Gambling in Kentucky is Legal

I started out to write an article entitled "A brief history of gambling in Kentucky". I wanted to define what once was and when it became illegal. The history books were a bust as gambling in Kentucky was always mentioned very briefly. Finding any definitive information was next to impossible.

The 1890 Kentucky Constitution banned all lotteries and lottery like endeavors but never mentioned other forms of gambling. Allow me to quote from it:

Section 226. Lotteries and gift enterprises forbidden. Lotteries and gift enterprises are forbidden, and no privileges shall be granted for such purpose, and none shall be exercised, and no schemes for similar purposes shall be allowed. The General Assembly shall enforce this section by proper penalties. All lottery or charters heretofore granted are revoked.

It is my belief at this time that they intended to ban all commercial gambling within the commonwealth. My reasoning is detailed in the article Are Casinos Banned?.

Before we take a look at state law let's take a quick look at Federal law on the suject of gambling.

Federal law defines illegal gambling activity or 'illegal gambling business' as:
1. Is a violation of the law of the state in which it is conducted; and
2. (Involves five or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct or own all or part of such business; and
3. Has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days, or has a gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day.

For all practical purposes Federal law is subordinate to state laws on the subject of what is an illegal gambling activity. When we take a closer look at the Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 528 we find the answers.

KRS 528.010 Section(3) defines gambling as "....staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."[3]. This is a fairly standard definition and pretty much parallels other states and the Federal definition.

What I found is that gambling is Kentucky is not and probably never has been illegal on a state wide basis provided you are acting in the capacity of a player[1]. The state has never targeted players as a means of enforcement and has even gone so far as to say that the claim of being a only a player is a valid defense from prosecution.

The promotion or promoting of gambling is a violation of existing statutes (as Amended 1994). The legal term and definition is "Advancing gambling activity". This situation occurs when one acts in a capacity other that that of a player and is promoting the activity.[2] It is this section, if not the state constitution, that keeps the casinos at bay and out of the state.

Chapter 528 goes on to discuss what is bookmaking and bookies but we are not interested in those items for this article.

Footnotes & Source attribution

[1] KRS 528.010 Section (7)
(7) "Player" means a person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct, or operation of the particular gambling activity. A person who engages in "bookmaking" as defined in subsection (2) of this section is not a "player." The status of a "player" shall be a defense to any prosecution under this chapter.

[2] KRS 528.010 Section (1)
(1) "Advancing gambling activity" -- A person "advances gambling activity" when, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. The conduct shall include, but is not limited to, conduct directed toward the establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device, or activity involved; toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment, or apparatus therefor; toward the solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein; toward the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof; toward the arrangement of any of its financial or recording phases or toward any other phase of its operation. A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with other participants does not otherwise advance gambling activity by performing acts, without remuneration or fee, directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying equipment used therein.

[3] KRS 528.010 Section (3)
3) (a) "Gambling" means staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. A contest or game in which eligibility to participate is determined by chance and the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered to be gambling.

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