This year, the Bluegrass State has taken the next step in moving towards online casino legalization with the launch of sports betting.
That’s right: Sports betting is live in Kentucky and you are able to sign up to the most reputable brands in the country. Currently, there are no online casinos for real money in Kentucky, but players can still enjoy casino games that offer real cash prizes.
Learn about everything available to you in the state.
There are no legal online casinos or poker rooms in the Bluegrass State. However, online sports betting is legal as of September 2023.
Racetracks in the state are also be able to accept wagers on human sports. Online sportsbooks run through the tracks in Kentucky as well.
Kentucky has a somewhat unique aspect to its legal sports betting system in that the minimum age is 18, as opposed to 21. While Kentucky is not the only state to allow people 18-20-year-olds to legally bet on sports, it is in the minority in that regard.
Oct. 12, 2023 – A new white paper about Kentucky sports betting says the state needs to ensure that its messaging around responsible gambling is effective for people ages 18-20 more than any other state. You can find the report here.
Sept. 29, 2023 – Circa Sportssigned a licensing agreement with ECL Corbin’s Cumberland Run harness track to enter the Kentucky sports betting market.
Sept. 28, 2023 – Legal online sports betting in Kentucky is officially underway as seven licensed sportsbooks commenced their business in the state at 6 a.m.
What’s legal are theonline sweepstakes casinos available in Kentucky. The three alternative options that stand out areChumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints. All three offer a variety of slots for real money prizes. You can also find some options for table games on Chumba and keno on Funzpoints. In all three cases, the games are smooth and visually appealing and look and act the same as you would find on real money sites. Keep in mind both Chumba Casino and Luckyland Slots are social casino sites while Funzpoints offers a sweepstakes site.
Gambling in the state of Kentucky
Gambling in Kentucky is licensed and regulated by theKentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Kentucky Lottery. There isn’t a ton of legal gambling in Kentucky, and, until recently, most of it fell under the heading of horse betting. However, online sports betting and in-person sports betting is now part of the gambling landscape in Kentucky.
So, the racing commission is the natural agency to oversee those activities. Obviously, the lottery commission has plenty of pull with its games, too, since there are both retail and online games to play.
Sports Betting in Kentucky
On Aug. 28, 2023, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission announced the go ahead for pre-launch in Kentucky. Beginning in early September, certain horse racing tracks throughout the Bluegrass State will hold an active license to take in-person and online bets.
Sports betting officially went live in September 2023. Some of the biggest names that call Kentucky home are DraftKings, Bet365 and FanDuel. Each online sports betting operation has partnered with a retail horse race track.
Here is the list of Kentucky online sportsbooks that opened in September 2023 or will open soon:
Penn Sports Interactive
In-person sports betting in Kentucky went live on Sept. 7 at these horse racing facilities:
Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville
Cumberland Run in both Corbin and Williamsburg
Ellis Park in Henderson
Turfway Park in Florence
Oak Grove Gaming in Oak Grove
Sandy’s Gaming Ashland
Casinos in Kentucky
No. Kentucky is one of the few states in the country with no casinos whatsoever. There are some smaller Native American tribes within the state, but none of them possess the federal recognition necessary to negotiate gambling compacts with the Kentucky government. Furthermore, there is no evidence that there are plans to expand the gambling profile in the state to include physical casinos. Legal US online casinos might be in the state’s future sometime in the next five years, but actual casinos are going to remain travel destinations for Kentuckians. The closest thing to casinos in Kentucky is betting at its horse tracks.
You can find an entire spectrum of lottery games available from the Kentucky Lottery site or its app. Instant win games, draw games, scratchers, and even keno games allow you to play from virtually anywhere in the state.
Horse racing is as endemic to Kentucky as casinos to Nevada, potatoes to Idaho, or pickup trucks to Texas. We can reliably find evidence ofhorse racing in the area at least as early as 1787, and it’s likely to have existed beforehand. In other words,horse racing predates statehood for the Bluegrass State and is only about a decade younger than the United States itself. It’s no surprise that the most famous horse race in the world takes place in Kentucky each year. The pomp and circumstance of theKentucky Derby is essentially the state’s Super Bowl.
Needless to say, there are many fine racing venues in Kentucky. Obviously, the cream of the crop is Churchill Downs, the host track of the Kentucky Derby and the top horse track in the US. However, Kentucky is also home to Keeneland, which hosts as many or more Grade I races in a given year than Churchill does. Kentucky is also a major destination for harness races, due to the fact that The Red Mile hosts the Kentucky Futurity each year — part of the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters. So, although Kentucky tends to regard gambling with hostility and suspicion, the state’s status as a gambling mecca for handicappers remains unchallenged. Here are the various tracks in Kentucky:
700 Central Ave., Louisville, KY 40208
7500 Turfway Road, Florence, KY 41042
Ellis Park Racing and Gaming
3300 US 41, Henderson, KY 42420
4201 Versailles Road, Lexington, KY 40510
5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, KY 42134
Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel
777 Winners Way, Oak Grove, KY 42262
The Red Mile
1200 Red Mile Road, Lexington, KY 40504
Derby City Gaming
4520 Poplar Level Road, Louisville, KY 40213
Newport Racing & Gaming
1723 Monmouth St., Newport, KY 41071
Obviously, you can bet on the slate of races held at each of the tracks. In addition, you can also wager on races around the country through the simulcast facilities at the tracks. Perhaps surprisingly, the OTBs at the track are the only ones in the state — there are no standalone off-track betting locations in Kentucky.
However, there are also advance deposit wagering sites — better known as online horse betting. There are plenty of great horse betting sites out there and a good bunch of them set up camp in Kentucky. But, for the aspiring or improving handicapper, it’s tough to beat horse betting at TVG.
A Brief History of Gambling Laws in Kentucky
Kentucky is definitely a gambling state. It always has been, and it always will be. However, it is a specific gambling state that is focused almost entirely on horse racing. The history of gambling in Kentucky reveals a smattering of small inclusions to the state’s gambling profile. For a state incorporated in 1792, it’s a rather spare history, but regardless, here are the five most important dates in Kentucky gambling history.
The first documented instance of horse racing in Kentucky occurs in Lexington. Races feature horses running in a park known as The Commons. Two years later, Louisville residents are using Market Street as their own racecourse — a concept that Lexington adopts shortly thereafter. In succeeding years, officials increasingly move the races away from public thoroughfares out of safety concerns. The first official track, the Lexington Association Track, opens in 1858, but it isn’t until a competing venue opens its doors in 1875 that horse racing and Kentucky become permanently entwined in the minds of the public. Of course, that competing venue is Churchill Downs.
Due to pressure from then-Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson, Kentucky lawmakersput the question of a state lottery to voters on the November ballot. The measure, which asks Kentuckians if they would be in favor of a state lottery, passes with 60% of the vote. The first lottery tickets go on sale in October 1989, with the purpose of funding education initiatives in the state. Since 1999, the Kentucky Lottery has contributed more than $4 billion in grants and scholarships to Kentucky students.
Kentucky lawmakers, perhaps emboldened by their lottery success four years prior, pass legislation to allow charitable gaming to proceed in the state. Parlors for games like bingo or a raffle begin to pop up all over the state and must only work in service to licensed charitable organizations inside the state. The legalization is not universally popular, and bingo proponents find themselves party to alawsuit over the new amendment’s constitutionality. The Kentucky Court of Appeals upholds and reverses, each in part, the Charitable Gaming Act. However, the law stands in reasonable form, and players continue to havebingo and raffle options in the Bluegrass State.
After authorizing legislation passes a year prior, the first Instant Racing historical horse racing devicesbegin to appear at Kentucky horse tracks. The machines are an unqualified success for the health of the industry and have far-reaching impacts on keeping horse racing going in Kentucky. Because of the new revenue stream, purses at Kentucky live races grow and begin to attract more prestigious horses. It is not an exaggeration to say that Kentucky is home to nearly two dozen Grade I races due to HHR, at least in part.
The first internet sales of draw lottery games and instant win gamestake place in April. The Kentucky Lottery offers players the ability to purchase Mega Millions, Powerball and KY Cash Ball tickets from their computers and mobile devices. There are also five instant win games available, including options for as little as 50 cents to play. The first iteration of the app for the lottery debuts the following December. The launch makes Kentucky one of only a few states with full-blown online lottery options and sales.
In March 2023, Gov. Andy Beshearsigned HB 551 into law, which regulates sports betting in the state. The law put the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in charge of regulating the gambling expansion and created the room for up to 27 online licenses. As of September 2023, each of the state’s nine horse racing tracks is able to take bets on sports from people visiting their venues. More importantly, online sports betting launched later in the month, opening the door for Kentuckians to place sports bets anywhere in the state.
Legal online gambling in Kentucky
Kentucky has not made most online gambling options legal for residents or visitors. However, online sports betting is live for all Kentuckians over the age of 18, and there are also online lottery games and social/sweeps cash casino options that Bluegrass inhabitants can play.
Gambling is a fun activity, whether it’s betting on horses, playing a DFS contest, or buying a lottery ticket. Unfortunately, gambling also comes with health risks. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling,just over 1% of gamblers in Kentucky suffer from problem gambling or gambling addiction. Although Kentucky’s gambling options are fewer in number than in other states, you can still have as big of a problem with horse betting, DFS and the other options in the Bluegrass State as with any other type of gambling.
Your first resource to explore is the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling. The KYCPG is the state affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling and can connect you with the appropriate counselors or treatment options. The council also maintains several hotlines that are staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day. You can call 1-800-GAMBLER day or night to get started. The KYCPG also maintains a secondary website,kygamblerhelp.org.
Unfortunately, Kentucky is one of only a handful of states without any kind of funding set aside for problem gambling. So, the best option that you will find for relief are support groups likeGamblers Anonymous andGam-Anon. In fact, Gamblers Anonymous has several Kentucky-specific hotlines that you can use:
If you prefer to stay in the comfort of your home, you can also try the forums atGamtalk. Gamtalk is a discussion board that functions in a manner similar to Gamblers Anonymous but over the internet. You can ask questions, find others in the same situation and start finding your way out of the hole.
It is possible to self-exclude from the Kentucky Lottery. In addition, the tracks themselves may offer self-exclusion. It’s a radical option made more difficult by how patchwork it is in Kentucky, but it is available.
Bart Shirley is the managing editor of evergreen content for PlayUSA. He’s been writing and reporting on the gambling industry since 2013.
Prior to working for PlayUSA, Shirley was a feature writer for QuadJacks, a site covering issues in poker. He also writes for BonusCodePoker, a poker satire site that lampoons the lighter side of card games. Shirley is a graduate of the MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business and has a degree in English from Texas A&M University. He grew up in Houston, TX, and lives in Katy, just west of Houston.
Shirley is also a former high school teacher. He is married, has one daughter, and practices Brazilian jiu jitsu in his spare time.