Kentucky Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Should you be an avid gambler and find yourself in Kentucky, you may perceive the state to be somewhat dull due to its lack of enthusiasm for gambling. The state of Kentucky generally disapproves of most forms of gambling, unlike some other states.

The only exception from the rule is horse racing, as the activity is a traditional thing in the state. Some other forms of gambling that are allowed in Kentucky can be practiced only if they financially support a charity organization, education, or development of the state.

When it comes to online gambling, Kentucky is still somewhere in the grey area where things are not so clearly defined.

If you are interested in more details about gambling laws in Kentucky, legal forms of gambling, or online gambling regulations, you have come to the right place, as all those things will be discussed in the text below.

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Gambling Laws in Kentucky — The Law Overview

The history of gambling in Kentucky is closely related to the Great Depression. Before and after the Great Depression, Kentucky took pride in the extensive collection of gambling clubs. The fact that casino gambling was considered illegal at the time didn’t stop these establishments from offering their services to interested customers.

All of that was highly influenced by the presence of various organized mobsters that controlled a lot of gaming activities in Newport and other northern parts of the Bluegrass state. In the 1930s, there were several famous clubs that operated in Kentucky, like Beverly Hills Club, the Primrose Club, the Yorkshire Club, the Lookout House, and the Flamingo.

The owners of these clubs competed for the market and tried to sabotage each other by any means possible. One of the clubs, the Beverly Hills Club, was even set on fire, presumably by the competition.

Some club owners, like Jimmy Brink of the Lookout House, went with a different approach in order to keep the business successful. He decided to partner with the gangsters, which proved to be the perfect choice as his club flourished for many years.

The form of gambling that was definitely legal in Kentucky at the beginning was horse racing. Since 1875, Kentucky has been home to one of the world’s most renowned races — the Kentucky Derby. At some point, the tracks tried to cut all the ties with any gambling-associated actions. However, in the 1920s, pari-mutuel wagering sank in and remained legal in Kentucky ever since.

Nowadays, Kentucky is still quite rigid with its gambling rules and regulations, but there are a few things you can do in the state.

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed in Kentucky?

Unfortunately for the residents of Kentucky, the law hasn’t changed much in terms of gambling and typical activities that fall under the definition of it. You won’t find any casinos in the state, as these establishments are still considered illegal. Neither tribal casinos nor any other gambling-related institutions have ever become a part of this state’s gaming story.

What you can do for sure is place wagers on horse races. This is probably the only exception of the complete prohibition of standard forms of gambling in Kentucky. We’ve got the Kentucky Derby that, together with the Churchill Downs racetrack, became one of the most prestigious races in the world. Wagering on horse racing is available throughout the whole year, and that’s not all.

Kentucky has introduced another form of legal gambling at the racetracks. They connected technology with horse racing and installed new racing game machines at race tracks. These machines remind of slot machines and they allow players to bet on historic races.

Another form of gambling available in Kentucky is charitable gambling. This includes some standard games like bingo, raffles, and scratch-off type tickets. Such games are considered legal because the revenue made out of this type of gambling goes directly to the fund of a charity organization chosen by the state.

Important notice is that standard casino games like slots, table games, and video machines do not fall under the category of charitable gambling. Even live horse races are excluded from the list.

Finally, there is a lottery that includes games shared with other states. The aim of this gambling form is similar to charitable gambling, as the profit from the lottery is used for funding education and development of the state.

Although Kentucky stands firmly against almost all standard types of gambling, online gambling, in particular, has never been mentioned in any official documents. Officially, no law in Kentucky outlaws online gambling in any way, which further implies that it may not be interpreted as illegal. Be that as it may, it is not named as legal either, therefore, punters are the ones to decide if engaging in such activities is worth a risk.

However, some forms of online gambling are officially allowed since Kentucky supports pari-mutuel wagering on horse races via particular websites. The state made a small step towards accepting online gambling with the launching of the Twin Spires site. This is a website operated by Churchill Downs that is authorized to offer online wagering on horse racing from your home or anywhere else in Kentucky.

Apart from that, Kentucky residents can buy lottery tickets on the official website, which can also be taken as online gambling.

As no traces can be found of someone specifically prohibiting online gambling, some people choose to visit offshore online gambling sites that accept players from Kentucky. The state officials, well aware of these actions, attempted to stop them by trying to seize 141 online gambling domains. Yet, this didn’t stop offshore gambling operators from accepting Kentucky residents and give them the opportunity to play their favourite games online.

Also, the situation with the seizure of the domains in question affected only online gambling operators. The citizens of Kentucky that participated in online gambling activities did not suffer the consequences of their actions, which gives the impression that online gambling in offshore casinos is not punishable by law.

Where to Gamble in Kentucky?

The rigid attitude towards gambling is the reason why you won’t find any land-based casinos in Kentucky. Yet, the good idea might be to visit some of their racetracks since the state takes a lot of pride in their horse racing tradition.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs is located on Central Avenue in south Louisville, and it represents the top Thoroughbred racetrack in the state. The Kentucky Derby is the most well-known track that takes place at this venue, along with many other races available all year round. You can also watch the races from suites and private rooms, as well as enjoy a great dining experience at one of the many lounges. The exact address is 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208.

Keeneland Association Inc

Another wonderful racetrack, according to regular visitors, is Keeneland Association Inc. It is located in Lexington, Kentucky, and it has two different divisions. One is, of course, a Thoroughbred racing facility called Keeneland Race Course, while the other, Keeneland Sales, is a complex built for horse auctions. You can find it at 4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510.

Kentucky Downs

Somewhere between Kentucky and Tennessee, there is a Thoroughbred horse racing track carrying the name Kentucky Downs. Although not the most popular one, this racetrack differs from other race tracks in many ways. It is built in a European style, which makes it stand out from typical American courses, and it doesn’t have an oval shape. Moreover, instead of dirt that is usually used, the surface is covered with turf.

You can also enjoy dining and drinks, followed by live entertainment almost every day. To check all this yourself, find the establishment on 5629 Nashville Rd, Franklin, KY 42134.


Are casinos legal in Kentucky?

No, unfortunately, the state of Kentucky doesn’t allow standard casino gambling, as it is considered illegal. In fact, you cannot find any casinos within the state borders.

Is online gambling legal in Kentucky?

Kentucky is somewhere in the grey area when it comes to online gambling. No Kentucky law explicitly prohibits online gambling, yet this doesn’t mean that it is legal either.

What games can you gamble on in Kentucky?

At the moment, the only legal forms of gambling in Kentucky include horse racing bets, charitable gambling, and lottery.

What is the legal gambling age for players in Kentucky?

The legal gambling age in Kentucky is 18 years for all legal forms of gambling, including lottery and horse racing bets.

Who regulates legal forms of gambling in Kentucky?

As the only legal form of gambling in Kentucky is horse racing, the official authority assigned to regulate it is the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.