General Assembly passes bill to ban ‘gray machines’

The Senate cast the final vote for House Bill 594 Tuesday afternoon, and it passed 29 to six.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 3:22 PM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The General Assembly has sent a bill banning “gray machines” to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk.

The Senate cast the final vote for House Bill 594 Tuesday afternoon, and it passed 29 to six.

“Gray machines” are similar to slot machines. Supporters of the machines say they’re different from slot machines because they require the player to do more than push a button.

The Kentucky Merchant and Amusement Coalition called the ban on gray machines hypocrisy, claiming lawmakers sold out to big businesses and calling out Churchill Downs specifically.

Opponents call them “gray machines” because they believe they fall into a gray area of state law.

“Gray machines” are usually found in some restaurants and gas station convenience stores. Critics say it turns those places into mini-casinos.

Opponents say they’re more of a game of skill, not chance, like slot machines.

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson said on the floor the bill reflects input from stakeholders in retail and entertainment, including horse racing tracks, places that would benefit from the sports wagering bill going through the general assembly.

The bill was heard in committee Tuesday morning, and opponents showed up in droves.

Meanwhile, supporters, including Kentuckians Against illegal Gambling, said the bill “protects Kentucky families and communities from the dangers of illegal gray machine gambling,” adding, “it is another example of Kentucky lawmakers wisely, carefully and deliberately debating the expansion of gaming and only doing so in the best interests of Kentuckians.”

Senate Minority whip David Yates said while he voted yes, he has concerns about gambling revenue going to other states instead of staying in Kentucky and would have preferred regulation over a ban.

The ban on “gray machines” comes just a day after sports betting passed in the House.

It is expected to be heard in Senate committee Wednesday morning.