Anti-Gaming Expansion Rep Calls For ‘Tight Regulation’ On PA Skill Games

Written By Corey Sharp on March 5, 2024
Image showing casino gaming in the background with slot machines along with the PA state outline featuring the Pennsylvanians Against Gaming Expansion logo for a story about the group's spokesperson speaking out about how PA skill games can exist in the regulated industry.

Pete Shelly, a spokesperson for Pennsylvanians Against Gaming Expansion, wrote an op-ed detailing the ways Pennsylvania skill games can co-exist as regulated gambling machines with the casino industry. Taxing skill games similar to slot machines with strict oversight is likely the only way it can happen.

Skill games have proliferated across convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants and bars throughout the state. The lack of consumer protections and business it takes away from retail and PA online casinos have raised concerns.

Pennsylvania skill games can operate under strict guidelines

It would be shocking at this point if skill games get banned altogether in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth Court recently ruled the games as legal and Gov. Josh Shapiro included a tax framework in his proposed FY budget.

As people are finally coming around to skill games sticking around, Shelly actually argued in favor of the machines. However, in an op-ed now picked up by several Pennsylvania outlets, he touched on several conditions that need to be met.

Shelly wants to keep the casino industry as protected as possible. In his op-ed, he writes that casinos employ 15,000 Pennsylvanians and support 33,000 jobs.

There are lawmakers and politicians who are in favor of skill games regulation, but have different strategies. Gov. Shapiro is calling for a 42% tax on the games, while Danilo Burgos proposed a 16% tax. Shelly is on Gov. Shapiro’s side.

He wrote:

“Tax parity is common sense and a matter of simple fairness: slot machines, skill games and VGTs should pay comparable rates.”

Shelly is also in favor of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) overseeing skill games, which he calls “plain common sense.” Burgos has the Department of Revenue (DOR) regulating skill games in his plan.

The public is calling for PA skill games regulation, but limits need to be enforced

A recent poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College indicated that Pennsylvanians are for skill games regulation. The results showed that 60% of voters feel that skill games should be regulated and taxed the same way as casino slot machines.

In another question, 51% of participants said that skill games should be regulated and taxed, while 24% responded that machines should continue to be unregulated. That means 75% of participants are calling for the availability of skill games, regardless of regulation.

While the public is in favor of them, Shelly called for “tight regulation and oversight” in order to properly regulate the machines. That includes:

  • Support to address underage and problem gambling
  • Background checks on machine owners
  • Testing machines to ensure fairness
  • Safety concerns

Enforcing these regulation policies would increase the validity and safety of skill games. Because of safety concerns, Philadelphia is actually proposing a bill to ban machines in corner stores.

Again, for skill games to successfully exist, it comes back to treating them similarly to casino slot machines. Shelly said:

“Lawmakers and Shapiro have an opportunity and an obligation to hold skill games to the same standards that the state’s casino industry is held to today.”

Photo by PlayPennsylvania
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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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