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Kentucky Online Gambling & Poker Laws

Is Online Poker Legal in Kentucky?
Kentucky Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Last Updated December 31, 2018

Gambling is practically a state tradition in Kentucky, and poker has also played a big role in the history of the Bourbon State.  Poker used to be the stuff of riverboats and underground clubs, but today’s Kentucky poker scene is more about live casinos and online poker.  Now that the Internet is practically everywhere in the state, poker can be – and is – everywhere too.

Thanks to the aggressive position taken by some in the government on the issue of gambling online in Kentucky, not all online poker rooms take players from the state of Kentucky.  That isn’t the same as saying no poker rooms will accept Kentucky sign ups.  There are still a multitude of online poker sites where Kentuckians can play for real money.

This leads to plenty of questions about how online poker works, whether you can play poker online from Kentucky and the general climate for gambling in the state – questions answered in our Online Poker Player’s Guide to Kentucky.

Kentucky Poker & Gambling Laws Summarized

Type/CodeSummary
State Code Section(s)XIX.230; XIX.238; L.528
Definition of Gambling & PlayerGambling: Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of
a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that
someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. A contest or game in which eligibility to participate is determined by chance and the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered to be
gambling.Player: A person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a
contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct, or operation of the particular gambling activity.
Online Poker/GamblingLegalized online poker or casino games is unlikely to be available in Kentucky due to past actions by Governor Steve Beshear. In 2008, he obtained court permission to seize more than 140 gambling-related domains, including PokerStars and Bodog, due to their alleged infringement upon the state’s gambling revenue from horse racing/betting. Most cases have since been settled, but the racing industry is dominant in Kentucky and unlikely to agree to allow legislators to vote on any type of legalized online gaming.
Live PokerThere are no live poker rooms in Kentucky.
CasinosKentucky offers no casinos of any kind for gambling in the state.
Sports BettingLawmakers are considering bills in both houses to legalize sports betting since the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018.
DFSA Kentucky House bill was introduced in 2018 to legalize daily fantasy sports, but it did not pass.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse racing, pari-mutuel betting, lottery, charitable gaming.

Latest Updates through 2019

Most analysts have considered Kentucky as one of the states least likely to consider online poker regulation in the past, but that all changed with developments in late 2018.

As Kentucky began to explore the possibility of legalizing sports betting in the state, the Poker Alliance took the opportunity to attend a hearingabout it and relay the message that online gambling would be a solid pairing with sports betting to add revenue to the state’s coffers.

In late November, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took that message to heart and proposed that lawmakers consider a new solutionto a longstanding problem with the funding of the state’s pension systems. He asked lawmakers to consider a new revenue stream that doesn’t raise taxes for Kentuckians. “The answer is simple,” he stated in his letter to lawmakers, “expanded gaming including casino, fantasy sports, and sports gaming, as well as preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker.” All eyes will be on the legislature in early 2019 to see if any online gambling proposals are put forward for consideration.

Weeks later, the Kentucky Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in a case between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and PokerStars that had been ongoing since 2008. Kentucky’s then-Governor Steve Beshear (Andy Beshear’s father) obtained legal permission to seize 141 online gambling domains at that time, including PokerStars, and the case continued as Kentucky demanded money from PokerStars for taking rake from losing players located in Kentucky from 2008 to 2011 when PokerStars left the US market. PokerStars appealed the case up to the Court of Appeals, and in December 2018, that court ruled in favor of PokerStars and reversed the original $870 million judgement of the Franklin Circuit Court. The state may appeal the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2019, but as it stands, PokerStars can claim victory in the case.

Online Poker in Kentucky

Our top online poker rooms for KY are a result of a good deal of research that focuses on a few core things: Whether the room is licensed, how generous the room is with promotions and bonuses, how easy the games are and how good the software is.  After surveying dozens of rooms, we used those criteria to narrow the list down to these top online poker sites for players from Kentucky:

Is Online Poker Legal in Kentucky?

What does the law say about playing online poker in Kentucky?  The first step to answering that question: review the Kentucky statutes here.  The next step is to consult a lawyer if you still have questions.  For those who just want to gain a basic understanding of Kentucky gambling law, here are some parts of the code that all poker players should be familiar with.

What does Kentucky law consider to be gambling?  Gambling is defined in Section 528.010 as

“staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”

There’s a phrase in Kentucky gambling law that could easily confuse at first glance – “profiting from gambling activity” (Section 528.010)  You might think this could also apply to simply winning at a poker game, but it’s actually referring specifically to profiting from the operation of an illegal gambling activity (not just participation).

Kentucky is one of the few states that does not have an obvious criminal penalty for those who engage in illegal gambling exclusively as players.

With that said, Kentucky does have a number of steep penalties for those who “advance gambling activity,” a broad category of actions that encompasses all “conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity” (Section 528.010).

While our cursory reading regarding poker law in Kentucky suggests that players do not face any criminal liability for playing real-money poker online, this guide should not be taken as a substitute for legal advice.

Kentucky Gambling Facts

By some accounts, Kentucky was home to Las Vegas before Vegas even existed.  While a town of a different name – Newport – was the central attraction for gamblers, historians seem to agree that Kentucky was essentially the turn of the century equivalent to Las Vegas, complete with underworld crime figures, illicit profits and plenty of suspect activity.  Colorful gangsters and their gambling hangouts are now the stuff of legend and nostalgia in Kentucky, but betting and wagering continues to play a vital role in the culture and economy of the state.

Regulated Gambling Options in Kentucky

Within the state borders of Kentucky, you’re limited to the lottery, charitable gambling and – of course – pari-mutuel betting on horse races.  After all, what fun would the Kentucky Derby be if everyone just watched the horses run?  There are no commercial casinos in the state, but several site right on various borders in neighboring states such as Indiana and Ohio.  While there has been some talk of bringing full-fledged commercial casinos (along with poker rooms) to Kentucky, repeated attempts to do so by the state legislature have failed, suggesting that the current lineup of regulated gambling options may well persist for years to come.

Does Kentucky Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

Residents of Kentucky are able to legally place online bets on horse races through approved operators.  Otherwise, Kentucky has yet to take any legislative action that would allow it to issue online poker licenses or regulate online poker (or any other type of online gambling) within the state.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Kentucky in the News
  • March 30th, 2019

    It was an unexpected surprise to see Kentucky on the list of states considering online poker in 2019. Few could imagine that a state in the middle of America would be the fifth or sixth state to legalize online poker, but imagine no more. The bill is no longer alive

    Read Full
  • February 21st, 2019

    The Commonwealth of Kentucky took action this week on its sports betting legislation, which also bodes well for online poker and fantasy sports, both of which are included in the bill. As the bill has been alive for little more than two weeks, it has already garnered substantial bipartisan support

    Read Full
  • December 3rd, 2018

    Will online poker play a part in resolving the ever-deepening pension crisis in the Commonwealth of Kentucky? It may be an unlikely solution, but it is a part of the latest proposal from the state’s attorney general, who strongly urged lawmakers to consider it. The sudden push to consider the

    Read Full

Kentucky Gambling Resources

Northern Kentucky Gambling Museum.  Take a virtual trip on YouTube through this interesting and eclectic institution that houses artifacts from the state’s past as a gambling hub.
Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling.  Scholarly material concerning the gambling industry in Kentucky, along with a full suite of literature and tools aimed at reducing problem gambling in the state.
Kentucky.com.  Best source for local news and developments related to gambling and similar topics.  Follow legislation and other issues shaping the future of the gambling industry in Kentucky.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has been followed the US market closely for the last 7 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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