Pace-O-Matic Potential Victim Of Legal Misconduct In PA Skill Games Battle

Written By Corey Sharp on June 28, 2023
The PA Supreme Court began hearing appeals to decide the ownership of the Bally Casino location near State College.

Pace-O-Matic (POM), a Georgia-based skill games manufacturer, is in the midst of a lawsuit against former legal partner Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC (Eckert), claiming the firm also represented a Pennsylvania casino at the same time. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of POM, allowing it to review Eckert’s privileged logs.

While POM and Pennsylvania casinos have battled for years about the legality of PA skill games, POM is fighting a separate battle, as well.

POM accusing Eckert of conflict of interest

In a detailed press release, POM is alleging Eckert worked with a PA casino while representing POM. Eckert’s actions would be considered a conflict of interest.

After citing several instances where PA courts have overturned a law firm’s confidential information, Jennifer P. Wilson, United States District Judge Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled that POM could access Eckert’s documents to determine any wrongdoing.

Eckert has denied the allegations, and even swore to a Federal District Court it would not engage in a conflict of interest. However, POM is accusing Eckert of secretly representing Parx Casino, an opponent of POM.

A POM spokesperson said:

“This is a tremendous step in repairing the damage that has been done to not only POM, but the thousands of businesses and fraternal clubs benefiting from games of skill. Eckert’s attempts to shield their nefarious behavior have failed once again in a court of law, and we are eager to shine the light of transparency on their actions. This is a tremendous victory for transparency, and we look forward to exposing Eckert’s efforts to destroy thousands of Pennsylvania small businesses.”

Previous court decision ruled Eckert acted in ‘bad faith’

This isn’t the first time a court has ruled against Eckert in this case. POM is alleging Eckert worked simultaneously with Parx Casino and “actively participated in and covertly manipulated litigation.”

When confronted about the conflict of interest, Eckert then reportedly withheld emails to protect itself from any dealing with Parx. In November 2021, US Magistrate Judge Joseph Saporito, Jr. concluded that Eckert acted in “bad faith” by withholding those emails.

Saporito stated that Eckert:

“Actively and clandestinely managed and participated in the representation of Parx in the Commonwealth Court litigation against its other client, POM. Moreover, based on our in-camera review of the purportedly privileged documents, it did so with full knowledge that the conflict asserted by POM precluded its active and continuing representation of Parx in the Commonwealth Court litigation.”

As Eckert appealed the decision, it had to turn over many internal emails to POM. In July 2022, Wilson once again made another ruling for POM, stating:

“In making inconsistent representations to the court, Eckert has attempted to obstruct the discovery process as to the central issue in this case: whether Eckert breached its fiduciary duty to POM by representing Parx, a party with adverse interests, at the same time that it represented POM.”

Update on legality of PA skill games

There’s a lot going with skill games in Pennsylvania. Skill games fall in a gray area, but operate legally in small restaurants and bars, along with many social halls across the state.

Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) introduced Senate Bill 706 to regulate skill games, with a tax framework now in place.

While that is ongoing, the decision to ban skill games currently sits in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Six casinos are joining the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and the Department of Revenue against POM.

Photo by Matt Rourke / AP
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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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