According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Rep. Killian Timoney’s House Bill (HB) 594 that would ban “gray” gaming machines in the Bluegrass State passed through a House committee with 13 “yes” votes and 7 “no” votes on Thursday evening.
At the end of an hour-long, heated debate that reunited fervent members of the Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling (KAIG) group and the Merchants and Amusement Coalition group, the much-anticipated committee substitute for HB Bill 594 was given the green light.
What Does This Mean for Kentucky?
The bill was introduced to the Committee on Committees on February 22 and had its first reading two days later, then returned to the Committee of Committees from where it was sent to the Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee on February 28.
On March 3, its second reading took place, then the bill returned to the Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations Committee.
In the summary of the bill’s original version, Timoney’s asked for the amendment of KRS 528.010 to define terms like “coin-operated amusement machine,” “skill game,” “skill,” “skill-based contests,” as well as the definitions of terms like “gambling,” “advancing gambling activity,” “gambling device,” and “something of value.”
The bill also asked for the amendment of KRS 528.100 to “authorize the Attorney General, the Commonwealth’s attorney for any locality, or the county attorney for any locality” to set up a civil penalty that would not go over the $25,000 mark for each device for any individual who “conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns” such a device, which be a direct violation of KRS Chapter 528.
More specifically, all individuals who will continue to offer games produced by Pace-O-Matic, Prominent Technologies, and other similar providers at the end of the deadline they have been given to shut down their activities will risk a fine of up to $25,000.
Timoney also noted that the amended version of the bill would not impose a ban on popular games at state and county fairs or businesses including Dave & Buster’s and Chuck E. Cheese which are known to offer prizes to participants.
The Ban Would Hurt Small Businesses, Say Opponents
Over the past years, video games with cash payouts have increased in the number of locations throughout the state, including clubs, bars, and gas stations.
While their opponents claim these machines are an expanded form of illegal gambling, supporters of the same games which they called “skill games” claim the ban would destabilize small businesses that are currently relying on the income generated by players.
KAIG’s executive director Mark Guilfoyle stated that provided the legislation would not be passed to put a ban on these games, their number could grow to as many as 50,000 in the state, potentially leading to more violent crimes and a rise of “mini-casinos popping up on every street corner” across the state.
Pace-O-Matic spokesman Mike Barley described the legislation as one that is “picking winners and losers” in the context of Churchill Downs’ growing profits being supported by the slots installed at its HHR facilities.
Bob Heleringer, a supporter of skill games maker Prominent Technologies explained the horse racing industry wishes to “crush” small businesses and set the grounds for a monopoly in the industry.
At the end of the Kentucky General Assembly, Timoney said the bill had not only achieved majority support within the 80-member GOP supermajority but also gathered sufficient votes within his party for the bill to pass the chamber and reach the Senate.
In February, Rep. Michael Meredith filed House Bill 551 in a new attempt to see sports betting be legalized in the state.