Games-of-skill machines are facing different opponents than they have hoped.
First, Pennsylvania Lottery officials, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and senior groups drafted legislation in June to fight illegal “Pennsylvania Skill Games.”
Then, on July 10, the in-fighting began when Pace-O-Matic, the maker of “Pennsylvania Skill” machines filed a nuisance lawsuit against the owner of 3C Amusements for operating illegal gambling devices.
Pace-O-Matic vs. 3C Amusements
In the lawsuit, Pace-O-Matic alleges 3C Amusements is operating illegal gambling devices at its Cambria County locations.
Pace-O-Matic’s Pennsylvania Skill Vice President of Government Affairs/Public Relations and Counsel Tom Marino, a former United States congressman, told The Tribune-Democrat that 3C is using gambling machines while Pace-O-Matic produces games of skill, a distinction he said was defined by a court ruling. Per Marino:
“Their machines are illegal. Our machine is not illegal. We have had it adjudicated in a court of common pleas that it is a legal machine, a legal device, because it is a game of skill. The difference between our machine and a casino machine is you have to have the ability and skill to win on our machine, and when you acquire that, when you are able to do that, you can win 105% of what you bet.
“Any other gambling devices, you will sit at the machine, put money in, hit a button, it stops, you don’t win, hit a button, it stops, you don’t win. They’re designed to win some, but mostly to lose most of the time. Ours are not. Ours doesn’t even have a device in it that does that.”
Pace-O-Matic followed with a second lawsuit Friday
Per local news outlet WJAC, Pace-O-Matic followed up the lawsuit against the game producer with a second suit against a Pennsylvania watering hole.
The company is suing The Bar in Boalsburg for housing illegal games-of-skill machines in the establishment. Pace-O-Matic is seeking $50,000 in damages as well as the removal of the machines from the property. It is unclear whether or not the machines in question come from 3C.
Law enforcement says games of skill are illegal
The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement serves as primary enforcement authority over licensed liquor establishments. Many convenience stores, strip malls, shopping centers, and corner delis house these dubiously legal games of skill. Since January 2019, liquor enforcement officers have confirmed the operation of suspected illegal gambling devices in every county in Pennsylvania.
Ryan Tarkowski, Pennsylvania State Police spokesman, told the Standard-Speaker:
“In PSP’s view, the devices are illegal. Illegal gambling devices are prevalent in the Commonwealth despite enforcement efforts. Illegal gambling is far from a victimless crime. It diverts proceeds from legal gambling, that among things, allows seniors to age in their homes and reduces the burden of property taxes on our citizens.”
Game of skill figures
Some key numbers to know regarding games-of-skill machines.
- Currently, there are approximately 5,050 games-of-skill machines in Pennsylvania Lottery retailers.
- The PA Lottery estimates that for every games-of-skill machine placed in a lottery retailer, the PA Lottery loses approximately $2,284 per machine per month.
- Under Tomlinson’s bill, a first offense would be a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a fine of at least $5,000 per violation upon conviction. A second offense is also a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a fine of at least $10,000 per violation upon conviction. A third or subsequent offense would be a third-degree felony that carries a fine of at least $15,000 per violation upon conviction. These penalties create a deterrent that helps law enforcement address unsanctioned gambling.
Games of skill a roadblock for PA Lottery
In addition to the negative impact on PA Lottery’s scratch-off sales, which make up roughly 70% of the lotto’s business, games of skill also are a roadblock for the state lottery in convincing its retailers to offer monitor-based games, including keno and Xpress Sports.
Keno and Xpress Sports launched last year as part of Act 42 of the gambling expansion bill of 2017. However, in many cases, lottery retailers are opting to carry games of skill, rather than PA Lottery’s new products. It represents one of the many threats that these games of skill pose to the lottery’s business.
Sen. Tomlinson’s bill reaffirms that Pennsylvania skill games are not authorized in Pennsylvania and strengthens penalties.
“These machines have the potential to cost the Lottery hundreds of millions of dollars in future harm,” said Svitko, the lottery’s executive director. “It’s imperative that we take action now to protect the funding that supports the programs that older Pennsylvanians rely upon each year.”