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Gov Beshear signs measure to ban gaming machines in Kentucky

Kentucky gambling news

On Thursday, a bill to prohibit the use of gaming machines like gray and skrill in Kentucky was signed by Gov. Andy Beshear after the General Assembly approved it two days prior.

The gaming machines located in truck shops, restaurants, and bars with titles like Wildcats and Burning Barrel generate several thousand dollars for the establishments monthly. Per the measure sponsored by Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Nicholasville, the machines will be banned from July 1.

Kentucky currently authorizes three forms of gambling, including charitable gaming, Kentucky lottery, and parimutuel betting on horse racing and the gaming machines are not a part of any. There is no regulation in place for the machines, and neither are they taxed.

In a press conference on Thursday, Beshear said that despite springing up in several establishments in Kentucky, the machines were not legal in the state and had no developed system to help potential addicts.

“The reason is they are entirely unregulated; I don’t believe they were legal. Yet they came into Kentucky and just set up and were taking dollars from Kentuckians and taking them [the money] out of state with zero regulation, zero taxation, zero system to help those that might develop any issues from using them or from gambling,” he said.

Beshear also said that he intended to search for more ways to introduce other forms of regulated gambling into Kentucky, but skrill machines were in violation of the state’s laws.

House Bill 594 defaulters will face fines of up to $25,000 for each device, including people that own, finance, operate, manage, or supervise the machines. The penalties will be paid to the county where the perpetrators were operating.

Wes Jackson, the president of Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition (KY MAC), the group behind the skrill games, declared the new law “anti-free market, anti-small business, and anti-Kentuckian.” He disclosed that they would continue to evaluate their options.

With Beshear signing the measure, the only way for opponents to be able to continue to use the machines is if they launch a court challenge. A similar legal action was carried out in Virginia, where the gaming machines are in operation after the law prohibiting them was temporarily blocked.

After HB 594 was signed into law, Ashli Watts, the Kentucky Chamber President, and CEO, released a statement thanking the parties involved in approving the bill.

“On behalf of Kentucky businesses, we want to thank Rep. Timoney, Chair Matt Koch, Sen. Mike Wilson, and the legislators who championed, supported and passed House Bill 594, which banned the illegal ‘gray machines’ that have infiltrated Kentucky over the last few years,” Watts said.

“We’d also like to thank Gov. Beshear for swiftly signing the bill into law. It is imperative businesses follow the law of the land as we work to continue to make Kentucky competitive.”

Two weeks earlier, a plurality of lawmakers led by Rep. Steven Doan, R-Erlanger, voted in favor of tabling HB 594. Doan sponsored a separate bill, House Bill 525, to form a state gaming commission for tasking and regulating gambling machines. The measure has not been given a committee meeting yet.

HB 594 was eventually revived on March 9 and moved out of the chamber after a 64-32 vote. The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee passed the bill on Tuesday, and later that day, the full Senate voted 29-6 in favor.

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