Regulating Skill Games Would Decrease Illegal Gambling Says Noonan

Written By Corey Sharp on May 1, 2024
Three people holding up signs in front of the skyline of Pittsburgh. One sign says

The regulation of Pennsylvania skill games would drive illegal gambling machines out of the state, according to Pace-O-Matic (POM) director Frank Noonan.

While many bars, restaurants, pizza shops and gas stations offer gambling machines, not all of them are games of skill, which the Commonwealth Court ruled as legal last year.

PlayPennsylvania spoke with Noonan about skill games regulation and how it would impact illegal gambling, along with the industry as a whole.

Noonan: PA skill games regulation would remove illegal gambling machines

Noonan’s background is quite impressive. He oversees compliance for POM, a Georgia-based skill games manufacturer. Previously, he served as a combat lieutenant with the US Marine Corps serving in the Vietnam War. He also spent 27 years with the FBI and four years as the Pennsylvania State Police commissioner.

Noonan saw a big opportunity with POM, and thought skill games could positively impact small businesses in the Keystone State. His hope was that skill games could also drive illegal gambling out of the state, as well.

It’s looking extremely likely that skill games will be taxed and regulated in Pennsylvania. Gov. Josh Shapiro has the games on his radar, proposing a 42% tax in his upcoming FY budget.

Noonan explained that players can win 105% of their money on skill machines. That is not the case for other machines, which makes them illegal.

He admitted he didn’t exactly know how regulation would work. However, all skill games would need to go through some sort of protocol to be labeled as such.

“If [skill games] are regulated, they have to be certified to show they are games of skill,” Noonan told PlayPennsylvania. “There’s usually a fee paid and a prominently displayed sticker or plaque that will show this is a game that’s registered. Anybody that walks in, especially in law enforcement, and sees that the games don’t have the sticker, it’s a clear violation, and easy prosecution.”

Noonan said skill games regulation in Washington D.C. and Wyoming helped limit the number of illegal machines, which moved into other states. Noonan anticipates that happening for Pennsylvania, too.

PA skill games regulation would create a ‘proud’ industry

POM has been seeking regulation for years to create a “long-term, stable market,” the company said back in February.

Noonon wrote in the New Castle News that POM supports bills introduced by Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) and Representative Danilo Burgos. Those bills state that age-restricted sales business would be able to own up to five skill machines in an establishment.

“The games are ancillary,” Noonan told PlayPennsylvania. “They are something that’s an addition [to a business]. It’s entertainment and makes a little bit of money.”

Noonan also explained that he doesn’t have any evidence that games of skill attract more crime than anything else. However, he seemed to understand the reputation that comes with them.

“I think Pennsylvania deserves to have an industry like this,” Noonan said. “I want it be something people can be proud of when they have this in their stores. They don’t have to hide it or anything like that… It’s something I’d like to see, the whole industry to have a better reputation. I think we can do that with regulation.”

If and when skill machines get regulated, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) predicts the state will generate $421 million in tax earnings from skill games by FY 2028/2029. That would be something to be proud of, especially if illegal gambling drifts away.

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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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