Skill Games Manufacturer Taking Legal Action Against Philadelphia Ban

Written By Corey Sharp on March 25, 2024 - Last Updated on March 27, 2024
Pace-o-Matic logo and a photo of Philadelphia city hall with large red words

Despite what the state wants, Philadelphia is putting its own stamp on Pennsylvania skill games. Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved legislation that would ban skill machines inside convenient stores and gas stations within city limits. On Monday, Pace-O-Matic (POM), a Georgia-based skill games manufacturer, told PlayPennsylvania it has decided to take legal action against the city of Philadelphia.

There are certain rules and guidelines that businesses must follow to be able to offer skill games in Philadelphia. The city is attempting to protect store owners and customers from violence.

POM suing city of Philadelphia over Pennsylvania skill games ban

Philadelphia convenient stores and gas are no longer allowed to offer skill games, along with any other gambling device. A bill proposed by Councilman Curtis Jones in January was unanimously approved last week.

POM told PlayPennsylvania that it is aware of the new legislation, and has already taken swift action. POM spokesman, Mike Barley, said:

“Because City Council passed the ordinance, we have been forced to take legal action against the city to protect the interests of hardworking Philadelphia business owners. On Thursday, we filed a lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit is premised on the multiple ways the ordinance would violate the state and federal constitutions.”

Gambling machines have been proliferating across the state for years. While the Commonwealth Court ruled skill games as legal last December, there are plenty of machines that are not Pennsylvania skill, which would make them illegal. Barley cited those concerns to PlayPennsylvania:

“We take the welfare of the city seriously and agree with council members that the number of illegal gambling machines cropping up in Philadelphia locations is a problem. A ban that includes legal skill games, however, is not the answer. It will only jeopardize the livelihoods of many city small businesses.”

Philadelphia eliminates PA skill games inside convenient stores and gas stations

There have been numerous court rulings that have favored the legality of skill games. The latest and most decisive one came last December, when the Commonwealth Court unanimously ruled the games as legal.

Because of the ruling, Pennsylvania planned on raising tax money for the state from skill games. Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a 42% tax on the machines in his upcoming fiscal year budget.

While the state is on board with adding skill games as another revenue stream, Philadelphia had other ideas. City council unanimously voted to ban Pennsylvania skill games in convenient stores and gas stations throughout the county.

Much of the discussion to ban skill games has come from the regulated casino industry, which claims the machines lack consumer protections and takes away business, including from PA online casinos. However, Philadelphia City Council ruling to ban skill games in convenient stores and gas stations is strictly a public safety issue.

City council published a weekly report, which said:

“Philadelphia Police and community advocates supported the regulation, while game manufacturers and business owners pushed back against what they say is an unfair prohibition.”

Barley and POM have been seeking skill games regulation over long period of time in the Keystone State. While the Philadelphia Police is favor of the new legislation, Barley explained how banning PA skill games is not the answer. The tax money generated from skill games would help police. He said:

“The state, including Philadelphia, will benefit greatly from the measure because it will provide an estimated $300 million in tax revenue annually. It also calls for shutting down illegal gaming machines. Some of the tax funding, in fact, will be used to help law enforcement crackdown on those games.”

The city claims there is more crime where skill games and other gambling devices are present. A recent deadly incident between customers of a small business with skill games and Philadelphia Police perhaps brought validity to the new legislation. However, it’s unclear whether or not the machines in the video are Pennsylvania skill games.

What Philadelphia businesses are allowed to offer PA skill machines under new bill

Despite the limit of skill games, especially in convenient stores and gas stations, there are certain Philadelphia businesses that can have Pennsylvania skill games.

Councilmember Jones’ bill has several key stipulations. Establishments must meet the following criteria to offer skill games:

  • Licensed facilities as authorized and defined in the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act
  • Any location operating under a valid Commonwealth license to sell alcohol that has 30 or more seats readily available and in place for regular use by customers to consume food and beverages

Those that meet the above requirements are only able to operate a maximum of five skill games. Those that are not compliant with the new bill would face the following penalty, according to the bill:

“Violation of this Section shall be subject to a fine of $1,000 per device present at the business or other location. Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense for which a fine may be imposed.”

Gov. Shapiro estimated that skill would generate more than $150 million in tax revenue next fiscal year and by FY 2025-2026, skill machines could produce more than $313 million. It would be interesting to see if Philadelphia banning skill games would impact Gov. Shapiro’s projections.

Photo by PlayPhiladelphia
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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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