Is Sports Betting Legal in Kentucky?

No professional sports teams currently set up shop in the state of Kentucky, which makes for an iffy relationship with the betting industry. It’s not even like they have a gaggle of college teams to inflate interest in the sports gambling area. There is the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, specifically their men’s basketball teams, and that’s pretty much it. But how about odds shopping?

Kentucky Sports Betting Law

Kansas’ laws on sports betting fit their empty scene. They don’t have a lot of tolerance for it, which is perhaps why the state doesn’t house a professional sports franchise of any kind. The closest they come to sanctioning gambling on a stakes-related event is horse racing.

Casino Gambling Is Flat-Out Illegal

Looking to get the full experience of casino-style gambling and entertainment? Well, it ain’t happening in Kentucky. They don’t allow tribally or commercially owned establishments.

Attempts to overturn this stance have been made in the past, but they’ve never been successfully pushed through. The lack of present-day attempts to forge new legislature suggests Kentucky won’t soon have a casino, tribal or otherwise, operating within its lines.

Those looking for one must travel to surrounding states, such as Illinois or Indiana, both of which play host to multiple riverboat or full-fledged casinos.

Daily Fantasy Sports Won’t Be Legalized Anytime Soon

Plenty of states spent the year of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 taking steps to legalize daily fantasy sports. Kentucky was not one of them. The proposed bill to allow companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel to target bettors in their demographic was rejected quickly and decisively—yet another harbinger that Kentucky won’t soon be laxing its views on gambling.

Social Gambling and Charitable Gambling Are Fine

Social gambling is allowed in Kentucky, so your weekly poker game, elimination football, Super Bowl boxes and everything else along those lines aren’t in jeopardy of causing you problems.

Charitable wagering is also allowed, though you need to have the proper licenses in place to avoid any problems. And as far as social gambling goes, Kentucky does draw a distinct line between casual betting and for-profit events.

If you find yourself running a company-wide football contest or pool at work that sees you handle in thousands upon thousands of dollars, for example, you’ll likely be in violation of some law. It’s best to pore over Kentucky’s gambling laws, verbatim, if you’re thinking about heading up a larger scale betting-type event.

Illegal Slot Machines Are Becoming an Epidemic

Illegal “gambling machines” have been cropping up in Kentucky over the past few years, starting in 2014. These electronic devices that are usually found in the back rooms of various places. They allow you to gamble money, be it via video poker or video black jack, and are explicitly illegal despite what any proprietors might say. Don’t fall in the trap of thinking this form of betting is fine just because it’s semi-frequent.


Kentucky Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren’t allowed in Kentucky at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Not legal
  • Tribal Gambling: Not legal
  • Poker: Not legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Not legal
  • Social Gambling: Legal
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Online Gambling: Not specified

Kentucky Sports Teams

Due to the absence of professional teams in Kentucky, we will split our focus between in-house squads and the most popular professional factions that are located outside state lines. 

Kentucky Wildcats (College basketball)

The University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball program is among the nation’s premier powerhouses today. They’ve been relevant dating back to the days of head coach Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, but current head honcho John Calipari has taken their standing to the next level.

Kentucky has missed the NCAA Tournament just once during his seven-year reign, and they’ve made two National Title appearances, with one victory. A lot of people despise his schtick, but there’s no denying Calipari is effective. He sells incoming freshman on reaching the NBA after one year, and his track record takes care of the rest. His on-court strategies may be up for debate, but his ability to recruit and succeed within the current one-and-done era of college basketball is not subject to real doubt. It can’t be. His win-loss record speaks for itself.

Besides, whatever you think of him, you have to respect this much: He gets a score of really good players to buy in every year. That’s not easy to do when you’re mostly dealing with one-term stayovers. These athletes should want to be drumming up their stats, but Calipari gets them to take fewer shots and, in many cases, accept fewer minutes than they would in pretty much every other situation available to them. 

Cincinnati Bengals (NFL)

With no NFL team of its own, Kentucky’s football interests organically lie with the neighboring Cincinnati Bengals. Though borne from convenience, the state’s fandom has been rewarded with five playoff runs in the past six years.

Would it be nice if each of those cameos didn’t end in a first-round Wild Card loss? Definitely. The Bengals, in fact, have not made it past the Wild Card tilt since 1990. But there aren’t a lot of franchises in the NFL that can tout four 10-win seasons over the last half-decade.

That’s something—even if it’s not actually much.

New Orleans Pelicans (NBA)

The New Orleans Pelicans serve as another natural rooting point for Kentucky due to their proximity. They’ve made the playoffs just once over the last six seasons, but they currently employ two top-10 NBA players in DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis—both of whom, incidentally, hail from the University of Kentucky.

As long as one of these towers remains in New Orleans, you can expect Kentucky’s professional round-ball loyalties to lie solely with the Pelicans. The Pelicans, as it stands, are probably more popular than the Rick Pitino-coached Louisville Cardinals’ basketball squad. 

Kentucky’s Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

Nothing in the state comes close to challenging the Kentucky Derby for supremacy in this category. This horse race is one of the oldest sporting events in the world, having initially been held in 1875. It takes place on the first Saturday of every May, as part of a two-week long festival. The $2 million prize purse for first-place finishers ranks as one of the richest in the horse-racing industry, and the gambling at this event can only be described as absurdly lucrative.

Results / FixturesNCAAB, NFL, NBA