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Online Poker in Kentucky? YES, Play Legally for Real Money!

Kentucky Internet Poker

If you're in the mood to play Kentucky online poker for real money, the situation is not great, but it's a lot better than it could be. You can certainly partake in online poker in Kentucky without worry because it's perfectly legal on the players' side of things. It's only those running the online rooms that are at any risk.

You see, Kentucky in the past has been antagonistic towards online real money sites, but this has abated in recent years after The State of Kentucky tried, and failed, to slap PokerStars with an $870 million dollar judgment. Because of this history of taking legal action against offshore real-money gambling enterprises, some online card rooms have decided not to offer their services to residents of Kentucky.Since that time, Kentucky hasn’t tried to take any action against gambling sites, and there are currently no state laws on the books making it illegal for players to play online poker. At the federal level too, legislation like the UIGEA aims to penalize operators of offshore gambling and poker sites, not everyday players.

Luckily, players in Kentucky still have a few different options when looking to play Internet poker in the US. Some sites have decided to not service this state, but many have opted to stay available to those players, and the number of options for citizens of Kentucky is not insignificant at all. This means that players can take advantage of fast payout times, good bonuses and great game selection despite external circumstances that do make things a bit more difficult than they need to be.

What Online Poker Sites Can I Play in Kentucky?

Despite the fact that a few poker organizations have elected to exit the Kentucky market, there are still a number of trustworthy rooms for you to play at. We've done all the work involved in gauging their relative levels of traffic, evaluating their promotions and bonus offers, and observing their payout processing speeds. We've selected the best of the best and presented them below so that you don't have to do any guesswork.

Ignition Casino Poker Logo

IGNITION CASINO
Most Poker Traffic


Ignition Poker is the poker site with the highest traffic that's available in Kentucky. Not only are there plentiful NL Hold'em tables but also action in PLO, PLO/8, and Limit Hold'em. You can play as low as $0.02/$0.05 or as high as $10/$20. Fast-fold Zone Poker, lottery-inspired Jackpots, normal sit-n-gos, and multi-table tournaments comprise the game selection here. Every few months, there's an MTT series, often guaranteeing millions of dollars.

Ignition has software for Mac OS, Windows, and mobile systems. Deposit for a 100% up to $1,000 poker bonus (or 125% up to $1,250 by depositing with Bitcoin). Then you can get even more free money to wager in the attached casino.

Sportsbetting Logo

SB POKER
Big Bad Beat Jackpot


SB Poker is well-known for its Bad Beat Jackpot, which has grown above $1 million on occasion. It's the largest BBJ available to Kentuckians, and it's active at specially marked tables of NL Hold'em $0.50/$1.00 and above. Besides this, you can sample non-BBJ Hold'em tables, PLO and PLO/8, 6+ Hold'em, and Blitz Poker fast-fold games. A full roster of SNGs, lottery-style Windfalls, and tournaments are waiting for you too.

SB Poker offers software for PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android, so you can play with whatever hardware you have. There's a 100% up to $1,000 poker bonus, which will be added to your account upon making your first deposit.

Logo of Bovada

BOVADA
Three-in-One Betting


Bovada is on the same poker network as Ignition, and so it hosts the same exact tables and tourneys. Bovada may prove the better choice for some, however, as it lets you bet on sports, which is not possible at Ignition. Not only can you wager on football, baseball, basketball, and your other favorite athletic contests, but you can also bet on horse races. eSports and politics are listed here too.

You can download the Bovada software to your Mac or Windows machine, and there's also a web client that's compatible with smartphones and tablets. Make your initial deposit to unlock a 100% up to $500 poker bonus. There are additional bonuses for the casino and sports divisions.

Logo of SwCPoker.eu

SwCPOKER
Many Poker Variants


An offshoot of the first Bitcoin poker room ever, SwCPoker is a fine place if you love crypto-currency, personal anonymity, and support for multiple formats of poker. NLHE, PLO, and PLO/8 are only to be expected, but you may be surprised to encounter 8-Game, Razz, Chinese Poker, and 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball as well.

The SwCPoker poker platform has versions for Windows, Android, Mac OS, and HTML5. There's no welcome bonus, but you'll get continuous rewards through Krill rakeback.

Nitrogen Logo

NITROGEN
Web-Based Software


Nitrogen Poker hosts NL Texas Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, and PL Omaha games. It does this in a web app that runs on pretty much any web browser, so Nitrogen has broad cross-platform compatibility. Nitrogen's deposits, withdrawals, and gameplay are all conducted in Bitcoin, and payouts sometimes take just a couple of hours to arrive.

Nitrogen Poker doesn't have any welcome bonus, but it does have a Nitro rewards program that pays out in the form of Bitcoin credits and sports free bets based upon your play volume.

Kentucky Online Poker Room Selection Criteria

As you've probably noticed by now, you do have quite a few sites to choose from when it comes to online poker in Kentucky. We won't say which one is best because we can't: The most attractive poker room for you will depend on your own individual situation and tastes. What we can do is present you with a quick rundown of things to think about when attempting to make your decision.

❗ If the size of a poker room is your primary concern, then you should be happy at Ignition or Bovada because they're the largest sites on our list.


❗ If you like the idea of using Bitcoin not just for cashier functions but also for all gameplay, then Nitrogen and SwCPoker will allow you to deploy your BTC at the tables.


❗ If the action-packed experience of fast-fold poker is something you're looking forward to, then Ignition, Bovada, and SB Poker are the only places to indulge your preference.


❗ If you want a first deposit bonus, then Ignition, Bovada, and SB.ag Poker are probably just right for you.


❗ If you want to bet sports and play casino games in addition to poker, then Bovada, Sportsbetting.ag, and Nitrogen will cater to your desires.


❗ If you wish to be able to choose from the widest possible assortment of poker variants, then SwC has you covered with almost every poker format you could think of.

Payout Report for Players from Kentucky

Money Bag

Players can expect no real difference in the payout times from Kentucky than the rest of the states in the U.S.A. Ignition, SB Poker, Bovada, Nitrogen, and SwcPoker all have Bitcoin withdrawal options that make payouts exceptionally fast. Other methods are also decently fast, but they do take longer than the bitcoin option, which is why we recommend that you use crypto-currency for both deposits and cashout requests.

If you're unfamiliar with how Bitcoin works but are interested in learning how to use it, then check out our thorough guide to setting up a Bitcoin wallet and exchange account.

Kentucky Online Poker Law

Legal Book

To delve into what Kentucky law means for online poker players, we have to start with the state's rules regarding the game. There are no instances of the phrases “online poker” or “online gambling” within the Kentucky Revised Statutes. This isn't surprising because many states have laws in effect that date back to before the internet was even conceived of much less used for playing card games. There is one statute that does mention “poker” by name, but it deals with live, charitable gaming, not games conducted online.

We have to therefore consult the rules regarding gambling in general since there's nothing specifically pertaining to internet poker. Fortunately, most of the relevant information is contained within a single chapter: Chapter 528 Gambling. In 528.010, there's a definition of gambling for us to look over:

(4) (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.

This “element of chance” wording implies that poker is included in the definition of gambling because chance is involved in the gameplay. However, this raises the question of how much chance is needed before an activity falls into the category of gambling. Federal Judge Jack B. Weinstein found in 2012 that poker was a game of skill and ought to be excluded from legal frameworks that deal with games of chance. Setting this debate aside, we'll shortly see that it really doesn't matter for ordinary KY residents whether or not poker is considered gambling.

The passage that we cited above just handles definitions; it doesn't declare anything legal or illegal, nor does it prescribe penalties. In fact, there's nothing in the entire compilation of Kentucky laws that makes participation in gambling as a player illegal. You're entirely in the clear legally if you want to join a poker table or two online.

Now, you might be wondering: Why did the legislators even bother to define what gambling is if they aren't going to do anything to restrict it or proclaim it against the law? They might as well have come up with a definition of “umbrella“ or “kudzu” for all the good it would do. Well, the answer lies in the fact that while playing gambling games doesn't incur any punishments, the situation is different for those operating real-money gaming establishments.

Advancing gambling activity is penalized by the law as are promoting gambling, permitting gambling, possessing a gambling device, and other similar actions. Most of these infractions are misdemeanors, but the more serious ones are categorized as felonies. Some may feel that advancing gambling activity and promoting gambling are such vague phrases that prosecutors could easily claim that playing online poker falls under these provisions. However, the definitions statute that we looked at earlier makes it clear that this line of reasoning is incorrect. The explanation of what constitutes advancing gambling activity reads, in part:

A person "advances gambling activity" when, acting other than as a player [emphasis added], he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity.

Interestingly, arranging home poker games is deemed to not count as advancing gambling activity as long as the person hosting the event doesn't profit from it:

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;

The situation is more or less the same with promoting gambling. In the clauses referring to this crime, we find that someone is guilty of it when he or she "knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity." Turning back to the definitions, we find out that:

A person "profits from gambling activity" when, other than as a player [emphasis added], 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;

People who act simply as regular players are thus exempted from falling under the punishments delineated in these laws. To date, nobody has ever been arrested or charged with any crime for competing at online poker tables, and it's tough to identify any KY law that could, even theoretically, be used to charge individual players.

How Do Offshore Gambling Operators View Kentucky?

Pair of Binoculars

Kentucky, like most states, has pretty stringent laws against those who own and manage unregulated gambling companies. While most such laws around the country are usually not taken very seriously when it comes to internet poker, Kentucky actually endeavors to enforce them. In 2008, authorities in the commonwealth tried to seize more than 100 gambling-related domains, claiming that they were “gambling devices” and “gambling records.” The case dragged on for years with many appeals filed and conflicting verdicts rendered. A few of the sites reached settlements with Kentucky, but most of them were able to regain ownership of their domain names without having to pay any fines or charges.

In 2010, Kentucky sued several online gambling operators under an archaic law that allows third parties to recover gambling losses incurred by others. There was actually a judgment issued against Amaya (owner of PokerStars) in December 2015 for the gargantuan sum of $870 million although Amaya won an appeal and had the fine thrown out..

These and other actions by the authorities in the Bluegrass State have caused some poker firms to decide that it's not a good idea to operate in Kentucky. This is why there are fewer options for real money Kentucky online poker than there are in most other states. Nevertheless, there still remain several who are willing to accept the risks of doing business in the state, and so you can play to your heart's content.

Kentucky's Gambling History

Book With Spectacles

Kentucky was a sparsely populated subdivision of Virginia at the time of American Independence from the British Empire, and so it didn't have a chance to build up the long colonial history of gambling that some of the other states did. Yet, it did hold its first lottery in 1792 – the same year that it became a state – and so it lost little time in catching up with its more established neighbors. Another fixture of Kentucky Gambling got started during this same era when the first organized horse race in the area was held in Louisville in 1783.

There's not much information available about gambling in Kentucky during the early 1800s, so we imagine that it remained more or less present although perhaps frowned upon in certain quarters. In 1875, Churchill Downs was built in Louisville in 1875, and the first Kentucky Derby was held that same year. In 1891, a new constitution was drafted that prohibited lotteries. By this time, the number of lotteries in the state had proliferated wildly, and many of them were crooked or were outright scams, so it's understandable that the drafters of the constitution wished to curtail them. Over the next decades, this part of the Kentucky Constitution was used to declare many forms of gaming as a type of lottery and thus prohibited, but racetrack betting was never banned.

Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1901 Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1901: the Site of the Annual Kentucky Derby

In the 1920s and '30s, many underground gambling clubs opened up and did a bustling trade in Kentucky. So notorious did Newport, KY, become for these illicit doings that it became known as “Sin City” well before this nickname was applied to Las Vegas. In 1962, a reformer named George Ratterman ran for sheriff of Campbell County on a platform of cleaning up the gambling dens. Things looked grim for his campaign when he was found in bed with a hooker. Yet, the story took an unusual twist when his blood was found to contain a sedative – he had been drugged and placed in a compromising position by his political adversaries! With the revelation of the truth, their plan backfired, and Ratterman was duly elected to office. Through a combination of George's efforts, the increased allure of Las Vegas, and cooperation from the federal authorities, most of the remaining gambling enterprises shut down or relocated elsewhere.

In 1998, a referendum to institute a state lottery was passed, and the Kentucky Lottery duly opened up the following year. In 1992, the restrictions against charitable gaming were relaxed, allowing for bingo, raffles, and casino nights.

In 2010, KY racetracks obtained permission to offer Instant Racing terminals. This is a type of game that resembled a slot machine but ostensibly generates its results from the outcomes of past horse races, making it a form of parimutuel wagering. The legality of these games has been questioned, and it's possible that courts may declare them illegal.

In 2016, the Kentucky Lottery began selling its tickets online.

Kentucky Gambling Timeline

Online Poker in the State of Kentucky

Regulation Chances for Online Poker

Blue Regulation Document

This is an exceptionally tricky question to answer, because the obvious answer might not actually be the correct one. It might appear that Kentucky would stand very little chance of regulating online poker, because it has been aggressive with online sites in the past and the state’s population is pretty conservative, which are both exceptionally true.

What this ignores though is that the horse tracks within the state might decide they want a piece of the pie. Churchill Downs, which is one of the most well-known horse tracks in the world, has been active in the poker scene before with small behind the scenes purchases. If they decided to really put pressure on the state legislature to legalize online poker, it is possible that it could actually happen. Kentucky already has limited forms of online wagering, like racetrack betting, which has been running for quite a few years now.

Online sports betting and gaming legislation has made faltering steps in the past few years with lawmakers introducing bills that ultimately were not passed. We envision these types of real money state-licensed gaming appearing soon in Kentucky with sportsbooks arriving first and then perhaps internet casino and poker games coming several years thereafter.

Land-Based Gambling

Horse and Jockey

Kentucky has limited land-based gambling, but what is there is rather large. Pari-mutuel betting is of course the most famous type of terrestrial gambling available in Kentucky. Pari-mutuel betting is the type of wagering that the horse industry is based around, and this is one of the most noteworthy things about Kentucky as every year hundreds of thousands converge on Churchill Downs for the running of the Kentucky Derby.

In addition to this most obvious kind of land-based gambling, there is also a rather large state lottery, and charitable gambling is also present within the state. Social card games round out the menu of offline Kentucky gambling. Besides those types, there is no legal gambling in Kentucky, and the racetracks do not feature full casinos, like they do in other states, which is important to note. 

If Kentucky were to legalize online poker or online gambling, it’s not immediately clear which companies would become the main operators in the state. Without land-based casinos, there would likely be an arms race to acquire a horse track to get a foothold in the state. Harrah’s and PokerStars would be the most obvious candidates to do something like this with many others also trying to get their foot in the door. Churchill Downs would also attempt to use its famous name from horse racing to become a major player in the market. All of this is pure speculation though, and the way in which the laws would be written would likely determine who would become the largest operator in the state.

Famous Kentucky Poker Players

Shooting Star

Kentucky, for whatever reasons, has never really been prominent in the production of world-class poker players. The Kentucky live tournament player with the highest total of winnings is Kurt Jewell who hails from Frankfort.

Jewell is a fixture at the WSOP Circuit events where he has won 5 rings amidst 39 cashes spanning back to 2007. He has also cashed 21 times in WSOP bracelet tournaments though he has yet to snag a gold bracelet in his career. Kurt Jewell has amassed more than $1.5 million in brick-and-mortar tournament earnings.

Online Casinos

There are no casinos in Kentucky so those seeking out blackjack, roulette, craps, slot machines and similar diversions must head online. Fortunately, there's no shortage of virtual casinos that serve the Bluegrass State, and we have identified three of the best of them:

Logo of Ignition

1. Ignition Casino - $1,000 in Free Bonus Funds ($1,500 With Bitcoin)

Bovada Small Logo
2. Bovada Casino - $3,000 Casino Welcome Bonus ($3,750 With BTC)
Logo of SB Casino
3. SB Casino - $3,000 in Deposit Bonuses and 10% Weekly Rebate

To find out more about online casinos that serve Kentucky, take a glance at the list of best internet casinos for Americans.

Online Sportsbooks

Though there have been recent attempts to get licensed sports betting to appear in Kentucky, none of these legislative efforts have yet yielded any fruit. Thus, in you reside in Kentucky and wish to wager on sports, you will have to do so with offshore international bookmakers over the internet. We have evaluated these kinds of organizations and have picked three reliable ones for you to check out:

Bovada.lv Logo

1. Bovada Sports - 50% bonus up to $250 (up to $750 for BTC)

Sportsbetting.AG Logo
2. Sportsbetting.ag - 50% up to $1,000 Bonus, 25% Reloads, and 20% eSports Rebate
Logo of NitrogenSports.eu
3. Nitrogen Sports - Low Vig and Free Bets Available

Check out a list of the top online sportsbooks USA for more information about internet sportsbooks for Americans.

Conclusion

Playing online poker in Kentucky is completely safe because there's no law that says you aren't allowed to. The situation for operators is different, and so some of them have decided to stop serving the state, but there are still numerous sites for you to play at. Pick a dependable real money Kentucky online poker site and start winning your share of pots and tournaments!

Do you have an address in a nearby state?

Kentucky's Neighboring States

If you are lucky enough to have a secondary address in a nearby state, be it your business address, summer home, second apartment, family home, etc, you may have other online poker options available to you.  Here are a list of the states that border Kentucky and Professional Rakeback's review on each of them: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. If you didn't find what you were looking for in that long list of nearby states, then go ahead and take a look at our U.S. Online Poker Guide that answers the question "Is Online Poker Legal?"

 

Unfortunately there is a lot of ignorance surrounding the current legal status of online poker.  If you found this information helpful, please take a moment to share it with your friends and family so that, together, we can help keep the poker community alive and growing!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have unanswered questions about online poker in Kentucky, then the information below may be useful. We've gone through the questions that our readers have asked and come up with accurate answers for them.

No, there's no regulatory structure in place in Kentucky for licensed online poker. Bills were prepared to expand Kentucky gambling to include online poker in 2018, 2019, and 2020, but none of these pieces of legislation progressed very far. Therefore, the only options currently for internet poker fans in the Bluegrass State are offshore gaming sites.

Yes, poker gaming, whether online or live, is totally legal under the state's laws. At least it is if you're just a player. For those actively running the games, the situation is not as rosy. Indeed, Kentucky is one of the few states that has tried to prosecute online poker sites though with little success. Still, this has no impact on the legal situation for individuals who can play to their heart's content without worrying about running afoul of the Kentucky criminal law.

Yes, PokerStars is in full compliance with Kentucky law, but it only offers play money games in this jurisdiction. When PokerStars was attacked during the Black Friday events in 2011, it voluntarily agreed to stop offering real money games to residents of the United States. The only exceptions are in places where it has obtained the explicit permission of the authorities to conduct real money poker games, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Kentucky does not have any state-regulated internet gaming market, at least not yet, and so PokerStars does not provide its full panoply of services to the state.

Yes, Ignition's transactions in the KY market are legal. The U.S. government might not agree, but they have been overruled several times by the World Trade Organization, which has found that the federal government's persecution of offshore betting organizations is a violation of treaty obligations. The United States has signed certain agreements whereby it allows other countries access to its markets, and so it is breaking its solemn obligations by making things difficult for poker sites like Ignition.

Yes, BetOnline is acting legally by accepting Kentucky players. As it is a Panamanian-licensed and -registered corporation, it adheres to the laws of Panama, which allow it to transact worldwide across the internet. BOL is not subject to the decrees of officials in Washington, D.C., and it happily and legally ignores whatever they might think of the matter.

Global says it's fully legal, but we aren't entirely convinced by the firm's arguments. It would be beyond the scope of this FAQ to get into the nitty-gritty here, but you can consult our Global Poker review for a thorough treatment of this subject.

18 is the age that has been established in Kentucky as the minimum before you are allowed to gamble. This same rule applies online too, so you have to be at least 18 in order to play internet poker for real money.

If you are younger than this, it might be tempting to lie about your age in order to be able to open an account. However, this will just create problems for you later on. When you submit your first withdrawal request, you will probably have to submit your ID and other documents for verification purposes. When the operator discovered that you were playing while underage, they will be entitled to block your account and seize your balance. Therefore, we counsel our readers to only play if they have reached the legal age for doing so.

No, it would be very foolish to start up an underground betting business within Kentucky borders. Though state law enforcement turns a blind eye when it comes to punishing individual gamblers, it's a different story for those who manage and own illegal gambling companies. Just look at the case of Douglas Booth of Bowling Green who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in running illicit sports betting websites.

Almost every online poker room supports a variety of payment and withdrawal methods, like credit cards, money transfers, and checks, but you'll probably see the best results by using a crypto-currency like Bitcoin. Unlike old-school payment channels, which sometimes come with lengthy delays and high fees, BTC transactions are relatively inexpensive and speedy.

Every site that we recommend for Kentuckians accepts bitcoins for both deposits and withdrawals. If you are currently unfamiliar with Bitcoin, then you can read this guide to Bitcoin online poker to learn how to get started using this crypto coin. There are a couple of alternative crypto coins, or “altcoins,” that have been gaining traction at internet gaming sites in recent years, and you can learn more about how to use them for poker and other wagering: Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum.

Yes, most online poker firms have a solution for mobile users. This often takes the form of a web-based interface for users of multiple computing platforms, including phones and tablets, but in other cases, there are dedicated downloadable apps for Android or iOS.

At some rooms that have mobile poker software, the games contained are a subset of those available on desktop. You also might find it difficult to multi-table on a mobile screen, and playing more than one table at once might even be impossible. Therefore, we prefer to run the poker application on our computers most of the time and only play from a phone or tablet when away from our desks.

With the increasing popularity of Macs, more online poker providers are catering to users who have this kind of hardware. At some rooms, there's a Mac-specific download client that you can use, but even at those internet poker parlors that don't indulge Mac customers in this particular way, you can often use Safari or another browser to log in and play through the web. For more on this topic, check out the list of Mac-compatible online poker rooms.

Yes, you have to pay a flat tax of 5% of your income to the Kentucky Department of Revenue, and this applies to poker and other gambling wins also. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service will want its share too.

There may be ways of legally minimizing your tax obligation, but we strongly urge you to resist the temptation to not pay what you owe. Saving a few bucks now may set you up for headaches later on if you get audited. For more insight into your tax situation, you can enlist a CPA or qualified tax attorney.

Yes, home poker games are permitted by KY law as long as there's no rake or fee charged. There's a specific exemption in the state's anti-gambling statutes for participating in such games as well as organizing and inviting others to play social poker.


We strive to maintain this information and update it frequently with our research. However, we are not immune to making mistakes or omitting information that you, dear reader, may find of use. If you have any further questions not addressed in this guide or have noted any discrepancies or inaccuracies we urge you to contact us with your questions and concerns so that we may swiftly address them!