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Ohio may regulate money drawings like Queen of Hearts

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: September 26, 2016 6:36 PM

Columbus -- The state office that regulates casinos would develop rules to provide oversight for Queen of Hearts and similar pools, fantasy sports contests and other money drawings, under legislation announced by one state lawmaker Sept. 26.

Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) wants regulation of such contests to fall under one office.

"The problem now: No one has oversight over that," he said during a press conference at the Statehouse. " The attorney general doesn't have jurisdiction because it's not charitable gaming. The Casino Control Commission doesn't have jurisdiction over that because it's not a casino or a sweepstakes This [legislation] gives one entity in the state supervisory power to make sure everything's done correctly."

Pools are legal in Ohio, so long as 100 percent of the proceeds are distributed as prizes. Those that take a cut of the payments made already are violating Ohio law, Coley said.

Such games have grown in popularity. Twice in the past year, Queen of Hearts games offered at northeast Ohio businesses have ended with prizes totaling more than $1 million -- a Mantua woman won $3.4 million in a drawing on Sept. 25 at a Garrettsville bowling alley.

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The game involves a board containing playing cards, face down and numbered. Patrons buy tickets for a chance to pick a card number, with hopes of revealing the Queen of Hearts and winning the pooled prize money. Funds are rolled over and new drawings are conducted week after week until the game is won.

The game has been deemed legal, though it is subject to regulation by the state's liquor control office, inspector general and tax officials. County prosecutors also could pursue legal action, if they believe laws have been broken. Otherwise, there are no state requirements for the games.

Coley headed a legislative panel that considered Queen of Hearts and other games and subsequently called for the state to consider allowing the Casino Control Commission to regulate such games.

The legislation announced Sept. 26 seeks to further clarify and regulate pool-related rules, ensuring fantasy sports, office competitions and drawings are operating legitimately.

"I want to make sure our Casino Control Commission has systems in place whereby anybody that questioned [whether a pool was being operated illegally] can verify that the rules were followed, I's were dotted, T's were crossed, nobody was being cheated and that no tax laws and gaming laws were violated," Coley said.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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