Kentucky Casinos and Gambling
Kentucky doesn’t allow any type of casino gaming in the state but has a strong horse racing industry. The horse racing industry in the state traces its roots all the way back into the late 1700’s.
The state also offers lottery games and charitable gaming in certain situations.
Top 3 Online Casinos
Most Kentucky residents who want to play casino games travel to Indiana, West Virginia, or Ohio where they can play legally. Indiana has many river boat based casinos along the Ohio River, West Virginia has a dog track and casino fairly close to Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio has a large casino just across the river from Kentucky.
Kentucky Casino Games
Two Kentucky race tracks offer a form of video gaming machine that are somewhat like a slot machine. Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park both offer these games. The games are called instant racing or historical racing because the machines allow players to place wagers on past horse races.
Legal battles have been fought over these machines over the past several years. One side claims the games qualify as pari-mutuel wagering because all of the funds are pooled against other bettors, but the other side claims the machines operate as a game of chance just like a slot machine.
At the time this page was written the machines were in operation, but this could change in the future.
Kentucky Race Tracks
Kentucky is the number one place to be if you enjoy horse racing and want to place bets on horse races. You can find Arabian horse races, thoroughbred racing, quarter horse racing, Appaloosa horse racing, and harness racing. Here’s a summary of each of the main race tracks in Kentucky.
Kentucky Downs – Located in Franklin, KY, Kentucky Downs offers thoroughbred racing on a one mile track. The property houses just under 400 video gaming machines, two restaurants, and a race book.
Ellis Park – Ellis Park is located in Henderson and offers thoroughbred racing. They offer over 180 video game machines, a deli, and two restaurants. Offering both a one mile turf track and a one and one eighth oval track, Ellis Park is open year round.
Churchill Downs – The home of the most famous horse race in the United States, the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is almost as famous as their most popular race. They have both a turf track and a main track. Both tracks have thoroughbred races and are oval. The turf track is seven eighths of a mile and the main course is one mile. Churchill Downs is located in Louisville.
Thunder Ridge – Located in Prestonsburg, KY, the Thunder Ridge horse track offers harness racing, a race book, and one restaurant.
Bluegrass Downs – Offering both quarter horse racing and harness racing, Bluegrass Downs is located in Paducah. The property has a single race track, a race book, a bar, and a restaurant.
Keeneland Grounds – Located in Lexington, Keeneland Grounds has two horse race tracks for thoroughbred races and offers a wide range restaurants and bars on the property. Both race tracks are oval with one having turf and the other using Polytrack.
Red Mile – Also located in Lexington, the Red Mile track features harness racing and a bar on the property.
Turfway Park – Located in Florence, Turfway Park has a Polytrack surface and offers racing all year. Part of the year the track has live racing and the rest of the year they feature simulcast racing.
Poker in Kentucky
Poker is not legal in the state of Kentucky. Just like residents who want to play casino games, Kentucky players often travel to Indiana, West Virginia, and Ohio to play in legalized poker rooms. The casinos in Cincinnati, OH, Cross Lanes, WV, and most in Indiana along the Ohio River have active poker rooms.
Kentucky Casino Legislation
While I’ve seen estimates as high as a half billion dollars in revenue leaving the state as the citizens travel to surrounding areas to gamble, there hasn’t been much advancement toward casino gambling in the state. Bills have been introduced and defeated over at least the past eight years on a regular basis, but it doesn’t appear that anything will change in the near future.
Sports Betting in Kentucky
The only type of betting legalized in Kentucky involves horse racing so you can’t legally place a sports bet in the state or find a legalized bookmaking operation.
Kentucky Bingo and Charitable Gaming
Under certain circumstances some nonprofit organizations can offer raffles, bingo, and casino events. While charity gaming includes many things it specifically doesn’t include any type of slot machine or wager on any sporting event or horse race.
Organizations must be non-profit designated by the federal government (501(c)(3)) or be a university, state college, or school.
The regulations are quite strict, but once an organization jumps through the required hoops they can operate a wide range of events, including up to two casino events a year. These events can’t be longer than six hours and can only offer particular games, but they can be quite profitable because of the lack of competition in the state.
If you live in Kentucky you have a wide range of lottery options. You can play in the multi-state Powerball jackpot game, the multiple state Mega Millions drawings, and all of the games run by the state of Kentucky.
Slot Machine Ownership
Kentucky is one of the few states where residents can own any slot machine, no matter when it was manufactured. Along with West Virginia and Ohio, Kentucky creates a tri-state area of unrestricted slot machine ownership.
I always find it interesting when states allow some types of gambling but not others. The biggest instance of this is when states have casinos but don’t have sports betting of any kind. In Kentucky you can find just about any type of horse race to bet on but you can’t play in a casino.
Kentucky is the place to be if you want to be at the heart of the horse racing industry. Horse owners, breeders, trainers, and bettors are all over the state.