Illegal Gambling To ‘Get Worse’ Without Skill Games Regulation Says Pace-O-Matic

Written By Corey Sharp on April 30, 2024 - Last Updated on May 3, 2024
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Pace-O-Matic director Frank Noonan has written a column emphasizing the need to regulate Pennsylvania skill games to eliminate illegal gambling machines in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania skill games have come under scrutiny over the years because of their similarities to slot machines. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that the machines — of which Pace-O-Matic is a manufacturer — are headed towards regulation.

There are plenty of “mini-casinos” and “gambling dens,” as Noonan wrote, that operate machines that are not skill games. POM wants those eliminated. The regulation of Pennsylvania skill games should do that.

Pace-O-Matic board member pushes for regulation

Pennsylvania skill games have been a controversial topic in the state for several years. However, the games are considered legal after the Commonwealth Court unanimously ruled them as such last December.

There are House and Senate bills introduced with frameworks on skill games regulation, along with Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed 42% tax on the machines. It appears all but likely that is where the games are headed.

Noonan admitted that “tens of thousands” of illegal gambling machines exist across the state that attract crime and ruin neighborhoods.

He wrote in the New Castle News:

“I see firsthand why this legislation is so important. The problem of illegal gambling machines in the state will only get worse without regulation.”

Noonan, a former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner who also spent 27 years with the FBI, also got into the weeds of illegal machines. He said that those machines are based “entirely on chance and there is no effort to keep the revenue in the state.”

Noonan said he has seen other states thrive with legal skill games.

“In my work for Pace-O-Matic, I have seen firsthand how, in places such as Wyoming and Washington, D.C., when games are legal and regulated, illegal games quickly leave the market,” Noonan said in his column.

Perhaps strict regulations of skill games would drive illegal machines out of the state.

Pennsylvania skill games regulation options

While skill regulations appear extremely likely in Pennsylvania, there are two different approaches. Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) introduced a Senate bill that proposes a 16% tax and the Department of Revenue (DOR) overseeing the games. Representative Danilo Burgos introduced a similar bill in the House earlier this year, too.

Then, as previously stated, Gov. Shapiro is suggesting a 42% tax on the machines with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in charge of regulation.

POM has been seeking regulation for years and is in favor of both bills brought forth by Yaw and Burgos. There has been pushback from the casino industry on not only the legality of the games, but now the tax structure, too.

Pete Shelly, Partner and Co-Founder of Clear Point Communications, representing Parx Casino, called Yaw’s tax “laughably low.”

However, Yaw told PlayPennsylvania last month why casinos should be on his side:

“One of the issues are the complaints from casinos that there are too many of these games out there. If there’s too many of them, our legislation will actually cut down the number and regulate them. It’s exactly what [casinos] say needs to be done. So the casino industry should be supporting this legislation, not opposing it.”

There’s a lot that needs to happen before FY 2024/2025, which starts on July 1. The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) projects Pennsylvania can produce $150 million in skill games tax revenue in the upcoming FY. The state could stand to make $421 million in earnings by FY 2028/2029, according to the IFO.

However, if lawmakers, POM and the casino industry can’t come to common ground, the state won’t make any money.

Photo by PlayPennsylvania
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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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