Kansas Online Poker Laws explained

Kansas is a sizeable territory, ranked 15th largest in the US, but has a sparse population of 2,893,957 (est. 2013), only the 34th highest in the country. It is probably best known for its infamy in the Old West; Dodge City, KS playing host to two famous lawmen, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. Wild Bill Hickok also served as a deputy marshal and eventually marshal throughout the state in the 1800’s. A historical hotbed for culturists, the Sunflower State has been an agricultural mecca for generations. In 2009, casino gambling earned its way into the government’s revenue resources with the grand opening of Boot Hill Casino, but online poker regulation has yet to find its way into the state’s legislative documents.

There is no doubt that residents of the Sunflower State are still playing online poker at websites regulated overseas, despite the events of Black Friday in 2011. There are no public records that anyone has been arrested for playing poker over the internet in Kansas, either. But the question remains – a question this article aims to answer – is online poker in Kansas legal, illegal, or does it fall into one of those obscure, grey areas of the law?

Land-based Gambling in Kansas

We already know that the state government is generating tax dollars from land-based gambling, but not on a very wide scale. The Kansas Pari-Mutuel Racing Act was established in 1987, but later revoked in 2008. While some horse racing does still occur, pari-mutuel wagering is no longer permitted. Around that same time, the state’s gaming commission chose to offer casino licenses, with the first regulated casino, Boot Hill, opening in Dodge City in 2009. Since then, two other casinos have been established. Kansas also began selling state-authorized lottery tickets in 1987.

Deciphering the Laws of Kansas as they relate to Online Poker

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission offers a good deal of information on the laws that apply to all forms of gambling, both legal and illegal. They can all be found under the website’s Illegal Gambling section as Criminal and Nuisance Statues. The following excerpts are those that could apply to online poker.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
21-6403 Gambling Definitions (a) ”Bet” means a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement… The term bet only applies if the wager is placed on a game of chance. Note that wagering at state authorized gaming locations (licensed casinos, bingo, lottery, etc.) and tribal casinos is not defined as making a bet.
(d) (1) “gambling device” means any:
(A) So-called “slot machine”…
(B) other machine, mechanical device, electronic device or other contrivance…designed, manufactured or altered primarily for use in connection with gambling…
(2) ”Gambling device” shall not include:
(B) any machine, mechanical device, electronic device or other contrivance…which is not designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling, and:
(ii) by the operation of which a person may not become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money;
The definition of a gambling device specifically calls for a device “primarily for use in connection with gambling”. However, items that are not considered gambling devices lists those “not designed…primarily for use in connection with gambling”, so long as a “person may not become entitled to receive, as a result of an element of chance, any money”.

Note the inclusion of the phrase “an element of chance”, as opposed to the phrase “dependent upon chance” in the definition of a bet.


(a) Gambling is:
(1) Making a bet; or
(2) entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery or to play a gambling device.
(b) Gambling is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.
Making a bet on a gambling device is illegal if the form of wagering in question is not authorized by the state. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.


Is Online Poker Illegal in Kansas?

Maybe, and maybe not. According to the state’s taciturn definitions in regards to gambling, it seems that Kansas falls into a grey area when determining the legality of online poker. On the one hand, making a bet means wagering on something that is “dependent upon chance”. And the definition of a gambling device is a machine that is not primarily used for gambling. Obviously computers and mobile devices have plenty of other purposes aside from being able to log onto a poker site and play for real money. However, under the classification of what is not a gambling device, the rules change a bit. It speaks of devices that are not primarily used for gambling, so long as they do not afford a chance to win money.

Furthermore, that particular definition states “upon an element of chance”, rather than being “dependent upon chance”, as included in the definition of a bet. Generally speaking, a game that is ‘dependent upon chance’ means is one primarily based on luck, with little or no skill involved. But an ‘element of chance’ could include any amount of skill, so long as any amount of luck is also involved.

By that measure, it is feasible that the state government could make a case towards online poker being illegal, despite its clear domination by skill. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to state which way a court would rule on the matter considering such a case never appears to have arisen.

Is Kansas working to Legalize Online Poker?

No. Not a single mention of regulating online poker has surfaced in the Kansas State Legislature. There has been no indication that such a measure will arise anytime in the conceivable future, either.

Online Poker Players from Kansas

There are several online poker players from Kansas who’ve seen affluent success on the virtual felt. A few of the more well-known players include Chad “Cwolf913” Wolfer of Kansas City, Scott “vitobiggs” Sharpe of Leawood and Alex “II Villain II” Avalos of Wichita. Professional live tournament player and 2x WSOP bracelet winner Brett Shaffer also hails from Beloit, Kansas, but there’s no record of him ever converting to online player.

Land-Based Card Rooms in Kansas

There are currently 8 land-based casinos in Kansas. Three of them are state regulated, with the other five run by Native American tribes. Each is listed below, along with the availability of a poker room.

7th Street Casino
Location: Kansas City, KS
Poker Room: Yes

Boot Hill Casino & Resort
Location: Dodge City, KS
Poker Room: Yes

Casino White Cloud
Location: White Cloud, KS
Poker Room: No

Golden Eagle Casino
Location: Horton, KS
Poker Room: No

Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway
Location: Kansas City, KS
Poker Room: Yes

Kansas Star Casino
Location: Mulvane, KS
Poker Room: Yes

Prairie Ban Casino & Resort
Location: Mayetta, KS
Poker Room: No

Sac & Fox Casino
Location: Powhattan, KS
Poker Room: Yes (Closed indefinitely as of Feb 2, 2014)


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