Charitable Gaming in Kentucky
Kentucky may have no casinos, but it has several legal gambling options, including charitable gaming. Bingo is the most popular form of charitable gaming in KY, but you’ll also find pull-tabs, raffles and even casino nights hosted by charity-based organizations.
Here is an overview of available charitable gaming options in Kentucky, including all you need to know about how the games work and where to find them.
Legal charitable games in Kentucky
Regulations for legal charitable games are outlined in Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 238. For many years, charitable gaming has represented one of three primary types of legal gambling in Kentucky, along with horse betting and the Kentucky Lottery. Starting in 2023, sports betting has become legal in KY as well.
Horse betting is the biggest gambling industry by far in Kentucky, followed by the lottery. Charitable gaming is also quite popular, with more than $532 million wagered on legal charitable games in 2022. That’s about a third of what was spent on lottery tickets.
Kentucky has its own Department of Charitable Gaming (DCG) that regulates all legal charitable gaming in the state. The DCG is one of the agencies within Kentucky’s Public Protection Cabinet. The DCG provides regulation and oversight for KY charitable gaming while also educating potential providers about the rules and guidelines they must follow when offering such games.
In most cases, a non-profit charitable organization needs to have been operating in Kentucky for at least three years before it can apply for a charitable gaming license. That organization also needs to have operated for at least one year in the county where it intends to run games.
Charitable organizations expecting to gross less than $25,000 a year can apply for an exemption from licensure. But they still need to do that before offering any games. Types of organizations that can qualify to offer charitable gaming include fraternal, civic, educational, religious, and patriotic organizations, as well as other types of charitable organizations.
Currently, there are more than 500 charitable organizations licensed to offer games in the state. There are more than 700 exempt charitable organizations that can offer games as well.
Types of charitable games allowed in Kentucky
Charitable games legally allowed in Kentucky include:
Organizations can also offer on a limited basis what the DCG calls “special limited charitable games” a certain number of times per year and for only a certain number of hours per event. These events are similar to charity “casino nights” found in other states (see more below).
What is not allowed?
Meanwhile, certain games are strictly prohibited from being offered by charitable organizations. These include slots, electronic video gaming devices, sports betting, or simulcast betting on horse races.
Charitable bingo in Kentucky
Bingo is by far the most popular type of charitable gaming in Kentucky. As is true in other states, regulators limit the number of bingo sessions licensed charitable organizations in Kentucky can host. The DCG also limits the amount of money that can be awarded.
Organizations can offer no more than one session per day lasting no more than five hours. They can have no more than two sessions per week totaling no more than 10 hours. The bingo halls also cannot offer a single bingo prize worth more than $5,000.
The DCG establishes rules and guidelines for bingo games. These allow certain variations like pickle jar, bonanza ball, and hot ball as well as break-open bingo, player pick bingo and the multipart continuation game, and progressive bingo in which prizes are carried forward if there is no winner.
Note that real money online bingo is not legal in Kentucky, as online casinos are not allowed in Kentucky.
Charitable pull-tabs in Kentucky
Pull-tabs are gambling tickets with perforated tabs that when pulled reveal numbers, letters or symbols underneath. Players purchase pull-tabs, then reveal the symbols to see if their ticket contains a winning combination. Pull-tabs are similar to instant scratchers such as those offered by the Kentucky Lottery in that players find out right away whether they have won.
In Kentucky, charitable organizations must not offer any single pull-tab prizes worth more than $599. For cumulative or carryover pull-tab games (similar to progressive jackpots), the prizes cannot exceed $2,400.
Charitable organizations can have pull-tab dispensers or use other means to distribute the tickets. They are also allowed to offer electronic pull-tab devices with limits placed on the number they can have in a single location.
Charitable raffles in Kentucky
Charitable organizations can also conduct raffles. These resemble lottery games, specifically draw games in which players buy tickets and hope their numbers are picked as winners. However, unlike in lottery games like Powerball or Mega Millions, raffle players do not choose their numbers but buy tickets with numbers preprinted on them.
Organizations can have up to three raffles per year with the gross receipts from each raffle not exceeding $500. Drawings are held at scheduled times, although players do not have to be present to claim a winning prize.
Special limited charitable games in Kentucky
Special limited charitable fundraising events are also permitted by the DCG. Charitable organizations can conduct such events, which are also known as casino nights, Las Vegas nights or Monte Carlo nights thanks to the fact that the allowed games are casino games.
Permitted special limited charitable games include:
- Money wheel
- Pusher-type games
- House-banked dice games
Licensed charitable organizations may host only two special limited charitable fundraising events per year and must obtain a license each time. Each event is also limited to six hours in duration. Meanwhile, a single facility can play host to a maximum of seven such events per year, operated by multiple licensees.
The games cannot use real money, only “chips, scrip, or imitation money” that can be redeemed for cash or prizes afterward.
Kentucky charitable gaming FAQ
In Kentucky, you must be at least 18 years old to play any of the charitable games described above. That is also the state’s minimum age for sports betting, horse race wagering, and playing the Kentucky Lottery.
As described above, the Department of Charitable Gaming, part of the Team Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, is the agency that oversees all charitable gaming in the state.
You may have encountered so-called “skill games” or “gray machines” (aka “gray slots”) at various locations around Kentucky. These gambling games involve some minor skill elements (such as matching symbols) and have been offered in the past without being regulated. To be clear, these games are not examples of charitable gaming, which cannot be offered without either a license or an exemption from the DCG.
Chances are you are less likely to see these “gray” games going forward. In March 2023, Gov. Andy Beshear signed HB 594 into law prohibiting these games.
Offshore gambling sites that accept Kentucky players are not abiding by Kentucky gambling laws and regulations. While some forms of online gambling are legal in Kentucky (including sports betting, horse race wagering, and the Kentucky Lottery), real money online casinos are not, nor are real money online bingo sites.
We strongly advise you to avoid such sites. Besides operating illegally in Kentucky, these sites present a serious risk both to your personal information and funds.