Pennsylvania Skill Games Decision To Be Held In Commonwealth Court

Written By Corey Sharp on July 24, 2023
The PA skill games battle will officially be heard within the Commonwealth Court as opposed to the state's Supreme Court.

One of Pace-O-Matic’s (POM) several cases over the legality of Pennsylvania skill games won’t be heading to the state’s Supreme Court after all.

PA officials ruled that the case of POM against the Department of Revenue, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and six PA casinos, be heard at the Commonwealth Court level, despite attempts to have it moved by these parties.

POM’s representation is feeling good about the status of skill games in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania skill games case not going to PA Supreme Court

PA justices denied appeals from the Department of Revenue, PGCB and six PA casinos for the legality of skill games to be heard at the state’s Supreme Court.

The court order noted that there was a denial of summary judgement at a lower court and a recent decision to discontinue a suit. Both actions mean the case is not final or appealable.

“A discontinuance or nonsuit shall not affect the right of the defendant to proceed with a counterclaim theretofore filed,” the court order said.

The document also read:

“An order denying a motion for summary judgement does not terminate the litigation, and thus is not an appealable order.”

The fact that the Commonwealth Court denied summary judgement means there’s a possibility for more evidence to be presented.

Though POM recently discontinued a case, another case is being activity litigated, which allows the suit to continue.

What does the latest ruling mean for PA skill games?

This decision means the Commonwealth Court will determine the legality of Pennsylvania skill games.

The Commonwealth Court has previously ruled in POM’s favor. In January, a court order found that the Commonwealth wrongfully seized four PA skills devices in raids conducted by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office in 2021. A court order in May 2022 required the state to return five skill machines, cash and other items to POM.

There have been other instances in 2019 and 2020 where the court ordered the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) to return skill games and cash to Pinnacle, another skill games manufacturer.

Matt Haverstick of Kleinbard LLC, representing POM, told Law360:

“The decision clears the way for the legality of the Pennsylvania Skill game to be upheld yet again, only this time by Commonwealth Court en banc.”

State legislator argues to regulate PA skill games

There are three potential outcomes for Pennsylvania skill games:

  • Ruled as completely legal and continue to operate as is
  • Completely banned from operating in Pennsylvania
  • Co-exist with casino slot machines as a regulated form of gambling

Skill games have been running rampant all across the country, and in Pennsylvania specifically. They typically show up in bars and convenient stores.

Pennsylvania Senator, Gene Yaw (R-23), recently introduced a tax structure for skill games. They would operate as a legal and regulated form of gambling in Pennsylvania.

Yaw cited several reasons why skill games would benefit the state and how it doesn’t cut into retail casino revenue.

The PGCB is hesitant to see a scenario in which regulated skill games can exist. Denise Smyler, Chair of the PGCB, is not only concerned with consumer protection, but there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes work that make skill games difficult to regulate. She said in April:

“It is upon the shoulders of the legislature to determine whether they want to regulate them. I don’t see how you can regulate them if they’re not on equal footing with the VGTs and casinos. Are they going to have the same tax structure? It’s 52% on slot machines and VGTs. Are they going to go through the same rigorous background investigations? Anybody with a criminal record would not pass the background investigation. And it’s not just them, their employees and their games. Would all of that pass? That’s what it would take to regulate them.”

A decision on skill games still might take awhile. But according to Haverstick, POM is pleased about its current legal position.

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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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