Gray machines removal underway as ban looms

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 4:34 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Slot machine lookalikes popped up in gas stations and bars all across Kentucky. Now they must be turned off in just days.

Kentucky lawmakers banned the so-called gray machines earlier this year. Now that ban is taking effect.

Businesses have been pulling the plug over the last week. At the Back Door, a bar and grille located at Mid-City Mall, the machines have been turned around to face the wall and a sign is posted to say they’re out of order because starting Friday, they’re now illegal.

“They came in a couple weeks ago and they took a chip out and they had to send it off to Pennsylvania,” said John Dant, owner of The Back Door .

Dant said the supplier came in, took the brain from the machines, and flipped them around. It ensures his business and many others, won’t face a $25,000 fine for someone playing a machine following the ban. Dant said turning them off hurts.

“We actually got used to the income because we were relying on it,” Dant said, “it would actually pay for our light bill.”

Dant said the machines were popular. Unlike traditional bar games, the machines paid out to skilled customers. He said the bar’s sales gradually increased as the machines caught on.

“A lot of them would stay and eat more and drink more so it was beneficial both ways,” Dant said.

It brought in a lot of money. Dant said $50,000 every two weeks. His share, ten percent.

“These games were allowing them to exist and in some cases prosper,” Pace O Matic’s Mike Barley said.

That’s why the industry is still challenging the ban in court. Pace O Matic said the law is unconstitutional.

“We’re going to fight for them so they have this critical source of revenue. There’s nothing like it providing this type of financial support,” Barley said.

So while the machines may be off for now, their future in Kentucky may not be dead. And owners like Dant said they’ll follow the law even if they believe it’s current version is misguided.

“We’re law abiding citizens, believe it or not, not just a bunch of yahoos,” Dant said.

These machines will be off for some time.

Pace O Matic has a hearing in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court on an important side issue related to the case, but it has not yet been able to make its main argument about the skill games in front of a judge.