Online Poker Bill Introduced in Kentucky

Kentucky

Online poker, sports betting and fantasy sports are among the gambling offerings that are up for regulation in a new bill proposed in the state of Kentucky.

HB 175 was introduced in the House on February 5 and has support on both sides of the political aisle. The bill seeks to amend a number of current statutes on the books in the Bluegrass State in order to allow regulated wagers on sporting events, fantasy sports, and online poker.

The measure is currently in front of the Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee chaired by Rep. Adam Koenig. It was Koenig who floated HB 175 to his fellow lawmakers.

The Bluegrass State is well-known for horse racing, but remains one of about a dozen states that have no commercial or tribal casinos. Under the new proposal, the state’s Lottery Corporation would be in charge of all licensing and regulations for online poker and fantasy sports, while the horse racing industry would be responsible for sports betting operations.

Legal Drama

Those with good long-term memories may recall that Kentucky was embroiled in a lawsuit over online poker following passage of the UIGEA in 2006. The Commonwealth of Kentucky behind Governor Steve Beshear eventually won the right to seize dozens of domains pertaining to online gambling.

Beshear insisted that online poker and gambling sites were preying on Kentuckians and the lower court agreed. PokerStars was one such site that found itself behind the eight ball to the tune of $870 million when judgment came down in 2015 after about seven years of legal wrangling.

However, legal loggerheads continued between the parties in the Kentucky Court of Appeals where PokerStars eventually prevailed late last year. The issue may not be completely over as yet, with the Kentucky Supreme Court remaining as a final option.

DoJ Blues

Kentucky citizens keen to play regulated online poker would be wise to not get too excited about HB 175. Even if the bill should find approval, Kentucky finds itself about midway down the list of states in terms of population at roughly 4.5 million.

With the uncertainty surrounding the recent Jan 2019 DoJ reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act that seemingly prohibits any wagers to be made across state lines, Kentucky would have to ring fence its online poker regime and not collaborate with any other states to increase liquidity. That’s not particularly good news for the lesser-populated states like Kentucky.

However, the last word likely hasn’t come down with regard to the DoJ decision that, as its written, could cripple any hope of US online poker regulation spreading to where it would become a viable market. There’s likely plenty more debate, controversy, and courtroom battles to come on the issue.

In the meantime, Kentucky remains one of the few states from which players are not accepted at the major poker rooms that currently cater to the US market. That’s likely a result of the aforementioned lawsuit that PokerStars managed to get out from under.

Residents of Kentucky who want to play online poker, however, haven’t had the same good fortune as PokerStars. Hopefully, that will change in the future.

 

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