Kentucky lawmakers introduced a "gray machines" ban bill and a sports betting bill on February 22, shortly before the bill filing deadline period lapsed. The House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee referred each of the bills. Yet, it only addressed the gray machines bill, several days after referring to them.
The licensing committee advanced HB 594 on Thursday after voting 13-7. The bill will be presented to the House floor as it seeks to ban all gray machines in the state. They include slot-like betting machines with tacked-on skill components which have rapidly gained popularity in bars and restaurants, gas stations, liquor stores, and convenience stores.
Skill-Game Manufacturers Blame Local Gambling Operators
Main gray machine operators labeled the proposed amendment as a war between small businesses and local horse racetracks. Mike Barley of Pace-O-Matic accused Churchill Downs of leading the ban campaign. Still, he attacked other old horse racing facilities due to having lax regulations.
Barley stated that the bill will work alongside sports betting laws to offer added advantages to gambling operators like Churchill Downs. Representative Killian Timoney, the bill's author, defended Churchill Downs saying that it didn't sponsor the bill.
Even so, this hasn't prevented skill-game manufacturers from providing an alternative to control and tax the gaming industry. Barley claimed that the bill favors the gray machines' ban.
Bob Heleringer, Prominent Technologies' lobbyist and a former state legislator, asked if the lawmakers would allow the horse racing sector to eliminate all competitors. He stated that if the bill passes, it will prompt small business owners to react in the forthcoming election.
The lobbyist said that the market is tough for grocery stores, convenience stores, and liquor stores since there isn't a single chain. He added that the bill will hurt such enterprises most as small entrepreneurs donning green Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition(KY-MAC) t-shirts attended the committee's session.
The Ban Gets Unexpected Support
Mark Guilfoyle from Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling declared his support for the constitutional amendment. His organization represents charitable gaming, four commerce chambers, and Kentucky horse racetracks.
Gilfoyle stated that the state might witness a surge in mini-casinos on street corners if HB 594 fails. Representative Michael Meredith backed the bill adding that skill-game manufacturers didn't seek regulation before the proposed ban.
How Will Gray Machines Affect Sports Gambling?
Meredith authored the sports gambling bill HB 551 and stated in a recent interview that the machines won't adversely affect sports gambling. But, he hopes the bill will get a hearing soon.
Unfortunately, the House concentrated on the proposed gray machines ban as its Licensing Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee will meet again on Wednesday. The state's legislature prioritized horse racing over sports gambling in 2021.
Meredith opposed Barley's accusation that the ban and sports gambling bill were working together to monopolize local racetracks. He claimed that sports betting is a skill yet Churchill Downs didn't craft the bill.