Ohio Is A Leading US Gambling State, Are Legal Online Casinos Next?

Written By TJ McBride on March 21, 2024
Ohio Online Casinos

Ohio has emerged as one of the most successful commercial gaming markets in the United States since legalizing sports betting. Now some are wondering: what’s next for the Buckeye State?

As the final missing pillar of commercial gaming is the state, an Ohio online casino market is the next obvious step in Ohio’s continued gaming success.

Is online casino legalization next for Ohio?

It might take a while before online casino legislation is put forward, but the industry is too profitable to ignore. Launching online casinos would be a direct way for Ohio to secure its continued growth as a gambling market.

Ohio lawmakers have fortunately already shown an interest in adding online casinos to the vast suite of commercial gaming options in the state. Multiple written testimonies have been submitted to lawmakers, and hearings have already been held to better understand the repercussions of such legalization.

Currently, the state offers quite a few forms of legal gambling. There are traditional casinos, as well as both retail and online sports betting. But there are also racinos across the Buckeye State, along with sports betting kiosks, which are unique from typical sports wagering.

Ohio ranks as sixth-largest commercial gaming market — even without online casinos

Those different options have allowed Ohio to be crowned the sixth-most successful commercial gaming market in the United States. But with a top-five ranking within reach, some want to keep pushing forward rather than bask in the success enjoyed thus far.

The main reason why such motivation exists for proponents? Thus far, every form of gaming legalized in Ohio has thrived. In the first full year of sports betting, Ohio sportsbooks combined to generate $936.6 million in revenue, making it the fourth-largest sports betting market in the country. Ad that to another almost $2.4 billion of casino revenue, and you have one of the country’s top 10 gaming markets.

The success of sports betting in Ohio is the most interesting indicator of future online casino progress. Ohioans dove into sports wagering right away, and operators nearly hit $1 billion of revenue in the first year of operation. That surprised David Forman, the Vice President of Research at the American Gaming Association, who said so to NPR News:

“I think maybe the big surprise last year was Ohio and sports betting. Last year was the first year with legal sports betting in Ohio, and Ohio immediately became the fourth-largest sports betting market in the country in just its first year of operations. So people in Ohio legally bet more than $7.6 billion on sports last year in just the first year of operations there, only behind New York, New Jersey and Illinois.”

With that willingness to accept mobile gaming, it is likely that online casinos would do as well as — if not even better than — sports betting. State Rep. Jay Edwards told WSYX that online casinos could bring in many times more revenue than sports betting:

“I can tell you in these other states that have passed sports gaming that have also passed iGaming, the iGaming revenue is 10 to 12 times what their sports gaming revenue is.”

With such a big claim, let’s take a step back to see how similar states with online casino gaming have performed.

Compared to similar states, how successful could Ohio online casinos be?

There are just six states so far that have legalized online casinos. That figure does not include Nevada, which only allows online poker.

Two of those six states with legal online casinos border Ohio: West Virginia and Michigan.

West Virginia & Michigan

West Virginia, while close in proximity, has a much lower ceiling than Ohio as a gaming market. Of the 36 states ranked by the AGA for 2023 commercial gaming revenue, West Virginia came in spot 17 compared to Ohio, which was sixth overall. Despite that, West Virginia online casino operators still took home $157.2 million in revenue.

The best comparison when projecting how Ohio’s online casino market could look is Michigan. Both states share a border and Michigan is one spot ahead of Ohio for overall commercial gaming revenue by about $260 million which is just an 8.3% difference.

New Jersey & Pennsylvania

In 2023, Michigan actually surpassed New Jersey as the online casino market with the most revenue in 2023 with $1.92 billion. New Jersey came up just $115,500 short of Michigan. Rounding out the top three for 2023 online casino revenue was Pennsylvania with $1.74 billion.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have larger gambling markets than Ohio, but the potential of Ohio exceeding $1 billion of revenue annually from iGaming is by no means a pipe dream. It might not be 10 to 12 times as much revenue as sports betting, but Edwards has a point when saying online casinos could produce more revenue than sports wagering.

Ohio online casino support growing, though unlikely for this year

For now, Ohio legislators are not expected to bring forward online casino legislation, but there is still work being done.

Edwards told PlayUSA earlier this year that the current plan is to begin a dialogue and educate lawmakers so that when a bill is brought forward, everyone is ready to begin the process.

“What we’re trying to do is start the conversation, get best practices, educate members and allow regulators some input on the process so that when we are ready, we can start to implement that.”

One of the first steps taken was receiving written testimonies from those in the iGaming field. One testimony was submitted by iDEA Growth which is a lobbying firm that specializes in online gaming and it focused on the harmonious relationship that can exist between online casinos and retail casinos. That same sentiment was echoed by Boyd Gaming.

“We believe that (online casinos are) highly complementary to our existing land-based operations, and an opportunity to engage our customers while they are not physically at our properties. We have seen benefits with customer acquisition, retention and marketing from our Stardust iGaming platform in Pennsylvania, where we also operate our Valley Forge Casino near Philadelphia.”

Online casino legislation might not be filed until 2025, but the ball is already rolling.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayMA
TJ McBride Avatar
Written by
TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a Denver-based writer and reporter who covers sports betting for PlayOhio. His work has been featured on ESPN, CBS Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and Yahoo Sports, among others.

View all posts by TJ McBride