PokerStars Could Miss Out as Kentucky Advances Online Poker Bill

February 22nd, 2019 | by Kaycee James

Kentucky could be about to perform a 180 on the issue of online poker, five years after Senator Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) pushed to have the industry outlawed.

Adam Koenig (R-Kentucky State) online poker bill

Adam Koenig (R-Kentucky State) is pushing to have online poker and sports betting legalized in Kentucky. (Image:

Thanks to the passing of a multifaceted House Bill, the Bluegrass State is a step closer to regulated sports betting, fantasy sports and online poker. Sponsored by Administrative Regulations Chair Rep. Adam Koenig, HB 175 passed through the Licensing and Occupations Committee on February 20.

Favorable Vote for Online Poker Bill

After passing the committee vote with a “favorable expression,” the bill will now be heard on the House floor. In presenting the bill, Koenig pointed to the advancement of regulated sports betting in neighboring states.

Like West Virginia, which is currently taking a proactive approach to the industry, Koenig believes regulation is the best way to take online betting “out of the shadows.” Along with co-sponsors R-Erlanger, and Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, the Republican said H 175 would protect consumers and help the state.

“It’s not going to fix the pension system but every bit we can find to go to it helps,” he told the committee.

With the Kentucky Derby taking place at Churchill Downs, Louisville, betting has long been a staple in the state. However, that hasn’t helped online betting and gaming.

In 2014, Senator Wilson sought to amend KRS 528.010 by pre-filing bill BRR 299. In essence, Wilson’s bill called for law prohibiting the use of electronic devices that “facilitated” online gaming.

Although the bill ultimately fell by the wayside, the anti-online gaming sentiment stuck. But, following the recent verdict on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Kentucky has had a change of heart.

Longstanding Dispute Hasn’t Gone Away

One issue that may not be so easily dismissed, however, involves PokerStars. Although not referenced directly, HB 175 now contains a bad actor clause that could outlaw the poker operator.

Inserted by the Licensing and Occupations Committee, the new section prevents any company convicted of violating UIGEA from operating within the state. If passed, this could rule out PokerStars and reignite a long running feud.

In an attempt to recover funds lost by Kentuckians between 2006 and 2011, the state of Kentucky sued PokerStars in 2015. Initially set at $290 million but escalating to over $800 million, the lawsuit was another blackeye in the US for the online poker site.

In 2018, a Kentucky court eventually overturned a previous judgement, relieving PokerStars of any significant liability. However, that doesn’t appear to have washed away the bad blood.

If Kentucky does become the next state to regulate online poker and sports betting, the world’s largest operator may not be a part of it.


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