Skill games don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. A Pennsylvania judge ruled in favor of Pace-O-Matic (POM), a manufacturer of skill game machines, after the Commonwealth wrongfully seized skill games in 2021.
PA skill game manufacturers and the Commonwealth have been at odds for years due to the gray area surrounding the games. This ruling is a big win for skill games.
Pace-O-Matic skill games wrongfully seized in PA
POM announced that the Commonwealth wrongfully seized four PA skill devices in raids conducted by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office in 2021.
The court order finds:
- The Commonwealth improperly withheld and misrepresented material evidence relative to the issuance of the search warrant in this matter. Such conduct warrants the suppression of the seized property.
- The devices at issue are legal games of skill, and that the Commonwealth failed to establish that the devices, as designed, are games of chance.
- The Commonwealth shall return the seized skill games and TRT to petitioners. Petitioners should retain the monies previously returned to them pursuant to prior order of court.
POM spokesman Mike Barley said in a press release:
“This is another tremendous victory for Pennsylvania skill games, powered by Pace-O-Matic, and our Pennsylvania small business and fraternal partners.
“We applaud the court’s decision, especially regarding the matter of protecting Pace-O-Matic’s intellectual property. The prosecutor’s behavior, in this case, has been egregious, and we are deeply concerned about the motivation to disregard, bend and violate the law and our constitutional rights in a coordinated effort to harm our company and the small businesses, clubs and veterans groups that benefit from skill game revenue and support.”
Legal history of PA skill games
On multiple occasions, the Commonwealth have seized skill games in several counties. The Commonwealth has returned seized items in every case.
POM’s last legal issue came in May 2022, when the Commonwealth seized five Pennsylvania skill amusement devices, 30 weekly accounting documents, a D-Link router box, NetGear router box and $5,000. Though the Commonwealth admitted to “no wrongdoing,” it returned all seized items back to POM.
POM filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) in June 2022. It has been amended to include the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
The lawsuit references a Beaver County Court ruling in 2014 that recognizes POM devices as games of skill. The lawsuit alleges targeted harassment, collusion and conspiracy.
The amount of skill games have increased over time and can be found in convenient stores, restaurants and bars across the state. The argument of keeping skill games around is that they are not gambling devices, but games of skill.
What this means for the Pennsylvania gaming industry
The court ruling means that the PGCB and PA casinos have an uphill battle to fight.
In the press release, Barley added that POM is determined to seek additional regulation.
“Every time the legality of our skill games has been called into question, the legal status of our games has been upheld by the judiciary. Pace-O-Matic stands out among our competitors as the active and driving force seeking additional regulation and taxation. We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with the state General Assembly and asking for legislation providing additional regulation and increased tax money for the state.”
Several PA casinos have had to remove slot machines because of how skill games similarly operate. Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden has taken the lead on attempting to ban skill games. He’s publicly stated “this is an existential issue for the industry.”