With the exception of racing and lotteries, gambling is illegal in Kentucky. However, you’ll find that the laws are relaxed for players, which does open up a few opportunities for live games. Hosts and operators, however, will need to be careful as they’ll be under more scrutiny. More details on this are below.
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What Are the Laws for Playing Poker in Kentucky?
With the exception of the lottery, charitable gaming and horse racing, gambling is illegal.
What Are the Consequences of Being Caught Gambling?
It’s not very clear in Kentucky’s laws of what the consequences are if a “player” is caught gambling. However, if you read the other laws regarding “gambling transactions void” or “recovery of gambling losses from winner or his transferee,” you could make the assumption that the laws or consequences are lax.
If you happen to run a home game, you’re starting to tread the grey area that is Kentucky’s gambling laws. According to Joe at PokerKy.net, you could technically be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. Whether or not you’re convicted of any wrong doing depends on whether you’re profiting from and/or actively promoting your game.
For home or bar games that take a profit, the consequences are clearer. If caught, you face felony charges which can mean 1-5 years in prison.
Can You Play Online Poker in Kentucky?
The problem with online poker in Kentucky stems from the laws regarding operators and their ability to host and rake poker games. Profiting from gambling is not allowed, so based on that, online poker is automatically ruled out.
Not only that, but Kentucky tried to seize gambling related domains (2009-2012). They felt the domains fit under the classification of gambling devices, which in the state of Kentucky makes them illegal. The state ultimately failed, but that should give you an idea as to how they feel about online poker operators.
Your only option for online poker in Kentucky is to play free or at Bovada Poker. However, from my experience most poker sites that are familiar with (individual) state laws will block players from states that have (strict) laws in place. So what you might find is that when you go to create your account, that the option for choosing Kentucky from a drop down menu (for your country/state/city) isn’t available (you’re not allowed to play there).
Luckily there is still one reputable online poker room that accepts residents from Kentucky: Bovada Poker. How long will they escape the rath of the run-away Kentucky lawmakers? We aren’t sure, but they’ve been success for 18-months so we have high hopes.
Are Home Games Legal?
Home games are a mixed bag in Kentucky. Since their laws are lax, you don’t have to worry about going to jail for playing in a friendly home game.
However, the person running the game does run the risk of legal trouble. If the game is being promoted in any way and/or takes a cut of the profits. So, the best way to reduce your risk here is to keep your game small and not accept any money in fees or rake.
Can You Play Live Poker in Kentucky?
Kentucky does not have any brick-and-mortar casinos. All they have is racetracks for dogs and horses, as well as their lottery.
However, casino gaming may be in Kentucky’s future. Earlier the state took a vote to open several new casinos. The bill didn’t pass, being outvoted 21-16. But given that they went as far as to take the vote in the first place, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of there being casinos in Kentucky in the future.
Are There Any Poker Leagues in Kentucky?
There are a few poker leagues in Kentucky that you can participate in. Keep in mind that they should be free to enter to comply with Kentucky’s laws.
Kentucky Blue Poker Crew – Players play to earn points which will later be used to determine the monthly tournament of champions. The tournament of champions then leads to a tournament where the winner receives an entry into the WSOP Main Event.
WPT Amateur League – Play to earn credits which can be used to enter freerolls, quarterly rewards tournaments with $1k prize pools and VIP monthly tournaments. The only venue participating in Kentucky is Jimbo’s Sports Bar in Owensboro.
Under the Gun Poker League – A free bar league that runs nightly with prizes for the top two players. A monthly tournament of champions game is held where players battle for an $80 buy-in to a tournament at the Hollywood Casino.