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Ohio Pending Casino Laws Similar to Pennsylvania

Ohio legislators soon will begin working to draft a compromise bill that will set the rules for the states four planned casinos. WOSU takes a look at Pennsylvania's casino laws and how they compare to what's been proposed in Ohio.

It's not law yet, but you'll likely have to be 21 years old to gamble at an Ohio casino. And you probably will not get any complimentary drinks for playing. State lawmakers have until June Third to finalize rules for Ohio's four casinos.

In Pennsylvania, you also have to be 21 years old to go to the casino, but the state does allow for free drinks. But Doug Harbach, who speaks for the state's Gaming Control Board, said most casinos do not offer them.

"I think it's just a marketing, a decision on their part. But I think if you start down the road offering free drinks when you have the slot machines, then you've started down that road and you have to do it continually," Harbach said.

Ohio casino operators reportedly requested a 24-hour liquor licensing exception. But if state legislators have their way, casinos will have to follow the same rules as everyone else. They'll likely only be allowed to sell alcohol for a 21-hour period. The law is similar in Pennsylvania. "They are not allowed to serve alcohol between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.," he said.

Ohio's casino amendment mirrors Pennsylvania in that it requires each casino operator pay a $50 million dollar fee up front. And there's an equal opportunity provision in the House bill that calls for casino operators set goals for diversity and hiring. Pennsylvania has a similar requirement.

The Ohio House also has proposed a "buy Ohio" provision. Casino operators would have to identify a plan to use Ohio services and products. Harbach said Pennsylvania does not have this kind of law, but,"We do ask of the casinos, especially in their renewal licensing, how well they're doing in both the area of employment of Pennsylvania residents, and also in making sure goods and services are primarily being bought with Pennsylvania business."

Like Ohio, Pennsylvania casinos are regulated by a seven-member gaming commission. But in Pennsylvania four of the members are appointed by the legislature. In Ohio, the governor appoints all seven, subject to state senate approval.