Regulatory Guidance
August 5, 2021

Online Charitable Gaming and Raffles in Ohio

Disclaimer: This article offers general information and is not intended as legal or professional advice. You should consult with legal counsel regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current as of August 2, 2021, its accuracy is not guaranteed, and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subject discussed.

Despite the economic dip across countries, the ongoing pandemic has opened doors to many possibilities. While many small- and large-scale businesses were affected as a result of COVID-19 closures, some organizations worked their way through the situation and came up with creative ways to bounce back stronger. Just like any other business sector, charities and nonprofits have found their way out of this adversity by diverting their focus to online charitable gaming and raffles. 

Online charity gaming involves playing games like bingo and virtual lotteries to assist with fundraising. Given the ease of implementation and its widespread reach, nonprofits and charities are gradually recognizing the advantages of online charitable gaming.

Charitable gaming and raffles regulatory guidance for Ohio

How does the state of Ohio define charitable gaming?

The state of Ohio classifies charitable gaming into four categories:

1. Charitable Bingo:
A licensed activity that involves detailed requirements. Organizations interested in conducting bingo in Ohio should visit the Charitable Bingo page to learn more about those requirements.

2. Raffles:
Only certain qualifying organizations such as a charitable organization, a public school, a chartered non-public school, a community school, or a veteran's organization, fraternal organization, or sporting organization that is also tax-exempt may conduct raffles in Ohio. These eligible organizations do not need a license to conduct a raffle. However, the raffles must be conducted in compliance with Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 2915 and comply with certain record keeping requirements.

3. Games of chance:
Includes games such as poker, craps, roulette, or others (except Bingo) in which a player gives anything of value in the hope of gain, the outcome of which is determined largely by chance. Games of chance do not require a license from the Ohio Attorney General. However, anyone interested in conducting games of chance is strongly encouraged to review the Ohio Attorney General’s Policy 201 for more information on games of chance.

4. Other types of gaming:
These include events such as a poker tournament, Monte Carlo night, or a night at the races. Applicants should consult Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 2915, their private legal counsel and local law enforcement to determine if their proposed activity is allowed by law.

Who can conduct charitable raffle in Ohio?

Any registered and tax-exempt nonprofit or charity in Ohio can conduct an online raffle; no license is required. Organizations such as veteran’s associations, chartered non-public school, community school, and charitable societies may qualify.

Licensing requirements for charitable bingo in Ohio

In order to conduct bingo in Ohio, a group must be considered a charitable organization as defined by ORC 2915.08. In addition, an organization must:

  • Provide a copy of its IRS Determination Letter to verify its tax-exempt status
  • Be registered with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office
  • Provide proof of continuous existence in Ohio for the two years preceding the bingo application
  • Be registered and current with their annual filings with the Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Provide a letter of good standing from your state headquarters, if a veteran's organization

Types of charitable bingo licenses in Ohio

Except for raffles or games of chances, each charitable game has its own license so that it can be managed and conducted independently. Obtaining a permit from the state’s gaming authority is essential to get legally approved and proceed with the process of fundraising. The license for charitable gaming is granted for a fixed duration. 

In Ohio there are three types of bingo licenses:

  • Type I: Traditional bingo (numbered and lettered balls in a hopper corresponding to bingo sheets)
  • Type II: Instant bingo tickets sold in conjunction with a traditional bingo session
  • Type III: Instant bingo tickets sold apart from a traditional bingo session  

How to apply for a charitable bingo license in Ohio?

To host charitable games like Bingo or poker tournaments, it is essential for charitable organizations to apply for a gaming license. Before applying for a license, nonprofits and charities should submit the list of the members involved in the organization, the gaming location, ticket prices, a fixed and recurring gaming schedule, and more. To get the license, charities should fill an application form at the office of the state attorney. The application process begins only if it is filled completely with all the required details. Note that if the organization does not hold a tax-exempt status, the chances of the application getting rejected are high.    

How much does a charitable bingo license cost in Ohio?

The license fee for Type I initial and renewal licenses is based on the number of weeks bingo will be played: $50 for 1 to 4 weeks of play, $150 for 5 to 25 weeks, and $200 for 26 to 52 weeks.

Type II and III initial license fees are based on the number of days and/or weeks of play: $50 for 1 to 5 days of play, $200 for 6 days to 4 weeks, $450 for 5 to 25 weeks, and $500 for 26 to 52 weeks.

Type II and III renewal license fees are calculated by adding a base fee and an amount based on the gross profit from the previous year. For more information about the fee calculation for Type II and III renewal licenses, see ORC 2915.08(A)(1), OAC 109:1-2-02, and OAC 109:1-2-03.

License renewals:

License holders must update their renewal status and the annual reports to continue till the end of the expiration date of the license. The renewal fees depend on the license model opted by the charities. Single-use permits can be renewed if the charity is conducting gaming sessions regularly.  

What is the validity of a charitable gaming license in Ohio?

Gaming permits for charities in Ohio come with different time durations and vary by the types of licenses available.  

  • There are single-use permits that can be implemented on a per-game basis.
  • Other license models function on the number of days or weeks it is used for the game sessions. Once the validity expires, the charities can re-apply multiple times in a year.
  • Some licenses come with a one-year validity, enabling the nonprofit to conduct an online game session every week. Such a license is valid until the proprietor cancels or revokes it within or after the expiry date.

How long does it take to obtain a charitable gaming license in Ohio?

It usually takes about a month or two for the authorities to review the license application. The approval process begins once all the supporting documents are readily available along with the application form. Organizations are not allowed to kickstart their virtual gamble till their license is approved by the secretary of state. 

Monitoring of charitable gaming events in Ohio

The attorney general’s office monitors and regulates charitable gaming and related fundraising activities in Ohio. Regular inspections and annual audits are conducted to check if the charities are working according to the law.

Related: Regulatory Guidance for U.S. States and Canadian Provinces and Territories

Charitable gaming resources for Ohio  

Charitable Law Section
30 E. Broad St., 25th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 800-282-0515
Fax: 614-466-9788
Email: CharitableLaw@OhioAGO.gov

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