Skill Games Makers, Operators Sue Kentucky

Pace-O-Matic and other skill-game operators, locations and players sued Kentucky over a new law banning the games which have proliferated statewide. Plaintiffs claim the law violates numerous aspects of the state constitution.

Skill Games Makers, Operators Sue Kentucky

Pace-O-Matic, one of the largest makers of the cash payout video games in the U.S., and other plaintiffs recently filed a suit in Franklin County Circuit Court in Kentucky, seeking to block a ban against the so-called skill games or gray machines proliferating in bars, restaurants, convenience stores and fraternal and veterans organizations statewide.

The filing, which names Attorney General Daniel Cameron as a defendant, says such games have existed legally in Kentucky for centuries and banning them is unconstitutional because they rely on skill and not chance.

The plaintiffs allege House Bill 594 violates the state constitution and want an injunction to stop enforcement of the law by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and all law enforcement, prosecutors, government officers and administrative agencies.

In a statement, Pace-O-Matic spokesman Michael Barley noted other plaintiffs include “several other skill game operators, locations and players.” He said, “Legislation banning skill games is unconstitutional and we are prepared to defend the legality of our games in court. Our priority is, and always has been, protecting the rights of Kentucky small businesses and fraternal organizations who rely on legal games of skill for income.”

The skill games issue has been one of the most heavily lobbied in the Kentucky Legislature over the last two years. In January and February alone, groups for and against the ban—Pace-O-Matic and the horseracing industry, respectively—spent a total of $600,000 funding new organizations that ran broadcast campaigns.

Last year, a law to regulate skill games bill passed the House and Senate but went no further. This year, the heavily lobbied HB 594, which would have banned the games and fined operators $25,000 per illegal device, cleared the legislature and was signed by Governor Andy Beshear. It’s set to take effect June 29.

Cameron spokesperson Krista Buckel said in a statement the attorney general’s office “is responsible for upholding the laws passed by the General Assembly and we look forward to defending this legislation.”

The lawsuit state skill games “have recently drawn the ire of certain horseracing interests” in Kentucky because they “are a popular form of entertainment in local neighborhood convenience stores, restaurants, truck stops and other locations that retain the revenue generated by such games in the local businesses and communities, but purportedly threaten the monopolization of gaming enjoyed by the horseracing interests.”

In addition, the lawsuit claims says the ban is unconstitutional due to violations of due process, equal protection rights, separation of powers and taking property without just compensation.  It also alleges the skill-games ban violates free speech rights, since the games “are a form of expression and expressive activity which communicate ideas and messaging through literary devices and through features distinctive to the medium and are, therefore, protected speech under the Kentucky constitution.”

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims the prohibition “invidiously and discriminatorily singles out and bans certain types of electronic video-style skill-based game devices,” while excluding other games used in e-sports competitions, skill-based contests and coin-operated amusement machines.