An extraordinary situation in the US state of Pennsylvania has seen a big win for unregulated “skill games” in bars, convenience stores and private clubs played for money.
A 7-0 decision delivered by the Commonwealth Court last week upheld a lower court’s ruling that they are not illegal. The games were developed by the Georgia-based Pace-O-Matic.
The higher court ruling said that they are not slots or illegal as defined by the Pennsylvania state’s crimes code. The machines could not, therefore, be seized by the police or other enforcement agencies.
The decision follows a seven-year battle over the legality of the machines. After the ruling, Matthew Haverstick, lawyer for Pace-O-Matic, hailed the decision as “landmark.” He said: “It is a decision of indisputable state-wide application. These games are legal.”
Thousands of the skill games have been sited in the state, with Pace-O-Matic the leading supplier. Some arcades have been opened containing as many as 20 of the machines at a time.
The matter is not, however, closed, as the lawyers representing the Pennsylvania Attorney General said that there would be an application for a review of the decision in the state’s Supreme Court.
The highly-taxed casinos and the state lottery are losing out to the unregulated games, they claim, and so is the state in the form of taxation.
The games have been in the Pennsylvania market since about 2016 and the question of their legality was confused after a ruling in 2019 that the state Gaming Control Board did not have any jurisdiction in bars, restaurants, clubs and convenience stores, where the games are located.