(Population of 4.413 million in 2014)
Remember in 2011 when the Commonwealth of Kentucky attempted to “seize” Internet poker domain names for Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet?
The state claimed that they were the “sole owner of the property and entitled to possession.” Three years earlier the state had attempted the same thing with 141 Internet gambling domain names in an attempt to “stop illegal Internet gambling that is occurring within the Commonwealth, in blatant disregard for and violation of Kentucky anti-gambling law and public nuisance law."
In June 2013, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced the state would receive a settlement of $6.075 million from the 2008 case, which was filed on behalf of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
“As a result of the collective efforts, we've protected Kentucky consumers, our signature horse-racing industry, and legitimate charitable gaming interests,” said Beshear. Indeed, the state took an aggressive stance in protecting its interests, especially the aforementioned ponies.
It would seem Kentucky is not only disinterested in iGaming, but will undertake aggressive means to deter it. However, things may not be that simple. Late last year, Louisville Democrat Larry Clark filed two bills looking to expand gambling at eight predetermined sites, including five racetracks. Churchill Downs and several others formed a coalition called Kentucky Wins to advocate for expanded gambling, and such entities heavily influence Kentucky politics.
That said, it was recently revealed that Churchill Downs, which owns the poker entity BLUFF Media, have their sights set on iGaming; in fact, according to Chief Financial Officer Bill Mudd the company spent $1.1 million on an online platform in the first quarter of 2014.
"We'll continue to make the investments at about the current rate, at least through the rest of this year, building the technology platform, which I think we've got some real advantages in, and we've got a long-term view on this," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Evans said in a company conference call. "We can't make states legalize Internet gaming any faster than they would otherwise. But as that occurs, we want to be a player, and we'll make the appropriate investments to do that."
Kentucky does allow online lottery games. State gambling laws remain very strict, but pari-mutuel betting, bingo halls and horse and dog racing are permitted.
In 2015, Amaya was ordered to pay $870 million, after operating in the state, according to the Insurance Journal. The players did not sue to recover losses, but the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet did sue to recover that money in 2010, but the ruling was issued in December of 2015, according to the Insurance Journal.
Kentucky has punished those iGaming entities that operated illegally, which means the road to legalization and regulation is paved. The only question that remains is whether or not they’ll go down it. With Churchill Downs leading the way, it’s a very real possibility, though it’ll likely be awhile before any steps are taken in that direction.