Queen of Hearts card game legal in Ohio — for now

The Queen of Hearts card game popular at some bars is legal under certain circumstances, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a legal opinion.

Still, DeWine encouraged state legislators to review the games “in light of the lack of protection for consumers.”

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley asked DeWine to determine the legality of the Grayton Road Tavern’s Queen of Hearts. The tavern’s game reportedly had a prize pool of more than $5 million, according to the attorney general.

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“The request asked my office to look at whether the game complied with the law if the game retained a portion of the prize pool from one ‘Queen of Hearts’ board to be paid to the winner of the next board, as was reportedly the case at Grayton Road Tavern,” DeWine said.

In the game, the tavern places all cards from a standard deck of playing cards face-down on a board and assigns each card a number from one to fifty-two, according to the attorney general. Numbers are assigned on the backs of the card, and participants buy tickets and try to guess the location of the queen of hearts.

The tavern then draws a ticket each week until the ticket correctly guessing the queen of hearts is selected. The tavern continues to sell tickets until the winning ticket is drawn. The tavern pays out 90 percent of the proceeds from the ticket sales, and keeps the remaining 10 percent to fund the next game, DeWine said.

“Based upon the information provided by the prosecutor, games such as this would not violate the law if the game had a meticulous and defined set of rules, all money collected from participants was distributed to winners by the game’s final round, and the proprietor did not take a cut of the prize pool,” DeWine said.

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The game became popular at a Darke County bar in 2017 when the final winner received more than $450,000. The game at the Whistle Stop in Ansonia started in August and had no winner during drawings until Nov. 30, 2017.

DeWine said the game is not regulated by any state office. He said law enforcement have the authority to investigate the games or claims made by tavern owners.

“I certainly understand concerns about games such as this with large prize pools but without any oversight to protect consumers,” DeWine said.

The attorney general’s office provides written legal opinions when requested by public officials.

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