When it comes to gambling, Kentucky is relatively limited in what it offers compared to other US States. There are no traditional casinos, whether it be tribal or commercial.
But Kentucky does have horse racing! And it is proudly famous for it. You may have heard of the Kentucky Derby, an annual horse race with a prize pool the exceeds $3 million. This event is so prestigious, that horses from around the world compete in it. And just think, Kentucky Derby is only just one of many horse races being held throughout the State. Such is the popularity of horse racing.
Within the horse racing venues, you will also find the opportunity to gamble on what first appears to be slot machines. These machines, however, aren’t slot machines per se. Rather they are bingo machines that turnover each round extremely quickly. They therefore seem like slot machines because of the speed at which they turnover. If you are familiar with the Federal law, Indian Gambling Regulatory Act (IGRA), you will notice that these machines behave just like the Class II bingo machines. As a player, no difference can be clearly seen between a Class II slot machine and your stock standard typical casino slot machine.
Other forms of gambling in the state include: bingo, pull tabs and raffles. Casino table games, dog racing and poker are without question deemed illegal. Whilst online casinos and daily fantasy sports remain questionable due to the state’s outdated laws and ambiguity.
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Kentucky Online Gambling
Online gambling in Kentucky is technically unaddressed by the state laws. They may be construed implicitly as illegal, but it’s not clear cut. As with many other US states, the state laws regarding online gambling are complex, vague and outdated. Many aspects of the gambling laws are not applicable to online gambling, and therefore offshore online casino providers can accept US Players.
On the other hand, there are no onshore online casino providers, until there is a proper licensing and regulatory framework established by the state.
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) remains unregulated and therefore is also in legal limbo. Having said that the big brands of FanDuel and DraftKing willingly accept Players from Kentucky. And to this day, no Player has ever been charged for possible breach of the law. If the Kentucky law enforcement agents did find cause to prosecute their first point of call would be the operators of FanDuel and DraftKing, rather than the Players.
Online horse betting is legal and compliments the popularity of horse racing in the state, which shows there is some common sense in the world.
Other forms of online gambling accepted are the lottery, keno and Powerball.
Kentucky ranks as the 29th in the US for playing at offshore online casinos. Wagering an estimated $8.5 million per year, it ranks just above Oklahoma and behind Tennessee. The state with the largest wagering for offshore online casino is California at $180 million.
Overview of Kentucky Casinos
Churchill Downs Racetrack
700 Central Ave, Louisville, Kentucky
The most famous of all racetracks in Kentucky. Churchill Downs holds races all year round, with its most famous being the Kentucky Derby. Spanning over two weeks, competitors from around the world participate to claim the huge prize pool on offer. Horse racing bets can be placed in kiosks located around the venue. In addition slot like bingo machines are interspersed throughout the venue.
The Red Mile Kentucky Harness & Historic Racing
1200 Red Mile Road, Lexington, Kentucky
The Red Mile is located at 1200 Red Mile Road in Lexington, Kentucky. It is the second oldest harness track in the world and the oldest track in Lexington. For those unfamiliar with harness racing, it’s a type of horse racing where the horses pull two wheeled sulkies (like a chariot) that carries the rider.
In addition to the horse racing, there are over 900 of the slot machines.
Kentucky Downs Casino
5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, Kentucky
Even though horse racing is the main attraction Kentucky Downs also offers 631 gaming slots.
Derby City Gaming
4520 Poplar Level Road, Louisville, Kentucky
The Derby City Gaming is a $65 million state-of-the-art gambling facility that offers gaming similar to a traditional casino. It offers over 900 terminals that appear to be slot machines but in fact operate more like bingo. Their machines very much follow the Class II application of the law that apply to native American slot machines. With technology Derby City Gaming has been able to produce machines that on the surface look like slots, but are high powered parimutuel wagering machines that are based on previously run horse races.
Kentucky Gambling Turnover in 2019
Horse Race Betting
By far the most popular form of betting in Kentucky is the horses. Nearly reaching $1.5 billion in turnover, it shows that horse racing is more than alive and well in this state.
State Lottery Handle
The State Lottery comes in at second, with a handle of nearly $1.2 billion. Horse race and state lottery are the two clear leaders of gambling in Kentucky with the rest falling behind.
Online Casinos and Sports Betting
Not widely known that it is permitted to gamble at offshore online casinos and sports betting, the handle is very low in comparison to the horses and state lottery. Coming in a $9.5m and $8m for the year respectively, these are big numbers, but shows that there are some Kentucky players enjoying playing offshore.
Gambling Laws and Legislation
Despite being the home of the Kentucky Derby, in this conservative state gambling of all forms is all but prohibited, including casinos and gaming establishments and by the same nature, social gaming of all sorts. See KRS § 528.010 et seq. Permitted activities include charitable gambling, state lottery, and, of course, limited forms of horse racing.
Sports Betting: Except for fantasy leagues, sports betting remains illegal in Kentucky though there are no direct laws prohibiting online sports books and offshore platforms do accept Kentucky residents. It is unlikely this will soon change though in recent years Kentucky lawmakers proposed failed bills to legalize sports betting (HB 175, SB 23). Several offshore fantasy betting sites accept Kentucky residents, including FanDuel and DraftKings.
Race Betting: Like in many states, horse betting is legal in Kentucky at its racing tracks as well as other venues that allow pari-mutuel betting. The online race betting site, TwinSpires, is operated by the state’s most venerable track – Churchill Downs.
Online Gambling: Online lottery play is permitted and provided by the Kentucky Lottery site. While no laws expressly prohibit online gambling and gaming in Kentucky, the domestic facilitation of gambling is prohibited. This prohibition against domestic operations arguably does not apply to offshore platforms. Thus, due to the unregulated nature of online gambling in the state, individuals wishing to participate in online gambling, including poker and other such games, and who are at least eighteen years old can expect to safely place bets online through licensed and regulated offshore platforms though no recourse will be available should winnings not be paid.
Online Gaming: Skill games are permitted, and the U.S.-based WorldWinner accepts bets on games of skill (such as Scrabble and Bejeweled) from Kentucky residents. Players who wish to participate in online poker and similar games may do so only through unlicensed offshore platforms, the majority of whom will not operate in the state given its history of aggressive law enforcement and seizing of domains.
The information in this multi-state research is made available by a licensed, U.S. attorney, and is for informational purposes only. We make no representations that the information is complete or correct in its entirety. It should not be construed as providing specific legal advice, and you acknowledge that no attorney/client relationship exists between us. This brief should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed gambling and entertainment lawyer in your state.