July 1, 2024 3 min read

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Kentucky Judge Upholds Ban on Controversial ‘Gray Machines’

In a decision that bypassed the need for a full trial, Judge Phillip Shepherd granted summary judgment to Attorney General Russell Coleman, ruling in his favor without proceeding with the case

A Franklin County Circuit Judge upheld a Kentucky law that bans “gray machines,” slots-like devices that pay out money. The ruling was announced on June 28 and gave state officials a boost in their effort to rid convenience stores, gas stations and bars across Kentucky of the machines.

Judge Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Kentucky’s ‘Gray Machine’ Ban

In his decision, Judge Phillip Shepherd granted Attorney General Russell Coleman’s request for summary judgment, meaning he decided the case without going to trial. Coleman praised the ruling, noting the vital role of the Legislature in protecting public interests, as reported by the Associated Press. He commended lawmakers for their bipartisan action against machines often alleged to have tenuous legal status.

The so-called gray machines triggered considerable controversy during this year’s legislative session. They were installed at various locations statewide and drew support as well as opposition. Advocates described them as valid “skill games” and put forward alternate legislative proposals to regulate and tax them as such. Critics warned they would enable the biggest expansion of gambling in Kentucky history.

ARKK Properties led the legal challenge along with other stakeholders including Pace-O-Matic, maker of the popular Burning Barrel machine. The lawsuit raised several arguments against the ban. ARKK Properties together with the other stakeholders claimed the ban violated free speech rights, was arbitrary, and impaired contracts, among other points. 

Judge Shepherd dismissed all these arguments, stating that expecting immunity from regulation for machines operating on the fringes of legality was unreasonable given Kentucky’s history of stringent gambling laws.

Court Decision Brings Closure to Contentious ‘Gray Machine’ Debate in Kentucky

House Bill 594, which initiated the ban, had a tumultuous journey through the legislative process before becoming law. Despite intense lobbying on both sides, it cleared both chambers with overwhelming support and Gov. Andy Beshear signed it. House Speaker David Osborne said he supported Shepherd’s ruling because it reaffirms that these games are illegal and cannot be operated without proper oversight. Regarding the next steps, J.Guthrie True, attorney for plaintiffs indicated an appeal may be coming.

In recent years, Kentucky has passed other significant gambling legislation, including measures that secured the legal status of historical racing machines at horse tracks. These machines, which allow betting on past horse races, have become a substantial revenue source for the tracks, helping to enhance the state’s horse racing industry.

The fight over gray machines has been costly and continued, taking place both in courtrooms as well as in political arenas. This issue involved more than just legal disputes – there were significant political moves made and heavy lobbying done around this subject, which points to how serious people take gambling regulation in Kentucky.

Author

Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

1 Comment

  • Linda Crook
    July 1, 2024 at 11:09 am

    Well, let’s all look at all the jobs that Americans are losing over this…

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