DOUGLAS V. KENTUCKY, 168 U. S. 488 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Douglas v. Kentucky, 168 U.S. 488 (1897)

Douglas v. Kentucky

No. 10

Argued October 12-13, 1897

Decided November 29, 1897

168 U.S. 488


By the Constitution of Kentucky of 1891, it is provided that

"lotteries and gift enterprises are forbidden, and no privileges shall be granted for such purposes, and none shall be exercised, and no schemes for similar purposes shall be allowed. The General Assembly shall enforce this act by proper penalties. All lottery privileges or charters heretofore granted are revoked."


(1) That the provision when applied to a previously existing lottery grant in the State of Kentucky was not inconsistent with the contract clause of the Constitution of the United States.

Page 168 U. S. 489

(2) That a lottery grant is not, in any sense, a contract within the meaning of the Constitution, but is simply a gratuity and license, which the state, under its police powers and for the protection of the public morals, may at any time revoke, and forbid the further conduct of the lottery, and that no right acquired during the life of the grant, on the faith of or by agreement with the grantee, can be exercised after the revocation of the grant and the forbidding of the lottery if its exercise involves a continuance of such lottery.

(3) That all rights acquired on the faith of a lottery grant must be deemed to have been acquired subject to the power of the state to the extent just indicated; nevertheless, rights acquired under a lottery grant, consistently with existing law, and which may be exercised and enjoyed without conducting a lottery forbidden by the state are, of course, not affected, and could not be affected, by the revocation of such grant.

(4) That this Court, when reviewing the final judgment of a state court upholding a state enactment alleged to be in violation of the contract clause of the Constitution, possesses paramount authority to determine for itself the existence or nonexistence of the contract set up, and whether its obligation has been impaired by the state enactment.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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