Legislative Update: Lawmakers send ban on gaming machines and unemployment insurance fix to the governor

Tuesday saw a flurry of legislative action with some bills making it all the way through the process.

The state Senate passed a bill to ban “gray” gaming machines in Kentucky through committee and on the floor with a 29-6 vote.

House Bill 594, sponsored by Rep. Killian Timoney, would ban gray machines and make them illegal in Kentucky, while also implementing a $25,000 fine for those operating the machines that would be paid to the county in which they were operating.

There are currently three forms of legal gaming in Kentucky, and these machines fall outside of the three regulated categories of the Kentucky lottery, charitable gaming, and parimutuel wagering on horse racing. No taxes are being collected on the machines addressed in the bill, and there is currently no regulation in place.

Explaining the bill on the Senate floor, Sen. Mike Wilson noted the bill helps define what is legal gambling in Kentucky and what is not, which he said is the job of the legislature. He said he is personally interested in this bill because he has seen the impact the rise of the machines have had on veterans groups and their ability to raise funds through charitable gaming, which they rely on to support their services.

The bill passed the Senate with little discussion and now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

Also seeing signatures from each legislative body in preparation to be sent to the governor’s desk was House Bill 146, a cleanup to 2022’s House Bill 4 which made major reforms to the state’s unemployment insurance system.

The new legislation contains several points of clarification and some revisions based on feedback from the U.S. Department of Labor to help ensure the new law fully conforms with federal UI law. Bill sponsor Rep. Russell Webber has previously stated that the bill preserves the original intent of House Bill 4, which was to support rapid reemployment and ensure the sustainability of the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. House Bill 4 was a top Chamber priority in the 2022 session.

Small changes in the bill include technical modifications to statute and points of clarification as well as changing the maximum duration of weeks from 12 weeks to 16 weeks during periods of low unemployment.

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for more updates on the final days of the 2023 legislative session.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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