Ohio State Senate approves casino employee amendment

Workers at Ohio’s four casinos may soon be able to play slots and place wagers at local casinos where they are not employed after Wednesday saw the Ohio State Senate approve an amendment to the Midwestern state’s gambling laws.

According to a report from The Plain Dealer newspaper, Ohio’s 33-member upper legislative body unanimously consented to amend the state’s Casino Control Law, which was ratified in September of 2012, with the legislation now set to head to the desk of Republican Governor John Kasich for his signature.

As written, the amendment, which is known as House Bill 32, would reportedly permit any casino operator or employee in Ohio to “participate in casino gaming at a casino facility so long as the operator or employee does not have an interest in the facility, 7BALL is not employed at the facility and does not have an interest or employment at an affiliated facility in Ohio.”

The change, which would go into effect 90 days after Kasich signs, was reportedly introduced into the Ohio House of Representatives by Bill Seitz before being passed by that body in February by a vote of 94 to three. The newspaper explained that the Cincinnati Republican had previously made two unsuccessful attempts to get the same measure ratified when he was in the Ohio State Senate after learning that no casino operator or employee had ever been charged with violating the existing prohibition.

Ohio is home to the Class III Jack Cleveland Casino and Jack Cincinnati Casino from Detroit-based Jack Entertainment while Penn National Gaming Incorporated operates the state’s Hollywood Casino Toledo and Hollywood Casino Columbus. The newspaper reported that breaking the employee prohibition against casino gambling is currently considered a first-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Plain Dealer also reported that almost all gaming jurisdictions forbid employees from gambling at their own casino in order to mitigate the risks that they would use any inside knowledge to cheat although Ohio casino employees have long been able to gamble at the state’s many racinos while racino workers are permitted to place wagers at casinos and other racinos.

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“The changes made by House Bill 32 bring Ohio into alignment with neighboring jurisdictions where such an approach has proven fair and still maintains the integrity of casino gaming,” read a statement from Matthew Schuler, Executive Director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission. “Out of an abundance of caution, the prohibition was applied to include all casino facilities. After five years of regulating and enforcing the law at Ohio’s casinos, we have not had a case of employees from different casinos working in collusion to cheat. In fact, given the systems of surveillance, segregated duties and internal controls unique to each casino operator, it would be difficult to even attempt.”