Kentucky Judge Confirms Ban on Grey Area Skill Games

In taverns, convenience stores, and petrol stations all around Kentucky, there are a lot of unlicensed gaming machines. Signed by Governor Andy Beshear in March 2023, HB 594 outlawed these machines. There have been no successful attempts to license and govern gray skill games. They would be the biggest expansion of gambling in state history, according to their opponents, if they were legalized.

Just historical horse racing (HHR) machines are allowed for machine gambling at racetracks in Kentucky. In March 2023, lawmakers authorized digital and retail sports betting, after HHR machines were made legal in 2021.

Beshear’s prohibition was challenged in court by proponents of grey-skill games. They contend that it arbitrarily prohibits the games in defiance of the state constitution and infringes against the right to free expression.

Judicial Rulings and Reactions

According to the Kentucky Lantern, Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd rejected those claims. He issued a summary judgment requested by the state attorney general’s office. The AG had previously stated that the ban does not violate free speech or equal protection guarantees.

Judge Shepherd stated, “It was entirely unreasonable, based on Kentucky’s long history of regulating gambling … for an investor to expect that any machine operating on the fringe zones of legality as a gambling device would be exempt from subsequent regulation or prohibition by the Legislature.” He added that the law banning the games was “a lawful exercise of the Legislature’s police power to regulate gambling for the legitimate governmental interest in addressing the social harms of unregulated forms of gambling.”

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Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said the ruling “further confirms that these games were illegal and operating without any of the appropriate regulatory guidelines,” according to the Associated Press.

One plaintiff’s attorney emailed the AP, stating his team will evaluate the ruling and may consider an appeal.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Prominent Technologies brought a similar case surrounding grey skill games to the Jefferson Circuit Court. This case was dismissed on June 26.

The debate over grey skill games in Kentucky continues. Legal battles and legislative efforts will likely shape the future of these controversial machines in the state.

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