FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate voted Tuesday to ban devices resembling slot machines that have proliferated in stores across the state, capping one of the most bitter policy fights of the legislative session.
The bill won Senate passage on a 29-6 vote, advancing to Gov. Andy Beshear.
It was an anticlimactic finale for a heavily lobbied measure that created plenty of drama.
In early March, the bill was tabled in the House, only to be revived and passed days later. Speaker David Osborne made the procedural motion that resumed consideration of the proposal, and a few minutes later House passed the bill on a 64-32 vote.
Opponents of the ban have pushed for legislation that would regulate and tax the machines.
The debate revolves around thousands of cash payout games set up in recent years in convenience stores, gas stations and bars across Kentucky. Supporters refer to them as legal “skill games.” Others call them “gray machines,” based on their murky legal status.
Proponents of the ban — led by the group Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling — focused on the proliferation of the machines. A failure to banish the devices would lead to the largest expansion of gambling in Kentucky history, the group said.
“We commend the Kentucky General Assembly for bringing House Bill 594 across the finish line to protect Kentucky families and communities from the dangers of illegal gray machine gambling,” Mark Guilfoyle, the group’s executive director, said after the Senate vote.
Opponents of the ban said the bill would hurt the many small businesses that offer the games.
The Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition supports keeping the devices. Wes Jackson, the group’s president, said Tuesday that the outcome in the Legislature went against “the needs of thousands of their constituents who are relying on the income of legal skill games.”
Last year a bill to banish the machines passed the House and Senate, but lawmakers couldn’t agree on an amended version before the legislative session ended. That led to months of continued jockeying by both sides in preparation for this year’s showdown.
Republicans have supermajorities in both legislative chambers.