District Attorneys Say Skill Games ‘Have Put A Strain’ On Law Enforcement

Written By Corey Sharp on May 14, 2024
Photo of the Pennsylvania State Police barracks. The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is demanding PA skill games legislation, saying crime has increased throughout the state.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association has sent a letter to Gov. Josh Shapiro detailing the stress PA skill games have put on law enforcement.

PlayPennsylvania reached out to the Pennsylvania State Police for comment, but the PSP could neither confirm nor deny those claims.

Pennsylvania skill games have brought safety concerns to certain areas within the state, including Philadelphia. The city banned the machines in gas stations and corner stores.

Despite that, the PSP told PlayPennsylvania it had no way of determining the demands skill games, specifically, have placed on law enforcement.

District Attorneys demand state legislature regulate skill games

But, Berks County district attorney and PDAA communications director John Adams told PlayPennsylvania on Monday that the state has gotten tons of complaints about skill games popping up in convenience stores, gas stations and pizza shops.

While Adams called for skill games regulation last month, he said it would depend on what the framework would look like to determine the success of it. However, it cannot go on as currently constructed.

“We are monitoring news outlets and seeing crime associated with skill games machines,” Adams told PlayPennsylvania. “Crimes range from breaking into machines to robberies of them, like you saw in Chambersburg.”

Adams is referring to the incident of two men stealing more than $400,000 from machines outside the Southgate Mall.

In addition to crime, there are no safeguards in place. Adams referenced the amount of underaged kids playing the machines, along with underaged employees supervising them.

Regulation would help the state enforce supervision and the age of customers playing the machines. It would also help raise money for the state, should it be done the right way.

“State legislation needs to act and it needs to act now to bring regulation and taxation to the state,” Adams told PlayPennsylvania. “Every day we don’t do something, we’re losing millions in tax revenue.”

PDAA say skill games one of three major public safety concerns

A recent article in The Herald stated that the PDAA sent a letter to Gov. Shapiro, listing skill games as one of three major public safety concerns in the Keystone State.

The PDAA claims that skill games has put law enforcement in a tough position, saying:

“These unlicensed and unregulated skill games have put a strain on law enforcement in many communities. We sympathize with the owners of the establishments that rely on these machines for extra income, but we must recognize that there are societal costs with their operation.

“Thousands of skill game machines are found in pizza shops, convenience stores, gas stations and taverns across Pennsylvania. Law enforcement has seen an increase in crime related to the proliferation of the machines.”

It is inevitable that skill games are going to get regulated soon. Governor Shapiro proposed a 42% tax in his upcoming FY budget, along with the bill Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) introduced.

When asked if the regulation of skill games would help law enforcement, the PSP said it “does not comment on pending legislation.”

Philadelphia acted on public safety concerns skill games posed

Despite no solid evidence of increasing crime because of Pennsylvania skill games, Philadelphia took matters into their own hands.

Mayor Cherelle Parker signed a bill into law last month banning the machines from gas stations and corner stores. Only businesses that have an alcohol license with 30 or more seats inside the establishment are able to offer skill games.

The Committee on Public Safety introduced the bill in January and moved through the legislation process quickly. During Parker’s press conference, she alluded to the increase in crime as a large reason for signing the bill.

“It is not okay to tempt our residents from low and moderate income neighborhoods with opportunities to gamble away their hard-earned dollars,” she said last month. “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.”

While there are no statistics of skill games increasing crime, regulation would ease some people’s minds in the state.

Photo by Eric Frein / AP Photo
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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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