History of Gambling in Kentucky



The history of gambling in Kentucky can be traced back to the gambling clubs that came into existence just before the Great Depression; and after that period.  At that point, it was illegal to engage in any form of casino gambling but it didn’t stop the avalanche of gambling dens from springing forth.

Contributing factors to this were the proximity of Ohio and the presence of organised crime gangs that had control over most of the activities that happened in Newport and other northern parts of the state.

Top gambling houses in Kentucky history

Way before these days of sports gambling and other games, like bingo, entered the internet on the back of the numerous new bingo sites, gamblers relied on illegal betting houses to get their entertainment.

Some of the most popular illegal gambling establishments of the time included Beverly Hills Club, the Primrose Club, the Yorkshire Club, the Lookout House and the Flamingo.  In the 1930s, these clubs competed amongst themselves and as a result, there were numerous cases of fights breaking out. Beverly Hills for instance was set on fire in the late 1930s.


Gambling prohibited between whites and people of color, making it a misdemeanor for a white to wager “a free Negro, mulatto or slave.”


All states except Kentucky and Missouri ban lotteries.


Kentucky Downs racing track opens. 10,000 onlookers witness the first Kentucky Derby.


Kentucky legalizes pari mutuel betting at racetracks.


Dade Park (later called Ellis Park) track constructed.


Illegal gambling clubs in operation before and during the Great Depression, including the Beverly Hills Club, the Flamingo, the Lookout House and the Primrose Club.  Beverley Hills set on fire in the late 1930s by competing club owners.


Towns such as Henderson become gambling entertainment meccas, with most of these establishments offering music, dancing and a gaming room.


After mobsters from Chicago and Boston take over Newport entertainment industry, law enforcements cannot turn a blind eye to gambling activity any longer, and crack down on gaming rooms.


Governor Wallace Wilkinson appoints Kentucky Lottery Commission to develop a draft for the creation of a lottery.  Over one million Kentuckians vote on the lottery referendum, with 60% voting in favor of its creation. First lottery in the United States implemented as a corporation.


The Kentucky Lottery launches with two instant games.  On it first day of operations, retailers sell more than $5 million in lottery tickets.


Pull tabs games introduced by the lottery.


Kentucky Lottery launches Powerball, the multi million dollar multistate game.


Kentucky Lottery launches its first lifetime payout prize, Win for Life.


First internet based promotion launched by Kentucky Lottery with the Elvis scratch-off ticket.


Extra Cash feature added to Pick 3 and Pick 4 lottery games.


Million Dollar Draw raffle game launched by Kentucky Lottery.


Governor Beshear seizes 141 internet gambling domain names.


Biggest jackpot awarded in Kentucky history when Rob and Tuesday Anderson won $128.6 million.


Electric gambling machines confiscated and destroyed by authorities.


Governor Beshear gives up fraud claims against Poker Stars in exchange for money earned by the Department of Justice in the Full Tilt Poker purchase deal.


State officials and the Kentucky Lottery Corporation approved the sales of online lottery tickets in late November.


A proposal to allow up to six commercial casinos was filed again but was shot down.


The state approves and launches an online lottery in April.


State lawmakers introduced a constitutional amendment in late September that called for up to four casinos in the state, but nothing was passed. H 414, a bill to legalize online daily fantasy sports betting, did not pass the House on March 1st by only three votes.

In a nutshell, the only forms of legalized gambling in Kentucky are pari-mutuel wagering in licensed settings on dog and horse races.  In addition, the state offers a lottery to its citizens, as well as several forms of charitable gambling such as bingo and raffles. A quirky Kentucky gambling law states under Section 372.010 that anyone who loses money gambling can sue the operator to recover his or her losses.  Should the player not sue within six months, anyone else can sue to recover the losses.

With such a sparse range of options, many Kentuckians head to nearby West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to enjoy quality casino gambling.

Over the years, attempts have been made to expand gambling in the state, especially considering the long and rich history Kentucky has with horse racing and breeding.  However, it seems that it is this very industry that is gambling expansion’s biggest obstacle, with much of the opposition coming from the horse racing industry.  Operators of tracks and on-site betting facilities are afraid that the expansion of casino gambling would keep their profits down and, until now, they have successfully blocked any changes to the current legislation.

The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told: A True Tale of Three Gamblers, The Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel

“A crazier-than-fiction tale of three young gamblers, a Mexican drug cartel and the 1988 Kentucky Derby. – Horse Racing Nation

A Top 10 Amazon Best Seller:   * Sports Biographies    * Organized Crime * Adventure & Travel  * Sports History   * Gambling

An inspiring true crime sports story about a filly who broke through the male-dominated world of horseracing and inspired crowds of men and women alike… along with a trio of gamblers who embark on an epic adventure… It’s Seabiscuit meets Narcos, and the best non-fiction adventure and gambling story ever told.

The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told is an inspiring personal narrative about a filly who broke through the male-dominated world of horseracing and inspired crowds of men and women alike, along with a trio of gamblers who embark on an unforgettable adventure that’s as epic as the historic victory of Winning Colors. It’s Seabiscuit meets Narcos, and the best true-life gambling story ever told.

In the late 1980s, a spectacular 3-year-old female racehorse named Winning Colors was being groomed for success under her famous “Hollywood” trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, and the billionaire owner of the San Diego Chargers pro-football team, Eugene Klein. Meanwhile, three fun-loving gamblers, Miami Paul, Dino Mateo, and Big Bernie believed that Winning Colors could be the unlikely female winner of the 1988 Kentucky Derby.

When the gamblers unknowingly place their longshot bet with members of a suspected drug cartel at a racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, they must figure out how to claim their prize – without getting killed in the process. In a heart-pounding race of their own across the U.S.-Mexico border, the trio come face-to-face with suspected killers, are arrested by the Border Patrol, and fumble their way through the riskiest bet of their lives.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *