Legal Online Poker Sites In Kentucky
Poker is a favorite card game across the United States, although Kentucky is one state where it is relatively difficult to find a game. Online poker for real money is not legal in Kentucky, and there are no casinos or poker rooms, either.
That said, you can play online poker in Kentucky at social and sweepstakes sites. There are also a few poker leagues that provide legal ways to play poker in person. Meanwhile, legislation has been proposed recently to legalize online poker in Kentucky, so circumstances could change.
Read on for everything you need to know about the current status of legal online poker and other types of poker in Kentucky, including where you can play now and what might become available in the future.
Is online poker legal in Kentucky?
Real money online poker is not currently legal in Kentucky. In fact, the state has adopted a relatively hostile stance toward online poker in the past, legally challenging sites that have attempted to serve players in KY (see below).
There is another option, though, for Kentucky poker players seeking to play online.
Social and sweepstakes online poker in Kentucky
Social and sweepstakes sites enable players to enjoy online poker on their computers or mobile devices. The games use virtual currencies rather than real money, making them legal to play in Kentucky and most U.S. states. However, even though they don’t use real money in the games, they do afford opportunities to redeem winnings for cash prizes.
The most popular example of a social and sweepstakes online poker site is Global Poker. There, Kentuckians can play a variety of different poker games online.
Global Poker games and tournaments
Global Poker features the following poker variants:
- Texas Hold’em (both no-limit and fixed-limit)
- Omaha (both high-only and hi-lo)
- Crazy Pineapple (a hold’em variation that uses three hole cards instead of two)
- Caribbean Poker
- Surge Poker (a “fast-fold” game like PokerStars Zoom)
You’ll find both short-handed and full-ring games (aka, “cash games,” although as noted, Global Poker doesn’t actually use cash at the tables). You’ll also find a wide selection of multi-table tournaments, including freezeouts, re-entry tournaments, bounty tournaments and more.
Since Global Poker serves most of the U.S. and some of Canada, the fields in these poker tournaments can get quite large. This means prize pools can get big as well.
Popular daily and weekly tournaments on Global Poker include the Daily Hundo, the Sunday Scrimmage, Gold Rush, and Bonanza. Keep an eye out as well for the big seasonal tournament series like the Spring Carnival and Summer Ring Dash, plus others such as the Eagle Cup, the Grizzly Games, and The Goat.
Is it safe to play at offshore online poker sites?
No, we strongly advise players in Kentucky to avoid offshore online poker sites that use real money in their games. Such sites might purport to be legal for Kentucky players, but in truth, they operate outside the U.S. (hence the “offshore” designation) and do not abide by U.S. or Kentucky gambling laws.
Since these online poker sites are not regulated or legal in KY, state regulators have no oversight. As a result, if you encounter any problems when playing on the sites, you will have no legal recourse.
Say you encounter problems with the software or suspect fraudulent activity by your opponents (e.g., multi-accounting, shadowing, collusion). You can only hope the site’s customer support will respond appropriately to your complaints. In fact, the security of your personal information and even your funds are not guaranteed, either, as the site does not have to abide by Kentucky laws.
Like all forms of gambling, playing poker involves a degree of risk. Don’t increase your risk by playing on offshore sites where you can never be sure you’ll even be able to withdraw your money after winning at the tables.
When will Kentucky legalize online poker?
Chances are slim that lawmakers will legalize real money online poker in Kentucky any time soon. That said, the recent decision to legalize sports betting in KY did excite some lawmakers to consider online poker as well (see below).
While it is fair to expect online poker to be part of discussions about expanding legal gambling in KY, there is no groundswell of support for it at present. That would suggest Kentucky will not be legalizing online poker in the near future.
Potential Kentucky online poker sites
Should Kentucky ever decide to legalize online poker, there is a fairly short list of sites that might be interested to launch in KY.
- WSOP.com / 888
- BetMGM / partypoker
All three of the above-listed sites and networks have launched in two states so far, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the WSOP.com / 888 network is also live in Nevada and Delaware, and PokerStars is additionally available in Michigan.
Both West Virginia and Connecticut have legalized online poker, but neither state has launched a site.
In fact, online poker is growing at a much slower pace across the U.S. than online sports betting or even online casinos. If KY were to legalize online poker, it would benefit from joining a multi-state agreement as some other states have to increase the player pool.
Where to play live poker in Kentucky
With no casinos or poker rooms in the state, the options for playing live poker in Kentucky are few.
In Sept. 2022, former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker opened the Moneymaker Social Club in Paducah. The room closed in early 2023, however, after Moneymaker was told the club faced legal action if it remained open.
Other so-called “social” poker clubs have nonetheless been able to remain open, although their status is uncertain. Another option is to play in poker leagues that stage free-to-play events with prizes. These “bar poker” games are popular and can be a lot of fun. Best of all, they are legal.
Can poker players host home games in Kentucky?
As is the case in many states, Kentucky’s gambling laws aren’t specific about home poker games, although you can reasonably assume home games that charge any rake or fee to play are not allowed. Nor is it legal to host home poker games in which the stakes are especially high.
Kentucky law includes statutes that prohibit “promoting gambling.” Statute 528.020 describes promoting gambling in the first degree as a felony and explains that it involves receiving or accepting “bets totaling more than $500.” Statute 528.030 describes doing so in the second degree as a misdemeanor, removing the mention of stakes.
In other words, it’s probably fine if the game host isn’t taking a “rake.” Rake is typically how legal, regulated poker rooms profit off hosting games. Poker is unique because it’s player versus player instead of player versus casino. Thus, a casino will take a small amount of money from each pot to pay for its poker expenses.
In any event, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid any possibility of engaging in illegal gambling.
History of online poker in Kentucky
During the early days of online poker, players in Kentucky could access and play on many different global online poker sites. However, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 introduced restrictions on financial transactions to and from such sites, causing many to leave the U.S. Later in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice enacted legal action against the largest sites that remained, effectively ending online poker’s first era in the United States.
Even before 2011, Kentucky was not pleased with online poker sites welcoming KY players. The state even tried to seize a number of poker – and gambling-related domains to shut the sites down.
After the poker sites left Kentucky in 2011, the Commonwealth pursued action against the world’s biggest online poker site, PokerStars, for continuing to serve KY residents from 2006-2011. In late 2022, Kentucky won a $300 million judgment against PokerStars’ parent company.
Gov. Andy Beshear is considered one of the most pro-gambling governors in Kentucky history. However, his father, Steve Beshear, was Kentucky governor when the state filed suit against PokerStars.
Since 2011, real money online poker has remained illegal in KY. Even so, there have been attempts by lawmakers to introduce legislation to legalize online poker.
In fact, in early 2023, one of the proposed sports betting bills, HB 106, also would have legalized KY online poker. The bill had several co-sponsors, but it failed to move out of committee while another sports betting bill eventually passed.
FAQ about Kentucky online poker
Should Kentucky ever legalize real money online poker, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) seems a likely candidate to act as the regulatory body overseeing its operation. The only other prominent and potentially relevant regulatory body in this vein is the Kentucky Lottery.
Besides overseeing horse betting in Kentucky, the KHRC currently provides the same function for sports betting, including online sports betting. Should Kentucky choose to expand online gambling, including adding online poker, the KHRC would likely expand its oversight obligations as well.
If Kentucky were to legalize real money online poker or other online casino games, it is not clear what the minimum age to play might be. In most states, the answer would be easy—you need to be at least 21 years old to play online poker. But in Kentucky, you can bet on horses, play the lottery, and even legally wager on sports if you are at least 18 years old.
It is up in the air, then, what the age restriction would be on other forms of online gambling in KY. For those wanting to play online poker at Global Poker, you need to be at least 18 years old.
While it can be a challenge figuring out where to play poker in Kentucky, there are numerous options among KY’s many neighboring states. To the north, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia all have retail casinos, some of which have poker rooms. West Virginia has also legalized online poker, but no sites have launched there.
It is a bit of a drive westward to reach Missouri casinos, but a few there also have poker. You can head south to play in the poker room at Harrah’s Cherokee in western North Carolina, about three hours from the KY border by car.
No, you are not able to play on other states’ legal real money online poker sites from Kentucky.
New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have all launched legal real money poker sites. West Virginia and Connecticut have legalized online poker, too, though no sites have opened yet. However, you must be physically located in those states to play on their online poker sites.
No, PokerStars is available only in three states at present: New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania, at least as far as real money online poker is concerned. You can participate in play money games on the site from Kentucky, however.