Is Online Gambling Legal in Kentucky? Are There Any Kentucky Online Casinos?
Most forms of online (and retail, for that matter) gambling are not legal under Kentucky law. For specific information, refer to this quick guide, which mainly highlights what options are currently available to you:
Online Casinos – Not Legal: There is no legal avenue for online casino gambling in Kentucky. There are some unregulated, unlicensed platforms open to KY residents, but we would highly recommend you avoid them – there's nothing in place to keep your money or your information safe.
Sweepstakes and Social Casinos – Legal: There are several sweeps and social casinos available in Kentucky, where you can play for fun or use casino-specific currency to compete for cash and other prizes.
Online Sportsbooks – Legal: A bill to legalize retail and online sports betting was voted on and passed on the last day of the state legislative session in March. Although there are no licensed online sportsbooks operating in the state yet, the new law indicates that sports betting apps and sites will be up and running before the end of the year.
Online Horse Betting – Legal: As we referenced above, betting on horse races is indeed legal in Kentucky, both at the many in-state tracks and online at sites like TwinSpires, TVG, and others.
Kentucky Lottery Site and App – Legal: The Kentucky Lottery site and app have a pretty extensive variety of legal gambling options, including instant games, digital scratch tickets, keno, and more.
Daily Fantasy Sports – Legal: While there isn't definitive legislation for or against DFS offerings, major players like FanDuel and DraftKings are still able to accept players from Kentucky.
A Brief History Of Gambling in the Bluegrass State
So how did Kentucky gambling become so restricted? A lot of it has to do with the current political climate of the state, but we can see that there have been consistent obstacles to legalized gambling.
In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, horse racing began a meteoric rise in popularity, including the first running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. With its popularity came the continued growth of betting on the sport through the 20th century. While horse betting has remained legal throughout the state's history, the 1980s saw more and more restrictions put in place, even as the state lottery was formed in 1988. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many bills were put forth to allow for casino-style gambling in the state, but all failed to pass.
In the last 15 years, the tide has started to turn. First, "historical horse racing" (HHR) was introduced at race tracks around the state. In this unique (and interesting) form of gaming that resembles slot machines, bettors place wagers on races that have already been run, some many years ago. Identifying markers of the location, jockeys, and horses are removed, and bettors can manually pick or have the machine automatically pick winning combinations of horses. The race plays out via video clips and animated displays that very much look like slot reels spinning. Technically, the law views this type of gambling as horse race betting, so HHR offerings have continued to expand. (Though there have been several challenges to this legal perspective in the past few years.)
In 2016, the Kentucky Lottery began offering its full suite of online offerings (referenced above). And as many other states begin to legalize online casinos, lawmakers have placed a renewed emphasis on establishing regulated, licensed forms of gambling in Kentucky. As we mentioned in the section above, sports betting was just legalized in the state in late March and is expected to begin operation later this year, with Kentucky sports betting promos set to hit the market likely sooner than later.
This expansion of legal Kentucky online gambling certainly gives the push for retail and online casino gambling some momentum, at least in terms of public perception. Will playing online casino games be an option for KY residents soon? We can't say for sure when you'll see Kentucky casinos online, but it may not be too far off. Keep checking back on our site, and we'll do our best to keep you posted on all the latest developments and news.
Games Expected To Launch in Online KY Casinos
If and when real-money online casino gaming goes live in Kentucky, we expect a full suite of games to be available to players, including...
Without a doubt, this staple of retail and online gambling will be available at Kentucky online casinos. In fact, there will most likely be far more slots options than any other type of game at online casino sites like BetMGM Kentucky. Slots translate well into digital form, with eye-catching graphics and fun animations really adding to the experience.
Traditional player-versus-player poker is unlikely to make an appearance in Kentucky online casinos. However, you probably will be able to find different versions of video poker and several table games with a poker theme. Look for Casino Hold 'Em, Three Card Poker, and Caribbean stud poker, among other variations at online casinos operated by the likes of FanDuel Kentucky.
We normally wouldn't have a section devoted to a state lottery system, but the Kentucky Lottery is an industry leader in terms of its online offering. It's possible that there could be some kind of partnership between the organization and any potential new online casino gambling apps. (We'd expect that there would probably also be smaller-scale, lottery-style games like keno at Kentucky casinos online.)
The digital form of this casino classic is available at most legal online casino gambling sites (in other states), and we'd expect that Kentucky would be no exception. The best online casino sites like Caesars Kentucky may even have several versions of the game. In some apps, we've seen American, French, and European roulette, not to mention first-person and live dealer options.
The world's most popular table game is a sure bet to be at Kentucky online casinos. You should be able to play many varieties of the game, too. Multi-hand options, rule variations, and different versions with themed graphics are all available to players in other states.
When we do see Kentucky casinos online, there's a good chance that at least a few operators like DraftKings Kentucky will feature live dealer games. These are games where an actual person serves as your dealer via streaming video. You can typically interact with the dealer and other players using a chat feature, giving the games a more authentic, social feel.
Retail Casino KY Locations
As noted, retail casinos are not permitted under current Kentucky gambling law. However, historical horse racing machines (described in detail in the "history" section above) actually do approximate the experience. The fact that you're betting on past races means they qualify as horse betting and can be played legally at race tracks and other locations around the state.
For all intents and purposes, these machines look, sound, and play very much like the slot machines gamblers are accustomed to. So while there isn't technically a single traditional casino in KY, here's a snapshot of some of the most popular HHR destinations (where you can bet on live races):
Can I Gamble Online in Kentucky?
There are several forms of online gambling that are permitted in-state, though there are no legal Kentucky casinos online, at least not yet. We'll summarize here, but check the first section after the introduction for a more concrete list of what you can and can't do. Most recently, a bill allowing for retail and online sportsbooks was passed in March of this year. This doesn't mean the necessary regulation and digital infrastructure are in place for sportsbooks to start operating, but it's a safe assumption that Kentuckians will be able to bet on sports online before the end of the year. (Daily fantasy sports apps like FanDuel and DraftKings have been operating in Kentucky since long before the most recent ruling.)
Historically, horse race betting has always been allowed in some form or fashion, and betting on horses has been legal since technology made it possible. The Kentucky Lottery has a massive online presence, one of the best web experiences you can find in the industry. Instant games, digital scratch tickets, keno, and more are all available through the organization's website and app. Last, but not least, Kentucky residents can also play at sweepstakes and social casinos, which operate on a prize redemption system, similar to what you'd find at some physical arcades, but on a larger scale.
Kentucky Online Casino Laws
When it comes to the issue of Kentucky gambling laws (or Kentucky online gambling), state lawmakers have taken a conservative, guarded approach. As such, they've passed legislation allowing for some types of gambling (like the ones we just mentioned), but casino gaming has yet to get the green light. Dating back over three decades, many bills have been proposed and discussed, but all were either voted down or never even had enough support to get to a vote.
In 2020, a bill to legalize all online casino games and poker was approved at the committee level, but didn't have the support to move forward. Still, with a tough economic climate wreaking havoc on state budgets and the move to legalize sports betting, it's possible that you could be playing at a Kentucky online casino at some point in the near future.
- ❌ Online casinos are expressly prohibited by law
- ❌ Many bills have failed to move the issue of legalization forward
- ❌ Some neighboring states allow online casino gambling, or are actively exploring the possibility
- ❌ Sports betting was legalized in March, and sportsbooks should be operating by year's end
- ❌ Budget shortfalls have lawmakers exploring solutions to strengthen the state's economic standing
In total, there isn't a clear picture of when you might see a Kentucky casino online, but the winds do appear to be changing, with some types of retail and online betting being opened up. We'll keep our eyes and ears open for any news or updates.
Sweepstakes Casinos in Kentucky
In terms of the games offered and the playing experience, sweepstakes and social casinos are as close as you can get to real-money gambling. As we've covered, the big difference is that you're not directly putting down cash bets.
Instead, you use app- or site-specific currencies to enter contests, play games, and redeem for cash and other prizes. We'll again use the comparison to a redemption arcade for simplicity's sake, though some of the rewards and prize values can be more substantial than what you'd find at an arcade.
When Will Online Casinos Be Legal in Kentucky?
Adding it all up, it's difficult to say when exactly you might see Kentucky casinos online. The gambling landscape in the state has definitely shifted, but there is nothing immediately imminent in terms of new bills or legislation. You may need to wait until there are retail casinos open for business before you see a Kentucky online casino, though it's also possible that both options are pushed through in the same legislative cycle.
Who Would Regulate Kentucky Online Casino Operators?
The Kentucky Lottery regulates in-state gambling, so it's more than likely that would be the organization in charge of monitoring and regulating online casinos. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would also probably play a role, with race tracks (several that already offer HHR machines, described above) serving as a natural fit for retail and online casino partnerships.
Each casino bill has slightly different provisions for oversight and management, so until one actually passes into law, we can't say for certain. Rest assured, though, this will not be a situation where you're not sure if your money or your privacy are protected. Which brings us to the next question...
Can I Play Using Offshore Casinos?
To answer this question, we'd say that although you can play on offshore casino apps, it doesn't mean you should. These companies operate without any licensing, regulation, or most importantly, systems or policies in place to protect players. It's not surprising that many players have reported extreme difficulty in funding their accounts, withdrawing their money, or even with bets being settled openly and fairly. Beyond that, players have no legal recourse if and when something goes wrong.
Offshore operators have no real incentive or obligation to provide good customer service, fast and reliable communication, or dependable security policies and technology. Playing in offshore online casinos still works out fine for some people, but there's no doubt that you're taking a big risk when you give them your money and personal information. The best Kentucky online casino site(s) will never be found in the somewhat uncontrolled offshore betting environment.
- ❌ No licensing or regulations
- ❌ No fairness monitoring or oversight
- ❌ Lack of player protections and customer support
- ❌ Lack of transparency regarding information security
- ❌ Unreliable transactions
- ❌ Lack of legal recourse to address any issues
Casinos and Online Casino Apps in Kentucky
Are there casinos in Kentucky?
At the time of writing, there are no physical in-state casinos or Kentucky casinos online. There are some gambling alternatives, such as HHR machines, horse race betting, and a variety of Kentucky Lottery games, all described in detail above.
What is the largest casino in Kentucky?
While there are no traditional casinos in Kentucky, Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park, and The Red Mile are fairly large horse tracks that also offer HHR machines, among other facilities. Unsurprisingly, the state is full of horse tracks, where you can legally bet on races.
Are online casinos legal in Kentucky?
No, they aren't. However, online sportsbooks were very recently legalized. Looking at the pattern and legislation timeline in other states, this could give Kentuckians some hope that the first Kentucky online casino may not be as remote a possibility as it looked in the past few years.
What Kentucky casinos will get an online license?
Until more bills are introduced and legislation is being discussed, it's very hard to predict who will get a license and how many there might be.
Will I need to be a Kentucky resident to gamble at Kentucky online casinos?
No, there's no requirement in any state that allows online casino gambling that you be a part- or full-time resident of the state. You just need to be within state lines at the time you're placing bets, which is determined by geolocation software.
Is any kind of online gambling legal in Kentucky?
Yes. Online horse race betting and lottery-style games are available to anyone in the Bluegrass State. Sweeps and social casinos are open to Kentucky players as well.
What types of lottery games are legal in Kentucky?
The state lottery offers a variety of instant win games, digital scratch tickets, keno, and more through its website and app. As expected, you can also purchase tickets in convenience stores and other shops.
Will I need to pay taxes on my gambling winnings?
Yes, gambling winnings must be reported and are subject to federal taxes. Consult the IRS website or a professional accountant to make sure you're complying with any and all regulations before you file.
Responsible Gambling in Kentucky
Every legal, licensed online casino is required to provide resources for education and assistance with problem gambling. And it makes both business and ethical sense for these organizations to make responsible gaming a priority. Typically, the actual software used and the staff managing an online casino will look for signs of compulsive or irresponsible gambling behavior. And players themselves will have the option to set limits on their deposits, bets, or even time spent on-site or in a given app.
These limits can only be removed after a designated "cool-off" period or with the help of customer service, so they're effective tools and not just window dressing. Beyond that, every above-board online casino will have an educational section on playing responsibly, with links to resources on how to tell if you're playing "on tilt" and how to seek out help if you do feel that you're losing control.
Additionally, web-based casinos are also required to have thorough verification checks to prevent underage gambling or people from masking their location with technology like a VPN service. Whenever a new player creates an account, an online casino operator will go to great lengths to confirm their identity and eligibility to play.
Kentucky Online Casinos FAQ
Though there are no legal online casinos in Kentucky, there are options like online horse betting and a variety of games on the state lottery's website and app. See the section near the top of the page for a quick overview of what's legal and what's not.
The legal gambling age is 18, so it's likely that would be the minimum age requirement for online casino gaming. However, there are some states that have different regulations for retail versus online play.
While offshore-based casinos don't have oversight or regulation, any licensed online casino operating in the U.S. is subject to strict rules, procedures, and monitoring. This ensures that games are settled fairly and according to any stated rules.
On-location and online horse betting are legal, sports betting was just recently legalized, and the aforementioned lottery games are available to all residents.
No, anyone within state lines (determined by geolocation software) will be able to place real-money bets online. There's no requirement that you be a full- or part-time resident.
With horse racing being such a huge part of Kentucky culture, it's not surprising that there are horse tracks throughout the state. You can wager on the races there, and also play HHR machines (described in detail above) to approximate a casino experience. As for legal online options, you can use those anywhere in the state.
The Kentucky Lottery and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would likely partner to first establish retail casinos at track locations with horse betting and HHR machines in place already.
We don't know for sure how the state may tax casino game winnings, but the recent sports betting bill may give us some insight. The tax rate is 9.75% for profit from retail sportsbooks and 14.25% for profit from online sportsbooks.
Tom Ober is a professional writer living in New Hampshire. An avid Boston sports fan, he's rooted with his heart (and wallet) for the local teams for many years. When he's not stationed in front of a game on the TV, he's probably playing Gin Rummy or a video game that's roughly 30-40 years old.