Police Started Seizing Skill Games Machines Until A Court Order Stopped Them

Posted on December 18, 2019 - Last Updated on December 19, 2019

“Suspected illegal gambling devices” were seized by the Pennsylvania State Police from five restaurants in Dauphin and Cumberland County. Lancaster Online reported that on Dec. 9, the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement seized the devices, which were from at least four different manufacturers.

The seizures come less than a month after the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court confirmed in a ruling that Pace-O-Matic (POM) video game machines are considered slot machines under PA law. The decision did not state that POM was in violation of the Gaming Act, and the law does not apply to unlicensed slot machines. However, it did arguably provide some legal cover for police to start taking the machines.

According to an emergency court petition filed by the manufacturer Pace-O-Matic, these are the locations of the removed devices:

  • Gilligan’s Bar, which has locations in Dauphin and Cumberland counties.
  • Champions Sports Bar, in Highspire.
  • Stadium Club Sports Tavern, in Highspire.

Lancaster Online said it is unclear which Gilligan’s location was raided, and the other two sites have yet to be identified.

Emergency court petition ceased some of the seizures

On Dec. 12, Pennsylvania Skill Games operator Pace-O-Matic filed an emergency petition with the Commonwealth Court. The next day, it received injunctive relief when the Commonwealth Court ordered state police to cease seizing more of the games.

However, Lancaster Online reports that it does not prevent the seizure of the other suspected illegal gambling devices. It is also unclear whether the injunction requires the Pennsylvania State Police to return the seized games.

State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said in a statement:

“The State Police continues to view the so-called games of skill, which have proliferated throughout the state, as illegal gambling devices and will continue to vigorously pursue all legal avenues to combat this unlawful and detrimental activity.”

Bar owner insists these machines don’t skirt the law

It continues the lengthy battle around the “skill game” machines in bars, convenience stores, fraternal lodges, and bowling alleys across the Commonwealth.

Jason Naugle, general manager at Champions Sports Bar, said that PA State Police retrieved two Pennsylvania Skill Games’ machines during happy hour on Dec. 9. He said regulars were disappointed the machines were no longer there. Also, he wanted an explanation as to why certain bars in the area were targeted.

Pace-O-Matic lawyer Matt Haverstick of Philadelphia-based law firm Kleinbard commented on the most recent events:

“The Pace-O-Matic skill game is the only one in Pennsylvania determined by the courts to be legal. We support the Pennsylvania State Police picking up the many illegal games out there. But ours isn’t one of them, and I think the courts in Pennsylvania get that.”

Court battle over questionably legal machines will continue

Don’t expect the ongoing drama surrounding “suspected illegal gambling devices” to disappear any time soon.

Since a Beaver County court deemed Pennsylvania Skill Games legal in 2014, it has attracted attention. There have been several House Gaming Oversight Committee Public Hearings debating their legality. The Pennsylvania Lottery waged a public campaign to outlaw machines claiming it hindered the growth of new games, especially Keno.

Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin are co-sponsoring legislation that would ban skill games.

In an interview with PlayPennsylvania in November, Haverstick said:

“We expect to have a trial or hearing just like in Beaver County where we demonstrate under the Crimes Code we are predominate skill. We expect soon we’re going get a bigger broader ruling that we are a legal machine.”

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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