Both sides speak out after new law bans a certain skill game machine

House Bill 594 will ban so-called ‘gray machines’ in the state of Kentucky.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 4:18 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - A bill that eliminates certain gaming machines in Kentucky has now been signed into law by the governor.

RELATED: General Assembly passes bill to ban ‘gray machines’

House Bill 594 bans so-called ‘gray machines’ in the state of Kentucky, and supporters of the bill are rejoicing.

“We finally got things going our way,” said Malcolm Cherry, Commander of American Legion Post 23.

There are roughly 2,400 of these ‘gray machines’ in the state, according to Pace-O-Matic, an entertainment company that develops and produces these machines.

They are similar to slot machines, but those against the machines say they’re more of a game of skill, not chance, like slot machines.

The American Legion Post 23 in Bowling Green has legal skill gaming machines and uses its profits to give back to the community.

“During the tornado, all the veterans got together, and we unloaded 28 tractor-trailer loads of material with FEMA,” explained Cherry.

RELATED: Charitable gaming in Bowling Green claims revenue decrease from expanded gaming

American Legion Post 23 heavily support this bill as members have claimed the so-called “gray machines” were expanding and were negatively impacting their charity profits.

“That money would be going into private businesses and, and the owners of the machines and the owners of the facilities that they’re in would have all the money make all the profit,” said Cherry. “They projected that there would be 40,000 before they were done filling up the state.”

However, opponents like Michael Barley with Pace-O-Matic call the ban on these types of machines hypocritical and claim lawmakers sold out to big businesses.

Barley called out Churchill Downs specifically.

“There’s a lot of backroom dealing. There’s a lot of folks who have interests in horse racing making decisions directly for horse racing,” said Barley, Chief Public Affairs Officer with Pace-O-Matic.

Another reason Barley and his advocates are against the ban is that they say it will hurt small businesses.

Barley says three or four skilled games in a location offered businesses anywhere from $15-$25,000 in additional annual revenue.

“That is a big deal to a small business. Not a big deal to a company like Churchill, but it’s a big deal to a small business in Kentucky,” said Barley. “You’re gonna have businesses closed as a result of this. They’re dealing with record inflation. At the end of the day, the reality is you’re going to see a black market again, redevelop, and they can blame the small businesses, but they’re just trying to survive.”

But Cherry says small businesses shouldn’t rely solely on these machines to stay in business.

“When I started my small business and applied for a loan, nowhere in my business plan that I have that I would depend on gaming, illegal gaming machines to make my business run,” he said.

The ban on these specific machines comes just a day after sports betting passed in the House.

Barley says their games are proven to be legal and could potentially appeal the legislature’s decision.

The Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition (KY MAC) released the following statement on the signing of HB594.

“The General Assembly let Kentuckians down today and that’s just the simple truth. House Bill 594 is anti-free market, anti-small business, and anti-Kentuckian. Those who backed this ban love to say they passed it because skill games need to be regulated, yet at the same time wouldn’t even give our regulation bill a hearing. We are committed to supporting our small businesses and fraternal organizations and are currently reviewing our options.” - Wes Jackson, KY MAC President