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Kentucky Casinos & Gambling

Kentucky Regulated Gambling:

Pari-Mutuel Betting 1792

Lotteries 1989

Charity Gaming 1992

Gambling Age in Kentucky:

Lotteries/Charity Gaming/Pari-Mutuel Betting 18+

Kentucky Casinos:

Land-based Casinos 0

Kentucky

Kentucky Gambling Overview

Kentucky has seen a long history of gambling – including illegal. Although casino gambling was banned around the time of the great depression, gamblers could readily find ‘gambling dens.’ This was driven by the close vicinity of Northern Kentucky (mainly Newport) to Ohio, where organized crime had wrapped its tentacles.

During this time, some well-known establishments, including the Yorkshire Club, the Lookout House, and the Flamingo, sprung up.

Racetracks like Woodlawn and Oakland date back to 1875. Still, it wasn’t until the 1920s that pari-mutuel wagering really found its legs.

It’s fair to say that Kentucky is among the least friendly gambling states in America. It permits pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing & harness racing, charity gaming, and a state lottery only.

This means no tribal casinos or commercial casinos. The Constitution prohibits slot machines, sports betting, fantasy sports, and online gambling.

In January 2021, House Bill 241 proposed to allow pro and college sports betting (at Kentucky tracks and online), fantasy sports, and online poker. It was sponsored by Republican representative Adam Koenig and is expected to receive a committee vote later in 2021.

Lotteries

The first ticket was sold in 1989 by the Kentucky Lottery. This entity sells in-house draw games like Pick 3, Pick 4, Cash Ball 225, and 5 Card Cash. There are also scratch-offs and instant play games. People from Kentucky can also participate in multi-jurisdictional games like Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, and Powerball. Tickets can be bought at hundreds of participating retailers like restaurants, convenience stores, and bars.

Charitable Gambling

Charitable gambling is regulated by The Department of Charitable Gaming (DCG). It covers raffles, bingo, and alternative games of chance for charity purposes. An organization must have been in continuous existence for at least one year to qualify. An ‘exempt license’ is possible when gross revenue does not exceed $25,000.

A charitable gambling license is not required under the following conditions:

  • Raffles are not held more than 3 times per annum.
  • Ticket sales are no more than $150.
  • All proceeds are donated to a non-profit organization.

A charity with receipts expecting to exceed $25,000 per annum is required to obtain a regular license. This is also true for charity ‘casino nights’ or the sale of pull tabs.

Pari-Mutuel Racing

Kentucky has a colorful history when it comes to horse racing. The Kentucky Derby has the honor of being the longest-running sporting event in the US (1875). Racing history in Kentucky dates back to 1783.

Kentucky allows on-track and off-track pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, harness racing, and interstate racing. Pari-mutuels and horse racing are regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

At present, 7 racetracks offer live and simulcast racing. This includes the famous Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby. Advanced deposit wagering is available at operators like TwinSpires, TVG, and XpressBet. Kentucky participants can also wager on historical horse racing events at 6 of the 7 live tracks.

Kentucky Gambling History

In 1989, a constitutional amendment was approved that would allow a state lottery. Three years later (1992), Kentucky introduced Legislation (HB5), establishing a regulatory body for charitable gaming.

Fast forward to February 2008, ‘The Kentucky Casino Amendment’ to the Constitution that would have allowed 12 casinos in the state failed to pass. Gov. Beshear had predicted that it would generate $828.7 million in license fees alone. Later in September of that same year (2008), 141 illegal Internet gambling sites in Kentucky were transferred to the state.

In 2010 video slot machines (historical)  at Kentucky tracks were authorized by The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (HRC). In September 2020, The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that horse racing slot-like machines based on historical events betting was illegal. This was despite the approval of over 3,000 devices across Kentucky. In January 2021, the House of Representatives of Kentucky passed Senate Bill 120 legalizing historical horse racing machines. Gov. Andy Beshear signed it into law.

House Bill 137 allowing sports betting at racetracks was introduced by Rep. Adam Koenig in January 2020. It failed to garner consideration on the House Floor.

In December 2020, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld a Franklin Circuit Court’s 2015 ruling that PokerStars pay damages of $1.3 billion. This included $870 million in penalties for resident losses between 2006 and 2011. Additionally, PokerStars was ordered to pay $290 million in treble damages. PokerStars was found to have conducted illegal gambling activities in the state.

Kentucky Gambling FAQ

What types of gambling are legal in Kentucky?

Kentucky is a conservative gambling state, and most forms of gambling are prohibited. The exceptions include a state lottery, charity games, and pari-mutuel wagering.

Does Kentucky have a state lottery?

The Kentucky Lottery operates in the state selling in-house draws, scratch tickets, and instant play. It also offers multistate lottery tickets, including Mega Millions and Powerball.

Is fantasy sports betting legal in Kentucky?

At present, fantasy sports are illegal in Kentucky. However, this will change if House Bill 241 passes later in 2021.

Is sports betting legal in Kentucky?

House Bill 241 to legalize sports betting is to be put to the vote in 2021. However, it is not currently legal to participate in sports betting in Kentucky.

Can I find commercial casinos or tribal casinos in Kentucky?

There are no land-based casinos in Kentucky, and there is presently no legislation on the table to change this.

Can I play poker online in Kentucky?

While online poker in Kentucky is illegal, House Bill 241 proposing to legalize it will be put to the vote later in 2021.

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