Gambling’s History 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.

Buck Brady, who gained control of the Primrose Club in the mid-30s resisted attempts from Cleveland mobs to infiltrate his business and shot one of their operatives at one point. He however left the area after the Second World War. Jimmy Brink of the Lookout House was one of the early casino owners that didn’t resist the mobs. He went into partnership with them instead, making his club one of the most profitable in the area for years.

Gambling in Racing

Gambling has always been an integral part of the Horse racing scene in Kentucky.  Some of the tracks like Oakland, Woodlawn and Churchill Downs were operational as far back as 1875. At one point however, the tracks tried to distance themselves from all images associated with gambling. Pari-mutuel wagering took hold in the 1920s however and gambling in racing has since become more entrenched.  Today, you will find Horse race gambling on the Churchill Downs which hosts the Horse-race-facts/”>most prestigious single Horse race, the Kentucky Derby.  Ellis Park, Keeneland and Kentucky downs haven’t faded out either as big events hold there from year to year.

Churchill Downs interestingly, has its own betting website known as the Twin Spires allowing customers to make bets on races.

Legislation for online gambling sites may still be an issue but the reality is that the gambling history in Kentucky is rich. The earlier the authorities understand the reach of the historical roots of gambling, the better for everyone.