The Kentucky House of Representatives engaged in a heated debate on Wednesday regarding the increasing number of unregulated gambling machines in the state. The House voted to resume consideration of a ban on the slot-like machines, resulting in the approval of House Bill 594 with a 64-32 vote.
The motion to resume consideration was made by House Speaker David Osborne, sending the proposed Bill 594 to the Senate to end the debate surrounding the flood of cash payout machines in stores and gas stations across Kentucky. These machines are known as “grey machines” due to their vague legal status. Osborne stated that the House vote sends a clear message that unregulated casino-style gaming entities have no place in Kentucky.
The House’s action has sparked a debate among interest groups. Supporters of keeping the games in the state, such as the Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition, called the House action “unfortunate,” with the group’s president, Wes Jackson, stating that they hope supporters in the Senate will prioritize the needs of Kentuckians over the profits of big businesses.
On the other side, Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling praised the House’s action to resume consideration of the bill after requesting the chamber to reconsider the proposed ban. The group’s executive director, Mark Guilfoyle, said that passing HB594 is the only certain and viable option to prevent every restaurant, gas station, and convenience store in the commonwealth from becoming a mini-casino.
The issue has been a point of contention among Kentucky lawmakers since last year when a bill to ban these gambling machines passed the House and Senate. However, lawmakers have not been able to reach an agreement for months and waited until this year’s 30-day session to settle the issue. The bill is currently pending for discussion and heavy lobbying from both parties, with Republicans having a vast majority in both chambers.
Proponents of the ban argue that the rapidly increasing number of slot-like machines will lead to the most significant expansion of gambling in Kentucky’s history, while opponents believe that such a move would harm multiple small businesses, such as bars and gas stations, that offer the games to customers.
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