Kentucky Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Last Updated January 31, 2021
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.
|State Code Section(s)||XIX.230; XIX.238; L.528|
|Definition of Gambling & Player||Gambling: 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/Gambling||Legalized 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 Poker||There are no live poker rooms in Kentucky.|
|Casinos||Kentucky offers no casinos of any kind for gambling in the state.|
|Sports Betting||Lawmakers are considering bills in both houses to legalize sports betting since the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018.|
|DFS||A Kentucky House bill was introduced in 2018 to legalize daily fantasy sports, but it did not pass.|
|Other Forms of Gambling||Horse racing, pari-mutuel betting, lottery, charitable gaming.|
Latest Online Poker Updates for Kentucky
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.
In late November, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took that message to heart and proposed that lawmakers consider a new solution to 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.
As requested by AG Beshear in late 2018, lawmakers introduced a couple of bills to expand gambling in Kentucky. In early February, HB.190 was put forth to establish casinos in the state and expand gambling at horse tracks, and HB.175 proposed sports wagering, fantasy sports contests (DFS), and online poker. The latter was supported by 15 sponsors from both political parties.
Lead sponsor Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig passed HB.175 through the House Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs Committee just weeks after its introduction, but it stalled there. The short legislative session ended after the last week of March, and with no further movement, the bill died. Similar legislation was pushed again in 2019, but the bill failed.
Kentucky Sports Betting Bill?
Sports betting failed to make it through the Kentucky legislature, as well. However, it appears that support for legal sports betting is growing. Followers of Kentucky state politics expect to see a new KY sports betting bill at the start of 2020. If lawmakers respect the wishes of AG Beshear, sponsors of the legislation could add online poker to the bill.
Quite a bit changed in late 2019 and early 2020, however. Beshear won his campaign against the incumbent governor, and he won it on a platform that included expanded gambling for Kentucky. Newly-elected Governor Andy Beshear took office in December. At the same time, Rep. Koenig pre-filed a bill in 2020 to legalize online poker, daily fantasy sports (DFS), and sports wagering at racetracks, sports venues, and via online and mobile devices.
That filing from Koenig turned into HB.137, a bill that passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Committee on January 15. It then went to the Rules Committee for consideration with four amendments thus far. As it stands, the bipartisan legislation has 38 sponsors, including Koenig.
In addition, Beshear submitted his state budget proposal in late January with the contents of HB.137 included in it, stating that the new gambling options would raise more than $37 million in taxes and fees in the next two years. The bill failed last year, but Beshear is hoping to reintroduce it and try again in 2021.
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.
Can you Gamble Online in Kentucky?
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
- April 20th, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic stopped progress on a great many things. Every state in America now faces massive hurdles – many financial in nature – to overcome in the remaining months of 2020…and probably beyond. To say that online poker fell completely off the radar of lawmakers in Kentucky in theRead Full
- 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 aliveRead 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 supportRead 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.
Sources & Citations For This Article on Kentucky Online Poker
- Kentucky Revised Statutes
- Gambling machines destroyed - TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
- Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG)
- Lexington, KY local news provided by the Lexington Herald-Leader | Kentucky.com
- Kentucky Gaming
- National Council on Problem Gambling (Kentucky)
- Official State Website
- Laws/Code of Kentucky
- Kentucky Legal Guide
- Kentucky Department of Charitable Gaming