the banker and the player will win the hand about 44-46% of the time. The Banker bet is the best bet in the casino, with a house edge just over 1%.
The Player bet is good as well, with only a slightly higher house edge. Avoid the Tie bet and any side-bets that are offered, as they have much lower odds and higher house edge.
Roulette and Craps offer various types of bets that players can make. Each bet type offers different odds and house edges. Both games offer a bet that wins almost 50% of the time, with a low house edge. At the craps table, throw down on the Pass Line. Roulette players can simply play red or black, even or odd, or high or low for a near 50% win probability.
Video poker can also be a profitable game at casinos, but that will rely on the player making the optimal move in each situation. In other words, you’d need to know the game of poker very well. Another consideration is the machine’s return-to-player percentage (RTP).
Ohio slot machines with best odds
Slots, or VLTs, offer little to no learning curve for getting started, but the house edge is higher than on table games. On slot machines, the house edge is expressed in terms of the RTP. Most slot machines have return-to-player percentages in the high 80s to low 90s. A machine with a 90% RTP will return $90 per $100 played on the machine over the long run. The casino keeps the remainder, meaning that machine has a house edge of 10%.
Another factor to consider when playing slot machines is the game’s volatility. A slot game’s volatility, or variance, refers to how often the machine pays out and whether the payouts are higher or lower.
A machine with low variance will pay out wins more frequently, but the wins will usually be smaller. A machine with high volatility will pay out wins more sporadically, but the prizes will be larger. Usually the higher the wager minimum, the higher the RTP. Penny and nickel slots will have the lowest RTP.
Again, the RTP is a long-term view. Individual player experience during a single session can vary widely. You’re not guaranteed to leave with $90 if you play $100 through a slot machine with a 90% RTP. Most slot machines do not disclose their RTP or volatility. Players can do some online research, reading reviews or finding information on the game provider’s website. Casino staff can also direct you to games that suit your preferences.
Ohio casino rules and etiquette
In addition to basic game rules, there are other things to be aware of when gaming at a casino. Perhaps most importantly, all Ohio casinos are strictly 21-and-up.
As far as game play goes, observing game play at a table before joining can get you up to speed with rules and expectations. But here are some main points to remember.
- Games have minimum and sometimes maximum bets. Look for signage at the game table that indicates bet limits.
- Never hand cash directly to the dealer. To exchange cash for chips, ask the dealer and place your cash to the dealer’s left.
- Don’t place anything but your chips on the table. No cell phones. Keep drinks in the cup holders provided.
- Wait for the appropriate time to join a game in progress. Make sure there is an open space for you, and ask to join if you’re unsure.
- Slide your dealer a few chips as a tip when you hit a win. Also tip your drink servers and bartenders.
- On that note, don’t expect free adult beverages at Ohio casinos, as that practice is against the law in the Buckeye State. Casino bars stop serving at 2:30 a.m. or earlier.
Get a casino loyalty card for free play and discounts
On your first visit to any Ohio casino, stop by the cashier’s cage right away to get yourself a loyalty card. The loyalty programs usually offer immediate benefits like free bets and discounted food or services at the casino. Casino regulars can climb the tiers of the rewards program to unlock even more benefits, ranging from steeper discounts to points that can be spent like cash and free hotel stays at partner properties.
Some casino loyalty programs offer perks that reach well beyond just the casino. Hollywood’s rewards program, PENN Play, for example, offers perks at all of PENN Entertainment’s other casinos, hotels and resorts, along with a number of partner businesses. There are four Hollywood casino and racino locations in Ohio where players can earn PENN Play rewards points and tier points.
Hard Rock Casino has a similar loyalty program, offering rewards at Hard Rock’s other casinos, restaurants, hotels and shopping destinations. Players at MGM Northfield Park have access to the MGM Rewards program, and Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs offers the Caesars Rewards program.
Entertainment and dining at Ohio casinos
There’s a lot more to do than just gamble at Ohio casinos and racinos. All the casinos feature various dining options, ranging from quick casual to fine dining steak houses and international fare. Some casinos even have late-night options.
In addition, many Ohio casinos host live music, comedy shows and more from local and national acts. They also host festivals and other events. Check your local casino’s website or social media for upcoming events.
Sports bars and sportsbooks are other common venues you’ll find inside casinos. And what better place to bet on the home team than right inside a casino, where you can pick up any potential winnings right on site? In fact, all Ohio casinos and racinos have some form of sportsbook, and some Ohio sportsbook apps can earn points toward casino rewards programs.
A day or night out at one of Ohio’s casinos is sure to be filled with fun and entertainment with friends. The gaming action can be non-stop, so it’s up to you to set limits.
Don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose. Setting a budget, taking breaks and setting time limits are simple ways to avoid potential pitfalls when gambling and ensure the gaming stays fun.
Ohio has a wealth of responsible gambling resources for those who want to prepare for a night gaming or who are struggling with problem gambling. The Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966.