Kentucky Real Money Online Gambling

Kentucky is well known for its horse races, and for a long time, that’s all you could gamble legally on there. There has never been any lack of gambling in this state, whether legal or not, and in spite of Kentucky getting a slow start to their expanding gambling beyond pari-mutuel betting, they are really starting to open up things now.

When you look at the fact that gambling on anything has always been legal in this state, and they even looked the other way for decades and allowed gambling clubs to operate in the open, this is not a state that could really be seen as opposed to gambling, especially compared to some of their more conservative southern neighbors who clearly oppose it.

Kentucky just needed to raise their vision beyond protecting their horse race operations to start seeing the light more, not have to wrestle with beliefs of right or wrong that restrain so many other states. Things may start getting a lot more exciting in Kentucky soon, as we will explain.

History of Gambling in Kentucky

Kentucky Online Casinos and SlotsGambling started out being against the law in Kentucky, although that did not mean that there was not quite a bit of gambling going on anyway. Having a law and being willing to enforce it are not the same thing at all, and Kentucky’s hands-off approach to enforcing these laws proves it.

The gambling clubs of these days operated well in the open, and had such distinguished sounding names as the Beverly Hills Club, the Yorkshire Club, and the Primrose Club. There were many such clubs in Kentucky over their history, and continued on well into the 20th century.

Horse racing in Kentucky goes all the way back to the 19th century, and while in the earlier days of this, Kentucky racetracks tried to distance themselves from gambling, when pari-mutuel betting started to catch on, Churchill Downs stepped up to the plate and started offering it. Kentucky has had pari-mutuel racing ever since.

Social gambling and gambling in general have always been legal in Kentucky, but eventually the old clubs were shut down as Kentucky sought to benefit their horse racing industry by granting them a monopoly and enforcing existing laws against their competitors.

Kentucky was fairly late to the game where offering a state lottery is concerned, waiting until 1989, but they more than made up for this since with their not only offering lottery games at physical locations but expanding this into not only selling lottery games online but offering a number of instant games that do a great job of simulating online casino gambling. These are just slot type games that are designed to look like lottery games.

When Governor Beshear famously went after offshore poker domain names, this was not because he was opposed to gambling, as this tactic was a part of a broader effort to expand gambling in the state, and it did result in some expansion, where the state has a number of racinos now. They now have moved away from offering horse racing gambling machines to real commercial slots, and while some still claim that Kentucky has yet to allow commercial gambling, this certainly should qualify.

With sports betting very likely just around the corner in Kentucky, both at the state’s racinos and online, Kentucky is preparing for another exciting change in their gambling landscape, with perhaps even more to come soon. Kentucky may be on the brink of being one of the very few states that has removed all of their limitations on gambling and regulate all of it.

Kentucky Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: KY
  • State Motto: United we stand, divided we fall; Deo gratiam habeamus (Let us be grateful to God)
  • Capital City: Frankfort
  • Largest City: Louisville
  • Population Estimate: 4.47 Million (26th)
  • Website: kentucky.gov

Kentucky Gambling Laws

Kentucky is one of the states that confines the focus of its gambling laws on gambling operators. Kentucky’s list of gambling offenses include permitting gambling, promoting or conspiring to promote gambling, and being in possession of gambling devices or records.

Sure enough, that is the intent of Kentucky gambling law, as it is all about protecting their horse race track operations. As long as other gambling operations are kept out of the state, the existing gambling operators can remain protected.

This is exactly what Kentucky gambling law accomplishes, without even feeling the need to include any provisions that would make the act of gambling against the law, and when you try this, there are often things not considered well enough or even left out that may call what is actually prohibited into question.

This isn’t necessary unless you want to persecute gamblers as well, and plenty of states do, but Kentucky isn’t objecting to gambling itself, they just don’t want public establishments around offering it without their permission.

Kentucky even specifically excludes players, those who gamble, from their laws. The crime of gambling involves any benefiting, assisting, or promoting commercial gambling operations but specifically excludes social gambling when players are on equal terms and are not benefiting from anything other than their play.

Social gambling is therefore specifically legal in Kentucky, which is a legal as things get. When an act is offered as a full defense to a charge, a charge can not be made. Social gambling is even more relied on in states that have so little of gambling at all, and Kentucky is certainly one of them, at least thus far.

Social gambling is also legal because gambling itself is legal, and even if you were gambling at an establishment that offered it in violation of Kentucky gambling law, they could only charge the operator as there’s no law against you participating based upon your own interests as a player.

This extends to gambling online, which is a form of gambling of course and does not involve any commercial interest unless you were running one of those sites. Interestingly though, Kentucky seized the domain names of 141 online poker sites in 2008, which they claimed the right to by virtue of these domains offering play to Kentucky players.

This resulted in a very long legal battle where PokerStars in 2015 ended up agreeing to pay a fine, voluntarily as it were but not promoted that way, and the thinking is that PokerStars wanted to warm the hearts of Kentucky legislators so that they may be considered for a license once Kentucky finally decides to license online poker themselves.

It’s not that Kentucky courts cannot levy fines upon international operators, but they can just be ignored right alongside all those federal indictments that offshore gambling operators have had to bear over the years. Sometimes they choose to comply anyway, as was the case here, but it is important to note that none of this has anything to do with players.

Land-Based Gambling in Kentucky

Kentucky’s land based commercial gambling landscape is limited to horse racetracks, with some also offering slot machines. They used to be limited to offering simulated horse race gaming machines but these racinos are now allowed to offer the real deal.

The Kentucky Lottery has been around since 1989, and is pretty hip as far as lotteries go, offering an app to go along with its traditional outlets which lets you play the lottery from wherever you happen to be. Their instant play and other games actually turn this into an online casino of sorts, although like their cherished horse racetracks, it is all about preventing competition, with the same zeal.

Kentucky is the home of Churchill Downs, which not only owns one of America’s most prominent horse racing tracks, the home of the Kentucky Derby, they also own 15 other tracks and gambling properties, including racinos that offer both horse racing and slots, and they even have ownership in a number of actual casinos.

Provided that it is legal to offer casino play in the state where these casinos are located, Churchill Downs isn’t breaking any Kentucky laws, although they are restrained by what the can offer Kentucky residents. So far that just includes betting on the horse races themselves as well as these gambling machines that these tracks are allowed to have.

Churchill Downs owns 4 other racetracks in Kentucky, which gives them 5 of the 10 that currently operate in the state. 3 of them do not even offer horse racing anymore, although they still offer betting on simulcast races, which 8 of the 10 tracks in Kentucky offer.

Churchill Downs offers both live racing and simulcast betting, as well as restaurants and shops. Among their other holdings, the Oak Grove Racing, Gaming, and Hotel has live horse racing, simulcast races, 1300 slot machines, restaurants, and venues. Derby City Gaming has simulcast betting, 900 slots, restaurants, and venues. Newport Racing and Gaming has simulcast wagering and 500 slots. Turfway Park has live racing, simulcast racing, off-track betting, restaurants, and venues.

The other 5 include the Red Mile, the second oldest harness racing track in the world, with live racing, simulcasts, and 902 slot machines. The Kentucky Downs has live horse racing, 631 slot machines, bingo, restaurants, venues, and attractions. Ellis Park has live racing simulcasting, 179 slots, and restaurants. The Keeneland Race Course has simulcasting, restaurants, and venues. Bluegrass Downs just has live and simulcast racing.

Things have actually gotten to be pretty decent now as far as Kentucky’s land-based gambling operations go these days, where it wasn’t that long ago where all you could bet on is live horse races. As cherished as the Kentucky horse racing industry may be to the state, they are starting to wake up to the fact that people like to bet on more than just horse races.

Sports betting is expected to be rolled out very soon, both online and live betting at the state’s racetracks, and the state is now considering finally opening up the state to real casinos and not just these slot machine racinos that they currently have. Kentucky may have been well behind, but they have really picked up the pace lately and may even be on the brink of the one of the most progressive states in the country if bills to legalize various forms of gambling end up passing.

  • List of Land Based Casinos in Kentucky
    CasinoAddressPhone
    Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel777 Winners Way, Oak Grove, KY 42262270-984-4200
    Red Mile Racing Kentucky1200 Red Mile Rd, Lexington, KY 40504859-255-0752
    Derby City Gaming4520 Poplar Level Rd, Louisville, KY 40213502-961-7600
    Kentucky Downs Casino5629 Nashville Rd, Franklin, KY 42134270-586-7778
    Newport Racing & Gaming1723 Monmouth St, Newport, KY 41071859-647-4700
    Ellis Park Racing & Gaming3300 US-41, Henderson, KY 42420812-425-1456
    Churchill Downs700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208502-636-4400
    Turfway Park7500 Turfway Rd, Florence, KY 41042859-371-0200
    Keeneland Race Course4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510859-254-3412

Kentucky Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Online gambling is not against the law in Kentucky, and they even have regulated online gambling in the state. Their lottery offers a bevy of online gambling games, 56 different ones, which you can bet anywhere from 50 cents to $20 a play. If this does not qualify as an online casino, we’re not sure what does. They don’t call it that though, but these games are indeed slot type gaming, without the spinning wheels.

This is not just scratching off a ticket, as these games are designed to be at least as engaging as slot machines typically are, and given that people can click a whole lot of $20 instant win tickets in a session, this offers much more than penny ante gambling.

There is one important way that this differs from the online casinos that Kentucky competes with and reviles so much is that the house edge with lottery games is enormous compared to the edge that offshore online casinos have on you, over 10 times higher typically. You can play slots for hours with not a whole lot of money due to the house edge being small, but with lotteries, since they pay out so much less, you burn through your money much, much faster.

The government of Kentucky would of course wish that their people stick to their lottery and the online horse race wagering that Churchill Downs allows as far as online gambling goes, but in contrast to states who do not make online gambling illegal in fact and maintain a false belief about this, Kentucky readily admits this and honestly portrays their involvement as limited to operators.

In a move that will go down in infamy, Kentucky seized a number of online poker domain names in 2008 on the charge that these companies located not only outside the jurisdiction of the state but outside the country altogether were found to operating gambling devices not permitted by Kentucky law.

When deciding whether the operation of their “gambling devices,” software hosted on their servers, would be illegal or not to operate, companies need to look to the law of where they reside, as that’s the way that the law works, you are under the law of whatever jurisdiction you reside in.

Companies operating outside of Kentucky are not subject in any way to Kentucky’s laws but that did not stop the governor of Kentucky from trying to go after them. This should have been dismissed immediately for lack of standing, but somehow, the battle went on for 8 years. PokerStars even ended up paying their fine but the thinking was that they wanted to use this as leverage to enter the state’s regulated poker market when it eventually arrives.

This was just an annoyance though and had no effect on the ability for Kentuckians to gamble online all they want, although it did cause a few sites to step away from the Kentucky market out of not an abundance of caution but an excess of it.

There’s still lots of great places to play real money online casino games, bet on your favorite sports, and play real money online poker, and there is no need to wait until Kentucky gets around to regulating these things themselves, although that will add to the options that are now available to Kentucky real money online players.

Kentucky did try to pass a bill “legalizing” playing fantasy sports, where you enter into pools that pay out amounts depending on your standing in these fantasy sports contests. This was just a bill for them to regulate it, and the state readily admitted that there was no law against this in the state and that it was already legal. Once again, their interest is confined to the commercial side where passing this bill would give them the means to tax and regulate this in their state.

Kentucky does have a bill that looks like it may be signed into law soon that does permit both land-based and online sports betting, and even has the taxation scheme worked out already. There is also considerable interest in expanding both the land-based and online gambling markets, and there are bills in play that seek to allow commercial land-based casino gambling as well as separate ones for regulated real money online poker and for regulating online casino sites.

We may indeed see Kentucky get into the online gambling business soon, although in the meantime, there’s no reason to wait for this as there is as good or better available right now. It’s not against the law, the sites are operating within the law as well, and the only thing really stopping Kentuckians from gambling all they want right now is their simply being aware of what they can and cannot do, and where to do it should they wish to.

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Future of Gambling in Kentucky

For a state that has traditionally been viewed by many as not a very progressive state as far as gambling is concerned, the future looks much brighter in Kentucky than it may appear. While Kentucky has jealously protected their horse racing industry by giving a virtual monopoly to them, that part isn’t changing, but the forms of gambling that these racetracks now have and especially everything else that is and may be coming may turn over the entire kingdom to these tracks.

Churchill Downs, Kentucky’s premier track and arguably the country’s as well, has already branched out into the casino business in other states, so this is not just turning over live and online sports betting to amateurs as it might be if you tried to do this with the tracks in a lot of states.

Horse race betting is pretty substantial but is simply dwarfed by sports betting, especially if you allow people to bet online as well. It’s not even that this market needs to be expanded, as it’s pretty big now, and Kentuckians have been betting on sports online since online sports betting was born.

Regulating this in Kentucky will promote it to a whole new level, as so many do not know that real money online sports betting is already legal in Kentucky, and many will participate for the first time once this is put in place soon.

Sports betting in Kentucky coming soon is a very good bet, but unlike in some states, they don’t just want to stop there, and there are bills that seek to legalize commercial casinos as well as online casino and poker games. This might not all come right away, but the fact that they are seriously talking about these things and have bills in play for all of them does show us that this may come sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, players in Kentucky who wish to gamble online already have quite a few sites that will welcome their business, and given that there is no law against this or even one that even suggests that this would be illegal, it just comes down to knowing where the best online sites for Kentuckians are located. We are here to support you in this mission.

Kentucky Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • When did gambling first come to Kentucky?

    In its earlier days, real money gambling was against the law in Kentucky, although this law wasn’t really enforced. The gambling clubs of this era were not only out in the open but famous, and the gambling scene in Kentucky back then was considerably more prominent than we see today, at least so far. These illegal gambling operations were eventually shooed away to allow for the state’s legal horse race betting to stand unopposed.

  • How did horse race betting get started in Kentucky?

    Horse racing itself predated betting on horses at horse race tracks by several decades. There was a time when Kentucky’s horse racing tracks were not all that fond of having people bet on their races, and didn’t offer it themselves, even though people bet plenty on them. Once pari-mutuel wagering emerged, Kentucky jumped right on this horse and has been riding it ever since.

  • What is it against the law to gamble on in Kentucky?

    Some have been fooled over the years by Kentucky limiting their gambling to the lottery and at horse racetracks and may have thought that Kentucky is a relatively anti-gambling state. However, it has never been against the law to gamble on anything in Kentucky, and the laws there are completely focused on keeping out land-based gambling venues to ensure that their horse racetracks enjoy the monopoly they have.

  • Is social gambling legal in Kentucky?

    Gambling itself is legal in Kentucky, and social gambling involves gamblers playing among themselves, so social gambling is therefore legal in this state. Kentucky law does not take any chances as their law does ban promoting or facilitating gambling, so just in case someone believed that hosting a home game might involve this, they specifically exclude gambling where only the players benefit from the game, the definition of social gambling.

  • What can you gamble on in Kentucky?

    Apart from social gambling, players playing among themselves without the games being run by a third party operator, Kentucky has a number of horse racetracks, most of which also offer slot machine gaming. They also have a lottery which can be played both at land-based outlets and through the Kentucky Lottery’s app, which features a large assortment of lottery style online casino games. Sports betting is heading down the home stretch and soon will arrive.

  • Is Kentucky actually pretty progressive toward real money gambling in general?

    Kentucky’s horse racing venues dominate the state’s gambling scene, and they have no casinos or genuine online gambling to go along with this. In states with just this, they are generally restrained by a real lack of appetite for gambling, where they hold beliefs that this is at least distasteful and should be limited. Kentucky actually is friendly to gambling and it’s their protection of their horse racing industry that has led to its being so prominent.

  • Does Kentucky have online gambling yet?

    Kentucky’s lottery offers a lot of online options, including not only buying traditional lottery tickets but also playing lottery style online casino games. This is not the usual lottery played by old ladies by any means and you can drop up to $20 on a single click if you are up for it, on some games that are clearly designed to entertain in the manner of the best slots. Churchill Downs also has an app where you can bet on the ponies online.

  • What are the prospects of Kentucky taking a more progressive approach to gambling?

    Kentucky is well on their way to expanding their gambling scene, and their getting ready to roll out both land-based and online sports betting may just be the ante. Land-based casinos may also be coming at some point in the near future, or at least expanding the existing racinos to offer even more slots as well as table games. Real money online casino games and real money online poker may not be far behind.

  • Can Kentuckians gamble online now if they wish?

    There is no law against any gambling in Kentucky, so trying to decide whether or not a state’s anti-gambling laws apply to online gambling is a simple matter here, as gambling in any form is legal with no restrictions or limitations. This leaves players free to choose from among the best offshore online sites in the world, where the only issue is funding their accounts with an accepted method like Bitcoin.

  • How can you tell if a real money online gambling site is a good one or not?

    Deciding on which sites to choose from that your own state licenses and regulates is not something that you can go too far wrong with, although even in this case, it’s still a good idea to at least read some reviews, just like you would want to if you were going to Vegas. When we venture off into the world of offshore regulated real money sites, it’s considerably more important to take advantage of the free guidance we offer you here.

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Associate Writer: Simon loves to bet on sports as well as play online slots, and he has a keen eye for sorting out the honest sites from the not so honest.