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Kentucky Poker Laws

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Kentucky-2Kentucky is perhaps most famous in the online poker world for their very bold attempt to seize the domains of 141 online poker sites back in 2008, claiming that they were in violation of Kentucky law prohibiting being in possession of gambling devices, where these domains were held to fall within that definition.

As hard as this is to believe, they did manage to get a court to order the sites in question, all outside not only the state but the United States, to block access to Kentucky residents.

In the end, this ruling had no legal effect, since the operators in question are well outside the jurisdiction of Kentucky, however 8 years later the legal battle wages on at the appellate level. In spite of all of this likely being a waste of the courts’ time, the government of Kentucky is not easily put off by any of that.

The latest ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned a former ruling by their courts that was looking to force the remaining 132 domain owners which the state is seeking to seize to have their identities revealed. (1) There is no indication though that the state has lost its will to fight just yet.

This longstanding farce has ended up causing some of the online poker sites still serving Americans to withdraw from the Kentucky market and no longer accept players from there. Fortunately though not all have been intimidated, including Ignition Poker, one of our most trusted and recommended poker sites.


Gambling Law In Kentucky

If you live in Kentucky, you will no doubt be happy to know that the overwhelming will of the Commonweath of Kentucky is aimed at unauthorized gambling operators and not the gambling public.

Kentucky is indeed one of the states that has turned all of their guns against gambling operators. Promoting gambling, conspiring to promote gambling, possession of gambling records, permitting gambling, and possession of a gambling device are all criminal offenses. (2)

However, none of the crimes listed involve actually participating in gambling. While profiting from gambling is an offense, this does not mean profiting from wagering, but profiting from the business of offering wagering.

In fact players are excluded specifically from these laws. Some have believed that players may be guilty of the following offense, where “a person is guilty of promoting gambling in the second degree when he
knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity.” (3)

However, when we look at the definition of advancing gambling in the statute, it states that “a person advances gambling activity when, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. (4)

Given that there are no other sections that could even possibly be construed as applying to players, this makes it quite clear that there isn’t any reason for Kentucky online poker players to be concerned, in spite of the state’s zeal for trying to go after operators in other countries.

Once again though these operators are way outside the jurisdiction of Kentucky and the state simply lacks both the legal authority and power to do anything to them that would be of concern to players. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has done a lot of barking and may continue to do so but basically they continue to bark at the moon.


The Future Of Poker In Kentucky

Kentucky does not presently have any live poker rooms, or any casinos for that matter, in spite of their historically being a hotbed for gambling. Gambling in Kentucky is limited to their horse tracks and their lottery at present.

However there is a move afoot to build some casinos in the state, although a bill which would seek to allow for that got defeated. However this may happen at some point in the future. In the mean time, Kentucky residents who wish to play live poker have to travel to other states to do it.

Depending on where in the state you live though, you may not need to go very far, for instance the Horseshoe Southern Indiana is just outside Louisville in Elizabeth, IN, and features a very nice card room with 30 tables. (5)

The prospects of an online poker bill look dim right now though, as there does not seem to be any interest in that. It’s expected that a casino bill would come first, but the horse racing business is so jealously protected that people tend to fear any sort of competition, so online poker becoming regulated in Kentucky is at best quite a ways off.

Players from Kentucky need not travel to another state or wait for regulated poker to happen some day though, as BetOnline is very willing to accept online players from Kentucky and one of the only rooms I would personally recommend if you reside in this location. Playing online poker is clearly against the law in many states, but with Kentucky’s gambling laws aimed at operators and not players, I can’t imagine any reason why anyone in Kentucky who wishes to play poker online would hesitate to do so.

Ignition Logo SmallIf you already have a BetOnline account, options like ACR – and my personal favorite, Ignition Poker – are also available at your leisure. Ignition is a newcomer to the scene, but don’t let them fool you – they’re actually backed by the same guys who owned Bovada, who were recently acquired by them in 2016. Check out our Ignition Review today for more info on this room.



(1) Kentucky Court Overturns Seizure of Gambling Sites

(2) Kentucky Revised Statutes, Chapter 528

(3) Promoting Gambling In The Second Degree

(4) 528.010 Definitions For This Chapter

(5) Horseshoe Casino Southern Indiana

About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.