You may have noticed gaming machines that resemble slot machines popping up at gas stations and restaurants in your community recently. These unregulated “gray machines” are a form of gambling that has not been authorized in Kentucky.
State Rep. Killian Timoney is expected to file a bill in the 2023 session to address this issue and recently sat down with The Bottom Line to discuss what gray machines are, how many we have in Kentucky, and what can be done to address the problem.
“They operate within the ‘gray area’ of the law. We have the Kentucky lottery, we have charitable gaming, and we have horse racing. Those are the only three forms of legal gaming we have in the Commonwealth. These companies that produce these machines have scouted the country looking for states that have maybe some openings or some loopholes in their law where they allow gaming but there’s a question mark,” Timoney said. “They really do infiltrate and become difficult to remove.”
As for how many of these machines are in Kentucky, Rep. Timoney said no one can answer that question because there is no regulation, but many estimate that there were around 12,000 machines in 2022 and upwards of 40,000 this year.
“Its alarming that there is just this mindset of ‘we’re just going to come in here and put these wherever we want’ and there is no limitation whatsoever. They are not even being accountable to the ones that are here,” he said.
Some arguments against banning or regulating the machines state that it would hurt small businesses to make changes. Timoney said some of the companies behind the machines have sold the idea to business as a way to get through the pandemic and have extra revenue and help their communities. However, in Pennsylvania, there are currently 150 lawsuits between gray machine companies and small businesses.
“Mom and pop businesses ran these gray machines for several years and said ‘this is not what we want.’ The money is great but all the peripheral issues, the collateral damage that’s occurring, crime in their communities, break ins, and they are wanting out. And they are being sued by these [gray machine] companies. That doesn’t sound like pro-small business to me,” Timoney said.
Another point being brought up on this issue is whether banning or regulating grey machines would impact arcade-style games at places like Dave and Buster’s or Chuck E. Cheese. But these are games of amusement and not gambling, he said noting there are no cash prizes at these establishments. Timoney stated games at places of amusement are not even on the radar of groups who monitor problem gambling and it is not part of this discussion.
In terms of how the state addresses this issue, Rep. Timoney said there are many different paths forward that are being discussed and that work is underway to tackle grey machines during the 2023 session.
Watch the full interview with Rep. Killian Timoney below: