Inside The New Skill Games Briefs From PA Casinos, Attorney General

Written By Corey Sharp on January 3, 2024 - Last Updated on January 5, 2024
Image showing a judge's gavel for a story about Pennsylvania casinos appealing the recent skill games ruling from the Commonwealth Court.

Pennsylvania casinos are not going down without a fight in regard to the ongoing skill games battle. This week, multiple facilities filed an amicus brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the Commonwealth Court ruled the games as legal last month.

The Pennsylvania casinos listed in the amicus brief, which is a document containing information from an organization not directly involved, presented numerous reasons why the Supreme Court should consider reversing the Commonwealth Court’s decision.

Parx Casino Bensalem, Shippensburg files amicus brief to Supreme Court

The Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania skill games are not slot machines and therefore deemed them legal in the Keystone State. That put several parties of the regulated gaming industry up in arms.

Despite skill games being ruled as legal, the battle is still far from over. Multiple Pennsylvania casinos, including Parx Casino Bensalem and Shippensburg, filed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to grant the request. Karin Ashford, Chief Legal Officer at Parx Casino, issued the following statement to PlayPennsylvania:

“Pennsylvanians are already witnessing the devastating impact that the explosion of unlicensed, unregulated, and untaxed skill games is having in communities in Pennsylvania. These machines have been associated with crimes across the state. They divert tax revenues from every taxpayer, including hundreds of millions in lost Pennsylvania Lottery revenues that are used to fund programs for older residents. The state’s licensed, regulated, and supervised casino industry employs 15,000 workers and supports 33,000 jobs; invests $500 million annually with in-state businesses and last year generated $2.3 billion in tax revenues to the state. We cannot and should not be expected to compete with skill games which pay zero gaming taxes, create no meaningful employment, are not subject to any licensing or oversight.”

Majority of Pennsylvania casinos challenging skill games ruling

The casinos included in the brief include most of the establishments within the state:

  • Mohegan Pennsylvania
  • Hollywood Casino and Penn National Race Course
  • Hollywood Casino Morgantown
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Hollywood Casino York
  • Hollywood Casino at The Meadows
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia & Pittsburgh
  • Live! Casino Philadelphia & Pittsburgh
  • Wind Creek Bethlehem
  • Mount Airy Casino
  • Lady Luck Casino

PlayPennsylvania obtained a copy of the brief to the Supreme Court. The argument reads:

“The Commonwealth Court’s ruling opens the floodgates for unlicensed, unregulated, unlawful slot machines to dominate Pennsylvania’s gaming landscape in a manner the General Assembly sought to prevent. Under the guise of constituting so-called ‘skill’ games—when they are anything but—the Commonwealth Court allowed the POM Machines to skirt the Crimes Code to effectively displace legal, taxed, highly-regulated gaming across Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office (OAG), also filed a brief earlier this week, along with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and American Gaming Association (AGA).

Pennsylvania skill games remain a threat to regulated gambling

PlayPennsylvania also received a copy of the OAG’s brief. Both briefs focus heavily on the functions of skill games and compare them to slot machines inside Pennsylvania casinos. Part of the OAG’s brief reads:

“Under this Court’s precedent, if it acts like a slot machine and operates like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine. The Commonwealth accordingly seeks review.”

The Pennsylvania casinos’ brief discusses more of the potential impacts unregulated skill games could have on the legal industry, including online casinos in PA. Self-exclusion and the ages of players are not protected from skill games. The brief said:

“None of these restrictions or oversight apply to unregulated gaming machines. Children can walk into a convenience store down the street from their school and gamble. The 20,000 self-excluded people face the temptation to gamble at gas stations.”

The appeal also noted that the Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA (CCGP) has received an uptick in problem gambling calls, which PlayPennsylvania reported last month.

There could be more appeals released later this week. Either way, the Pennsylvania skill games legal battle marches on.

Editors note: This story has been changed to include that Pennsylvania casinos filed an amicus brief, not an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as previously reported.

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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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