Kentucky’s Gambling Laws and Online Poker
2021 Update: Is Online Poker Legal in Kentucky?
There’s been an online poker bill floating around the Kentucky legislature the last few years, but there hasn’t been any significant action on it. Kentucky might be home to the Kentucky Derby, but it hasn’t been that open to other forms of legal gaming throughout the years.
Despite that, in 2019, Rep. Adam Koenig led an effort to legalize online poker. But the bill ended up failing in the house. Legislators tried again in 2020, but the session ended on April 1 without any significant forward action. The bill has dozens of co-sponsors and the session was heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a chance it could be taken up again in 2021.
The bill also would have legalized sports betting and daily fantasy sports in Kentucky. It also had support from Gov. Andy Beshear. Despite that and some positive outlooks early on, the bill was blocked after it faced intense lobbying from the Family Foundation of Kentucky. The bill was expected to have enough votes to pass the full house, but it didn’t have enough Republican support to make it out of committee.
What are Kentucky’s Gambling Laws and how do They Affect Poker?
Kentucky isn’t the most gambling friendly state out there. It has limited forms of gambling and it also has strict laws regulating gambling. Like most states, Kentucky regulates and defines gambling in the Kentucky Revised Statutes . This covers everything regarding gambling in the state. One of the most basic elements of any set of gambling laws is to specify what qualifies as gaming and what doesn’t. A lot of states use the word “chance” to define gambling and Kentucky is one of them. Sec. 528.010 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes defines gambling as:
“Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest or game based upon an element of chance.”
The inclusion of chance usually excludes poker since it was ruled to be a game of skill by a federal judge in 2012. This is what allowed several states to start legislating and legalizing online poker. But in Kentucky’s case, this is a bit more ambiguous since it has the qualifier of “based upon an element of” before. This means that any game that has any element of chance –which sounds like every game actually– could be qualified as gambling in Kentucky. While poker is a game of skill, no one can argue that there’s no element of chance in it. So poker definitely falls under Kentucky’s definition of gambling.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Kentucky?<?h2>
No. There’s no PokerStars in Kentucky. Back in the day PokerStars was one of the most popular online poker sites across the United States, including Kentucky. But after some indictments and domain seizures in 2011, the site was barred from the US for a while. It’s slowly been making its way back in though. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have given PokerStars a license to operate in their states, but it’s not as big as it used to be. Each state has a segregated player pool so tournaments aren’t as large and cash games aren’t as plentiful.
Luckily, there are some states that take players from all 50 states, including Kentucky. Sites like Bovada , BetOnline and Ignition Poker have become pretty decent PokerStars alternatives for poker players in Kentucky. Aside from large player pools, they have good sign-up bonuses and top-notch rakeback programs that keep rewarding players.
If you want more information on these sites, then check out our full reviews below:
What Other Legal Forms of Gambling are there in Kentucky?
As we said before, there aren’t as many options for Kentucky residents to gamble. The most famous and popular is horse racing and pari-mutuel betting. Kentucky is, of course, home to the Kentucky Derby . It’s held annually in Louisville in early May and is one of the most popular horse races in the world. The race is held at Churchill Downs, but there are five other race tracks throughout the state. The horse industry in Kentucky employs nearly 80,000 people and is a $1.6 billion business.
Aside from horse racing, Kentucky also has a lottery. The Kentucky Lottery began in 1989 after more than 60 percent of Kentucky voters approved the lottery the year before. The lottery has become incredibly popular and consistently shatters records. In 2019, the Kentucky Lottery set another record of $1.12 billion in sales. Out of that money 64 percent goes straight back to players and 26 percent goes to Kentucky’s coffers. The remaining 11 percent goes to retailers and administrative costs.
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