Berks DA Calls For PA Skill Games Regulation Amid Safety Concerns

Written By Corey Sharp on April 22, 2024
Berks County courthouse in PA. District Attorney John Adams calls for skill games regulation.

The argument for Pennsylvania skill games regulation picked up another ally in Berks County District Attorney John Adams. Adams penned an opinion piece asking for regulation to protect the communities from violent crimes.

Philadelphia has already taken a step, banning skill machines in corner stores and gas stations to combat crime.

Adams requesting regulation is playing into the hands of Pace-O-Matic (POM), a Georgia-based skill games manufacturer, who has been seeking regulation of the games for years.

Berks district attorney pleads for regulation and security measures on PA skill games

Pennsylvania skill games regulation comes down to two important causes: Protecting the communities from crime and the potential tax revenue that can be raised from the machines.

Adams mainly addressed the potential safety risks that involve unregulated games that pizza shops, taverns, convenience stores and gas stations are now offering. He wrote in the Reading Eagle:

“Thieves know that these machines have cash boxes. They know that, unlike highly regulated casinos, the local shops with skill games generally have few or no security procedures in place.”

Adams referenced a New York man who pleaded guilty to charges related to a theft ring involving Virginia and Pennsylvania skill games. The man stole approximately $550,000 in skill machines money. In addition, Pennsylvania State Police arrested a man earlier this month in connection to a $400,000 skill games crime in Chambersburg.

Adams addressed that skill machines could benefit the state with up to $421 million in tax revenue by FY 2028/2029, according to the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). However, with public safety being the main issue, Adams spoke for all district attorneys in the Keystone State:

“The district attorneys are urging lawmakers to give law enforcement clear guidance on what is legal and what is illegal with respect to skill games. They also are seeking consumer protection measures, security requirements and mechanisms to prevent underage use.”

Despite Pennsylvania casinos still attempting to ban skill games, it’s looking more and more likely the machines will be regulated and taxed instead.

Berks DA’s message falls in line with PA skill games ban in Philadelphia

Despite the Commonwealth Court ruling skill games as legal last December, Philadelphia City Council decided to take matters a step further.

Councilman Curtis Jones introduced a bill in January that would ban skill games inside Philadelphia gas stations and corner stores because of safety concerns. Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker signed the document into law earlier this month. She said during a press conference:

“It is not okay to tempt our residents from low and moderate income neighborhoods with opportunities to gamble away their hard-earned dollars. It is not okay to give children purchasing candy an opportunity to gamble with their lunch money. It is not okay to create situations where those who are interested in mugging Philadelphians literally wait outside of gas stations in the middle of residential areas to rob people of money that they won.”

Only establishments that can seat 30 or more guests and possess a valid Commonwealth license to sell alcohol are able to offer skill games.

Philadelphia made public safety a top priority, so much so to even ban machines in certain businesses. Adams is asking for state legislators to make safety top of mind with regulation on the state level.

POM congratulates PA gambling industry for record March revenues

POM has issued multiple tongue-in-cheek congratulatory messages to the Pennsylvania gambling industry over the last several months. One of those messages came in February after the American Gaming Association reported record US commercial casino revenue for 2023.

POM sent its latest regards in a press release published last week, sarcastically congratulating the PA gaming industry on record March revenue. POM spokesperson, Mike Barley, said:

“Sadly, $554 million a month is not enough to satisfy the out-of-state-managed casino industry. Instead, they will spend their time and profits peddling untrue accusations about skill games and putting down small business owners and veterans who count on the legal skill games for supplemental revenue.”

March’s record revenue includes a US-best $233.1 million in revenue from PA online casinos, which operate under land-based casino operators in the state.

What might PA skill games regulation look like?

Barley stated that his machines are not in competition with casinos as both can coexist. POM supports skill games bills introduced by Sen. Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) and Representative Danilo Burgos.

Both bills propose a 16% tax on the games, with strict regulation and oversight from the Department of Revenue (DOR). Yaw told PlayPennsylvania last month that Pennsylvania casinos “should be supporting this legislation, not opposing it.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a 42% tax in his upcoming FY budget, which is far off of what Yaw and Burgos are advocating for. While it appears that the games are headed toward some sort of regulation, there’s still a long way to go in determining what that framework will look like.

Photo by AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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