State Panel Recommends Queen of Hearts Oversight

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio General Assembly committee recommends greater oversight of the popular Queen of Hearts game after the jackpot hit $1.8 million at Barry Dyngles Pub in Austintown earlier this year.

In its annual report, the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering, also called for “further consideration” of whether to maintain the tax-free status of promotional spend by establishments such as Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown.

Ohio has four agencies overseeing some aspect of the gaming industry, more than most states, but Queen of Hearts “has slipped through the cracks of our patchwork regulatory regime,” the report stated.

This summer, interest in the Queen of Hearts game at Barry Dyngles grew as the jackpot climbed into six and then seven digits, with the $1,804,709 jackpot claimed Oct. 3 by Molly Blair of Warren. A section of South Raccoon Road around the restaurant-bar was temporarily closed during the weekly drawings to accommodate the crowds and additional police protection, paid for by the pub, was added.

According to the report, the committee consulted the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Gaming Commission, the Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio Lottery Commission.

“Assuming all relevant tax laws were followed and the house did not take a cut, the regulators had no reason to believe that any gaming laws had been violated,” the committee said in its report. The three agencies also concluded that the game did not fall under their jurisdiction.

As the game continues to grow, “proper oversight is advisable, lest criminal activity occur, either knowingly or unwittingly,” the report stated. Ohio should consider consolidating its myriad agencies into a “more unified system of oversight” and in the interim the General Assembly should consider assigning a regulatory agency such as the Casino Control Commission oversight of games such as Queen of Hearts.

Ohio is among nine states that do not tax promotional spend by gaming operators, according to a news release from state Sen. Bill Coley, who co-chaired the committee. “Ohio casinos have enjoyed over $165 million in fee promotional spend at the expense of schools and local government,” Coley, R-4, said. “We have concerns about whether the state can continue to justify this preferential treatment. While the committee does not call for immediate legislation, further consideration on this very generous deduction is certainly warranted.”

In addition, the report calls for clarification on fantasy sports, such as whether this type of play should be permitted and whether it should be considered gambling or skill games.

Pictured: Doug Duganne, general manager of Barry Dyngles, with the new Queen of Hearts board for the game that started Oct. 28.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.