Kentucky is highly restrictive when it comes to gambling, which is defined as staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest or game based on an element of chance. Aside from the Kentucky Lottery, regulated gambling is limited to horse race betting at local racetracks. No land-based casinos exist within the borders of the state, and all attempts at introducing a bill that would allow this form of gambling have failed. The most recent such attempt came in 2016 and was championed by Sen. Julie Raque Adams and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, but the local racing industry had no interest in such an endeavor.
There are no specific regulations on online gambling in Kentucky, and the general definition is broad enough to cover most forms of iGaming. Consequently, engaging in internet gambling on offshore sites in Kentucky is risky, even though sites like Bovada or BetOnline accept Bluegrass State residents.
Fortunately, two of the entities that are allowed to offer land-based gambling in Kentucky operate their own websites. Kentucky Lottery gives you the option to purchase lottery tickets online, and Churchill Downs runs a site called Twin Spires, which allows its customers to wager on horse racing.
Charitable gambling is permitted in the form of raffles and bingo, although these games can’t be accessed online. There are no laws against social gambling, so there’s nothing to stop a Kentucky resident from testing any games in play money mode or joining a site like Zynga. Local regulations also allow gambling enthusiasts to engage in skill-based games as long as chance doesn’t have a larger impact on the outcome than skill. While this doesn’t apply to poker, Daily Fantasy Sports platforms have been allowed to offer their services to Kentucky residents without any legal repercussions so far.
The minimum gambling age in Kentucky is 18 for both horse race betting and lottery games.
Kentucky Revised Statutes
372.010 Gambling transactions void.
Every contract, conveyance, transfer or assurance for the consideration, in whole or in part, of money, property or other thing won, lost or bet in any game, sport, pastime or wager, or for the consideration of money, property or other thing lent or advanced for the purpose of gaming, or lent or advanced at the time of any betting, gaming, or wagering to a person then actually engaged in betting, gaming, or wagering, is void.
372.020 Recovery of gambling losses from winner or his transferee.
If any person loses to another at one (1) time, or within twenty-four (24) hours, five dollars ($5) or more, or anything of that value, and pays, transfers or delivers it, the loser or any of his creditors may recover it, or its value, from the winner, or any transferee of the winner, having notice of the consideration, by action brought within five (5) years after the payment, transfer or delivery. Recovery may be had against the winner, although the payment, transfer or delivery was made to the endorsee, assignee, or transferee of the winner. If the conveyance or transfer was of real estate, or the right thereto, in violation of KRS 372.010, the heirs of the loser may recover it back by action brought within two (2) years after his death, unless it has passed to a purchaser in good faith for valuable consideration without notice.
372.040 Suit by third person where loser or creditor does not sue.
If the loser or his creditor does not, within six (6) months after its payment or delivery to the winner, sue for the money or thing lost, and prosecute the suit to recovery with due diligence, any other person may sue the winner, and recover treble the value of the money or thing lost, if suit is brought within five (5) years from the delivery or payment.
528.010 Definitions for chapter.
The following definitions apply in this chapter unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Advancing gambling activity” — A person “advances gambling activity” when, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. The conduct shall include, but is not limited to, conduct directed toward the establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device, or activity involved; toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment, or apparatus therefor; toward the solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein; toward the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof; toward the arrangement of any of its financial or recording phases or toward any other phase of its operation. A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with other participants does not otherwise advance gambling activity by performing acts, without remuneration or fee, directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying equipment used therein.
(2) “Bookmaking” means advancing gambling activity by unlawfully accepting bets upon the outcome of future contingent events from members of the public as a business.
(3) (a) “Gambling” means staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. A contest or game in which eligibility to participate is determined by chance and the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered to be gambling.
(b) Gambling shall not mean charitable gaming which is licensed and regulated under the provisions of KRS Chapter 238.
(4) “Gambling device ” means:
(a) Any so-called slot machine or any other machine or mechanical device an essential part of which is a drum or reel with insignia thereon, and which when operated may deliver, as a result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property, or by the operation of which a person may become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property; or
(b) Any other machine or any mechanical or other device, including but not limited to roulette wheels, gambling tables and similar devices, designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling and which when operated may deliver, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property, or by the operation of which a person may become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property;
(c) But, the following shall not be considered gambling devices within this definition:
1. Devices dispensing or selling combination or French pools on licensed, regular racetracks during races on said tracks.
2. Electro-mechanical pinball machines specially designed, constructed, set up, and kept to be played for amusement only. Any pinball machine shall be made to receive and react only to the deposit of coins during the course of a game. The ultimate and only award given directly or indirectly to any player for the attainment of a winning score or combination on any pinball machine shall be the right to play one (1) or more additional games immediately on the same device at no further cost. The maximum number of free games that can be won, registered, or accumulated at one (1) time in operation of any pinball machine shall not exceed thirty (30) free games. Any pinball machine shall be made to discharge accumulated free games only by reactivating the playing mechanism once for each game released. Any pinball machine shall be made and kept with no meter or system to preserve a record of free games played, awarded, or discharged. Nonetheless, a pinball machine shall be a gambling device if a person gives or promises to give money, tokens, merchandise, premiums, or property of any kind for scores, combinations, or free games obtained in playing the pinball machine in which the person has an interest as owner, operator, keeper, or otherwise.
3. Devices used in the conduct of charitable gaming.
(5) “Lottery and gift enterprise ” means:
(a) A gambling scheme in which:
1. The players pay or agree to pay something of value for chances, represented and differentiated by numbers or by combinations of numbers or by some other media, one (1) or more of which are to be designated the winning ones; and
2. The ultimate winner is to be determined by a drawing or by some other method based upon the element of chance; and
3. The holders of the winning chances are to receive something of value.
(b) A gift enterprise or referral sales plan which meets the elements of a lottery listed in paragraph (a) of this subsection is to be considered a lottery under this chapter.
(6) “Mutuel” or “the numbers games ” means a form of lottery in which the winning chances or plays are not determined upon the basis of a drawing or other act on the part of persons conducting or connected with the scheme, but upon the basis of the outcome or outcomes of a future contingent event or events otherwise unrelated to the particular scheme.
(7) “Player” means a person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct, or operation of the particular gambling activity. A person who engages in “bookmaking” as defined in subsection (2) of this section is not a “player.” The status of a “player” shall be a defense to any prosecution under this chapter.
(8) “Profiting from gambling activity” — A person “profits from gambling activity” when, other than as a player, he accepts or receives or agrees to accept or receive money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he participates or is to participate in the proceeds of gambling activity.
(9) “Something of value” means any money or property, any token, object, or article
exchangeable for money or property, or any form of credit or promise directly or
indirectly contemplating transfer of money or property or of any interest therein, or
involving extension of a service, entertainment, or a privilege of playing at a game
or scheme without charge.
(10) “Charitable gaming ” means games of chance conducted by charitable organizations
licensed and regulated under the provisions of KRS Chapter 238.
528.020 Promoting gambling in the first degree.
(1) A person is guilty of promoting gambling in the first degree when he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity by:
(a) Engaging in bookmaking to the extent that he employs or utilizes three or more persons in a bookmaking activity and receives or accepts in any one day bets totaling more than $500; or
(b) Receiving in connection with a lottery or mutuel scheme or enterprise:
1. Money or written records from a person other than a player whose chances or plays are represented by such money or records; or
2. More than $500 in any one day of money played in the scheme or enterprise; or
(c) Setting up and operating a gambling device.
(2) Promoting gambling in the first degree is a Class D felony.
528.030 Promoting gambling in the second degree.
(1) A person is guilty of promoting gambling in the second degree when he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity.
(2) Promoting gambling in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
528.040 Conspiracy to promote gambling.
(1) A person is guilty of conspiracy to promote gambling when he conspires to advance or profit from gambling activity.
(2) “Conspire” means to engage in activity constituting a criminal conspiracy as defined in KRS 506.040.
(3) Conspiracy to promote gambling is a Class D felony.
Charitable Gaming is Permitted by KRS Chapter 238
238.505 Definitions for chapter.
As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
(1) “Department” means the Department of Charitable Gaming within the Public Protection Cabinet;
(2) “Charitable gaming” means bingo, charity game tickets, raffles, and charity fundraising events conducted for fundraising purposes by charitable organizations licensed and regulated under the provisions of this chapter. “Charitable gaming” shall not include slot machines, electronic video gaming devices, wagering on live sporting events, or simulcast broadcasts of horse races;
(3) “Charitable organization” means a nonprofit entity organized for charitable, religious, educational, literary, civic, fraternal, or patriotic purposes;
(4) “Bingo” means a specific game of chance in which participants use cards or paper sheets, or card-minding device representations thereof, divided into horizontal and vertical spaces, each of which is designated by a letter and a number, and prizes are awarded on the basis of the letters and numbers on the card conforming to a predetermined and preannounced configuration of letters and numbers selected at random;
(5) “Charity game ticket” means a game of chance using a folded or banded paper ticket, or a paper card with perforated break-open tabs, the face of which is covered or otherwise hidden from view to conceal a number, letter, symbol, or set of numbers, letters, or symbols, some of which have been designated in advance as prize winners and shall include charity game tickets that utilize a seal card. “Charity game ticket” shall include pulltabs;
(6) “Seal card” means a board or placard used in conjunction with charity game tickets, that contains a seal or seals which, when removed or opened, reveal predesignated winning numbers, letters, or symbols;
(7) “Raffle” means a game of chance in which a participant is required to purchase a ticket for a chance to win a prize, with the winner to be determined by a random drawing;
(8) “Charity fundraising event” means an activity of limited duration at which games of chance approved by the department are conducted, including bingo, raffles, charity game tickets, special limited charitable games, and wagering on prerecorded horse races, KRS Chapter 230 notwithstanding. Examples of such activities include events that attract patrons for community, social, and entertainment purposes apart from charitable gaming, such as fairs, festivals, carnivals, licensed charitable gaming organization conventions, and bazaars;
(9) “Manufacturer” means a person who assembles from raw materials or subparts any charitable gaming equipment or supplies used in the conduct of charitable gaming, including a person who converts, modifies, and adds to or removes parts from, charitable gaming equipment and supplies. The term shall not include:
(a) Any person who services or repairs charitable gaming supplies and equipment, so long as that person replaces or repairs an incidental, malfunctioning, or nonfunctioning part with a similar or identical part; and
(b) Any distributor who cuts, collates, and packages for distribution any gaming supplies and equipment purchased in bulk;
(10) “Distributor” means a person who sells, markets, leases, or otherwise furnishes to a charitable organization charitable gaming equipment or supplies, or both, used in the conduct of charitable gaming. “Distributor” shall not include:
(a) A resident printer who prints raffle tickets at the request of a licensed charitable organization; and
(b) A licensed charitable organization that affects a one-time donation of charitable gaming supplies or equipment to another licensed charitable organization if the donation is first approved by the department.
(11) “Charitable gaming facility” means a person, including a licensed charitable organization, that owns or is a lessee of premises which are leased or otherwise made available to two (2) or more licensed charitable organizations during a one (1) year period for the conduct of charitable gaming;
(12) “Gross receipts” means all moneys collected or received from the conduct of charitable gaming;
(13) “Adjusted gross receipts” means gross receipts less all cash prizes and the amount paid for merchandise prizes purchased;
(14) “Net receipts” means adjusted gross receipts less all expenses, charges, fees, and deductions authorized under this chapter;
(15) “Charitable gaming supplies and equipment” means any material, device, apparatus, or paraphernalia customarily used in the conduct of charitable gaming, including bingo cards and paper, charity game tickets, and other apparatus or paraphernalia used in conducting games of chance at charity fundraising events subject to regulation under this chapter. The term shall not include any material, device, apparatus, or paraphernalia incidental to the game, such as pencils, daubers, playing cards, or other supplies that may be purchased from normal sources of supply;
(16) “Door prize” means a prize awarded to a person based solely upon the person’s attendance at an event or the purchase of a ticket to attend an event;
(17) “Special limited charitable game” means roulette; blackjack; poker; keno; money wheel; baccarat; pusher-type games; any dice game where the player competes against the house; and any other game of chance as identified, defined, and approved by administrative regulation of the department;
(18) “Special limited charity fundraising event” means any type of charity fundraising event, commonly known as and operated as a “casino night,” “Las Vegas night,” or “Monte Carlo night,” at which the predominant number or types of games offered for play are special limited charitable games;
(19) “Session or bingo session” means a single gathering at which a bingo game or series of successive bingo games are played, excluding bingo played at a charity fundraising event;
(20) “Immediate family” means:
(a) Spouse and parents-in-law;
(b) Parents and grandparents;
(c) Children and their spouses; and
(d) Siblings and their spouses;
(21) “Affiliate” means any corporation, partnership, association, or other business or professional entity or any natural person that directly or indirectly, through one or more intermediaries, controls, or is controlled by, or is under common control with a licensed manufacturer, distributor, or charitable gaming facility;
(22) “Secretary” means the secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet;
(23) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of the Department of Charitable Gaming within the Public Protection Cabinet;
(24) “Chairperson” means the chief executive officer and any officer, member, or employee of a licensed charitable organization who will be involved in the management and supervision of charitable gaming as designated in the organization’s charitable gaming license application under KRS 238.535(9)(g);
(25) “Year” means calendar year except as used in KRS 238.545(4), 238.547(1), and 238.555(7), when “year” means the licensee’s license year; and
(26) “Card-minding device” means any mechanical, electronic, electromechanical, or computerized device that is interfaced with or connected to equipment used to conduct a game of bingo and that allows a player to store, display, and mark a bingo card face. A card-minding device shall not be designed and manufactured to resemble any electronic gaming device that utilizes a video display monitor, such as a video lottery terminal, video slot machine, video poker machine, or any similar video gaming device
The Kentucky Department of Charitable Gaming can be contacted at (502) 573-5528 to clarify questions.