Gaming Laws in Kentucky
Horse racing is a major part of the tourism and the culture in the state of Kentucky, headlined by the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. But while the state is firmly in favor of horse racing, it has taken a hard stance against forms of gambling both online and offline.
Stand Against Online Gambling
On September 18, 2008, a district judge in Kentucky ordered 141 gambling sites transfer their domain names to the state of Kentucky as these websites were considered by Kentucky to be “gambling devices”. The state defines a gambling device as “any mechanical or other device ... designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling”.
Kentucky became the first state in the United States to bring a lawsuit against offshore gambling sites. In 2014, six years after the case began, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that domain names were not gambling devices, forcing the case to be dropped as the state lacked the jurisdiction to conduct a forfeiture of the domain names.
The state would have likely been unsuccessful in its efforts anyhow as federal trade laws may have prohibited this lawsuit from moving forward. But with these actions, Kentucky made its stance against online gambling clear.
Sports Betting in Kentucky
Bookmaking is strongly prohibited in Kentucky as it is across the country. Defined in Kentucky as someone that “utilizes three or more persons in a bookmaking activity and receives or accepts in any one day bets totaling more than $500”, promoting gambling through bookmaking is a Class D felony.
Fortunately for sports bettors in Kentucky, there aren't actually any laws in place to punish players for making these bets; only bookmakers for accepting them.
With no sports betting options available online or offline through the state of Kentucky, bettors that want to bet on sports in Kentucky must do so through offshore sportsbooks. While Kentucky's last attempt at suing offshore sportsbooks for accepting Kentucky residents failed and isn't likely to be repeated again anytime soon, some sites are still wary about doing business in the Bluegrass State. Bettors should check with the site they are considering using to make sure they accept residents of Kentucky.
Even when the state went after the offshore books, it only took action against the websites, not the bettors. No resident of Kentucky has ever been charged with a crime for betting on sports online, and there are no specific laws against it.
Poker and Casino in Kentucky
Kentucky is one of the only remaining states in the United States to have absolutely no casinos anywhere in the state. Casinos are not authorized in the state of Kentucky in the form of privately owned casinos or tribal casinos. While many states have approved casino games at their race tracks to increase revenue, Kentucky's race tracks are dedicated strictly to betting on horse racing.
There are also no poker rooms in the state of Kentucky. Poker can be played under specific rules if it is a charitable event, but standard legal poker games can not be found at any brick and mortar locations in the state.
Poker players in Kentucky looking for more than just local house games are left only with the option to play online through an offshore sportsbook. While some sportsbooks were targeted in Kentucky's domain name seizing, many of the 141 sites named were casino and poker related. As a result, some poker rooms may be hesitant to accept business from Kentucky residents, so residents should be prepared to do some research.
There are no specific laws in place prohibiting residents of Kentucky from playing poker or gambling online.
Other Gaming Options in Kentucky
Thoroughbred racing is alive and well in the state of Kentucky. Churchill Downs in Louisville is the state's most famous track as the home of the Kentucky Derby, but live racing and simulcast betting is also available at Keeneland in Lexington, Turfway Park in Florence and Ellis Park in Henderson. Horse racing in Kentucky attracts both residents and tourists alike.
The Kentucky Lottery began in 1989 with scratch-off tickets and was eventually expanded to include draws both for in-state only games and national games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Cash Ball is drawn daily with a 4+1 matrix and is one of the state's most popular games.