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Inevitable Legal Challenge To Kentucky’s Newest Gambling Law Surfaces

Written By Derek Helling on March 30, 2023
pace o matic kentucky gambling lawsuit against skill games ban

Before the newest Kentucky gambling law became law, it seemed a foregone conclusion that affected parties would challenge its place in the state. The inevitable has now become material in light of a new lawsuit.

Multiple parties joined forces to try to block the enforcement of a new skill games ban in Kentucky on Tuesday. While the plaintiffs make several arguments, not all of them are created equal.

Kentucky skill games ban dispute takes shape

The new lawsuit will be heard first in the Franklin Circuit Court. Among the several plaintiffs, the most nationally prominent is Pace-O-Matic (POM). That company provides gaming terminals to businesses like bars and convenience stores in multiple states, including Kentucky.

The lawsuit names Kentucky’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, as the defendant. As the state’s top law enforcement officer, he is ultimately responsible for enforcing a new law that the state just enacted. That law targets the exact skill game machines that POM provides.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andy Beshear signed the law that essentially makes such games illegal. Any establishment that offers skill games in Kentucky could face fines of up to $25,000. Additionally, the law obligates law enforcement to seize the machines and any associated paraphernalia like cash.

It’s those actions that this lawsuit seeks to stop before that enforcement even begins. Currently, the law takes effect on July 1. The complaint asks the court to find the law in violation of the Kentucky Constitution. Additionally, it argues that the court should block Cameron from enforcing its tenets.

The brief raises several points to sway the court its way. Some of them are stronger than others.

Plaintiffs make their case for nullification of new Kentucky gambling law

The complaint makes seven arguments to the Court all in pursuit of the injunction against enforcement and ultimate nullification of the law. Among the weakest arguments that the Court might find wanting is a claim that the skill games ban violates players’ free speech. Additionally, a claim that the law violates the separation of powers in the Kentucky Constitution might not hold much water.

Others could be more convincing, however. For example, POM and its co-plaintiffs employ an argument that has worked in similar lawsuits in Pennsylvania. Simply put, the plaintiffs state that the machines are not gambling devices. Their reasoning behind that argument is that a player’s skill, instead of chance, determines whether a play wins.

The lawsuit also claims the new law represents a piece of “special legislation relating to the punishment of crimes” that the state’s Constitution bars. The argument is that the state cannot enact laws to single out specific parties in terms of alleged criminal activity.

Regardless of how the circuit court finds these arguments, its ruling will probably be just a chapter of the story. The losing party, regardless of who that ends up being, will likely appeal this dispute to the state’s Supreme Court.

The more pressing matter is whether the circuit court will grant the injunction barring enforcement. If not, skill game machines could become legal liabilities for Kentucky businesses in July.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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