Kentucky Lawmakers Vote to Ban Slot-Like ‘Gray Machines’ – Beshear Expected to Sign Bill

Frankfort, Ky.–After much contention, the ban on so-called ‘gray machines’ has been approved by the Kentucky Senate and is headed to the desk of Gov. Andy Beshear. House Bill 594, sponsored by Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, faced opposition early in the legislative session but was revived and ultimately passed the House and Senate. The passage of this bill marks the end of an expensive and controversial journey, with industry groups on both sides spending a collective total of over $300,000 in January and February. Kentucky Against Illegal Gambling (KAIG), which is backed by the horse industry, spent $286,623 on advertising to support HB 594, while the ‘gray machines’ industry counterpart has yet to report its February numbers.

Proponents of the ban argue that these slot-like machines, which have been described as the only unregulated form of gaming in Kentucky, are detrimental to the state’s gambling industry. Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, carried the bill in the Senate and highlighted that it is an “anti-gambling” bill. However, opponents of the ban argue that the bill’s passing benefits the horse industry, which recently succeeded in legalizing its own slot-like machines featured in Historical Horse Racing (HHR) facilities across the state. Despite some legislators expressing conflict over the decision to legalize HHR while banning ‘gray machines,’ the vast majority of Republicans in the Senate, as well as all Democrats, voted in support of HB 594.

The issue spawned some side controversies in the House, including an anti-trans ad campaign against sponsor Rep. Killian Timoney based on his vote against a bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports. The timing of the campaign led some to believe that pushback could be coming from the ‘gray machines’ side. Recent reporting also found that the industry’s two biggest companies have hired the current and former House GOP whip as legal counsel, an important role for gauging support of the House Republican caucus. Despite industry disappointment at the ban’s conclusion, Gov. Andy Beshear appears likely to support the bill.

Photo: Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who carried HB 594 through the Senate, speaks on the Senate floor February 14. (LRC)