Kentucky Online Poker Laws

Kentucky Online Poker Law

In Kentucky, horses are king, and the horse-racing industry wields great power here. The horse-racing lobby in Kentucky flexed its muscles with the help of Governor Steven Bashear in 2010.

Citing a century-old law that allowed the state to recover its citizens’ gambling losses, Bashear ordered the Commonwealth to sue and attempt to seize 141 poker sites that served its residents. The civil suit also claimed that under Kentucky’s criminal code, any device used to facilitate gambling could be seized. In this case, Kentucky went after the domain names.

Several companies, including have negotiated and settled with Kentucky. It cost $15 million. Kentucky also settled with the United States government for $6 million as a result of its claim to the rights of the web domains of Absolute Poker and UltimateBet.

Online poker players should consider this housecleaning that must take place within a state or Commonwealth in order for legalization to even be considered. Kentucky was unique in that it aggressively went after the online sites it felt were illegally serving its residents.

This doesn’t mean that the future of online poker will turn out bleak for Kentuckians. As part of the settlements, the sites admitted no wrongdoing and will not be biased against, if and when the Commonwealth acts on the legalization of online poker and gambling.

As they say, the door is left open — and someone might like to step through it very soon.

For ages, the many horse tracks and stables that dominate Kentucky’s landscape were the only "gambling" group with a real voice. The governor’s hostile actions toward international online poker sites represent just how the racing industry feels threatened by the casino industry.

Churchill Downs Inc. is making a move to diversify its holdings. In mid-2013, it became the new owner of Oxford Casino in Maine. It’s the third casino the company purchased since 2010 -- the other two are located in Mississippi.

Make no mistake, once neighboring states — particularly West Virginia — begin operating online poker sites, Churchill Downs will start the long process of getting Kentucky politicians to accept the idea of online poker there.

When Will I Get to Play Online Poker in Kentucky?

Kentucky has just left the stables for the long walk to the starting gate. Kentucky does have a leg-up on other states because of its stance toward at least one form of gambling, horse betting. With Churchill Downs Inc. increasing its casino holdings, look to see some movement on this issue by 2016.

Plus, Kentucky also has an established online horse-wagering industry, showing that officials aren’t opposed to allowing wagering in the homes. Online poker will come to Kentucky, it’s just going to take longer than its neighbors.

What’s Kentucky’s Potential Online Poker Market?

With about 2.8 million people over the age of 21, Kentucky’s poker market sits at around 200,000 potential players. Churchill Downs Inc. would probably love to connect players from its casinos in Maine and Mississippi on a future poker network, which would be ideal for those who play online poker in Kentucky.