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Casinos in Kentucky

Casino gambling in Kentucky is virtually non-existent, with only social casinos as an available option. On this page, we’ll explain why KY lacks a casino industry and what might change to allow the practice.

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Kentucky is one of a small handful of states that does not offer casino gaming, joining Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont as states without land-based casinos. Kentucky sports betting launched in September 2023, but expansion to include other forms of gambling seems rather unlikely at this time.

On this page, we’ll take a look at why Kentucky doesn’t offer casino gambling, what would need to change to allow casinos, and what other options are available for KY gamblers.

No, casinos are not legal in Kentucky. State law does not allow for casino gambling, whether it is Kentucky online casinos or in-person. Gamblers are limited to sports betting, lottery games, horse racing, historic horse racing (HHR) machines, and sweepstakes/social casinos.

In March 2023, Gov. Andy Beshear signed HB594 which banned “gray machines,” which are similar to casino-style slot machines but require players to manually change a reel. The manufacturer of these machines argues this turns the machines into games of skill rather than of chance, but the new law disagrees and prohibits their operation. This new law indicates Kentucky legislators are in no rush to change casino regulations any time soon, despite studies indicating Kentuckians would support casino legislation.

Gov. Beshear has said Kentucky loses more than $500 million annually to casino gambling activity in neighboring states.

Are any land-based casinos opening in Kentucky soon?

No, there are no land-based casinos opening in Kentucky soon. Casino gaming is still prohibited under state law, and even if laws are changed to allow for this form of gambling, it would be years before facilities are built and operational.

Timeline of casinos in Kentucky

Given the illegal nature of casino gambling in Kentucky, the timeline of casino history in the state is quite limited. However, we’ve highlighted a few key dates in the history of Kentucky’s casino enterprises.

  • 1891: Kentucky adopts a new state constitution that among other things prohibits all forms of gambling outside of pari-mutuel horse race wagering.
  • 2006: A bill is introduced in the state House to allow online slots to be used to raise money for education and Medicaid programs. The bill fails to advance out of committee.
  • 2007: Another casino betting bill is introduced in the House, this time to allow slot machines at racetracks and casinos. The bill fails due to the state’s gubernatorial election that November.
  • 2008: Gov. Andy Beshear introduces a plan to allow casino gambling to the state, with funds from casinos going to healthcare, education, and problem gambling treatment efforts. The House passed Beshear’s plan (with some revisions) in June 2009 but the bill died in a Senate committee.
  • 2011: Gov. Beshear again tries to introduce casino legislation, but the plan lost all momentum and again died in the Senate.
  • 2013: Rep. Dennis Keene (D - Wilder) and Rep. David Osborne (R - Prospect) introduce bills in January and February, respectively, to approve casino gambling without a constitutional amendment and to establish plans for where to allocate tax revenue from casino gaming. Keene’s bill died in a House committee while Osborne’s bill was adjourned the day after introduction.
  • March 2023: Gov. Beshear signs HB594 which prohibits the use of “gray machines” which are similar to casino-style slot machines. The bill passed 64-32 in the House and 29-6 in the Senate.
  • September 2023: Kentucky launches sports betting in both in-person and online capacities (online started several weeks after in-person). Gambling proponents hope the move will eventually lead to increased support for casino legislation.

FAQ

What games could I play at casinos in Kentucky?

Casinos in Kentucky are still prohibited, but if that status changes, it’s possible you could be able to play blackjack, baccarat, roulette, slot machines, craps, video poker, and more! The state is unlikely to approve casino legislation, especially after overwhelming voting against “gray machines” in 2023, leading to the prohibition of those machines despite arguments they were games of skill instead of chance.

Why are there no casinos in Kentucky?

There are no casinos in Kentucky because state law does not allow for casino gambling. The state made efforts as recently as March 2023 to further close gambling laws by prohibiting casino-style “gray machines” and implementing stiff fines against those who were found to keep them in operation.

Are there any Native American casinos in Kentucky?

No, there are no Native American casinos in Kentucky. Casino gambling is prohibited under state law.

Can I play casino games online in Kentucky?

Yes, you can play casino games online in Kentucky, provided they are played at sweepstakes/social casinos only. Online casino gambling for money is illegal under KY law.

What are the penalties for illegal gambling in Kentucky?

The penalties for illegal gambling in Kentucky include but are not limited to fines and/or jail time. Depending on what illegal gambling act was committed, penalties could be considered as misdemeanors or felonies.

Are there any charity or nonprofit casino events in Kentucky?

Yes, charitable gaming laws allow for organizations to hold bingo events, raffles, pull tabs, and “casino nights” where at least 40% of the proceeds go to charitable causes. However, these laws do not extend to slot machines, sports betting, horse racing simulcasts, and electronic video gaming devices.