Pennsylvania Skill Games Bill: Machines Are Illegal, Not ‘Unsanctioned Gambling Devices’

A Pennsylvania skill games bill seeks to label the devices found in bars and gas stations illegal, rather than their current title of “unsanctioned gambling devices.” On Oct. 31, state Sen. Amanda Cappelletti and Rep. Mark Rozzi revealed their plans in a press release.

Cappelletti, D-Delaware, and Rozzi, D-Berks, want to erase the gray area the slots-style games occupy.

Their measures address the aspect of the law that judges regularly cite in court cases filed by Pace-O-Matic (POM), which “powers” Pennsylvania Skill games. The state’s leading distributor of skill games points out that its “games do not fall under the regulatory framework of the Gaming Act.” So when judges side with POM, they say that part of the law needs to be clarified.

However, state lawmakers have taken different approaches in attempting to do so.

For instance, SB969 and Rozzi’s upcoming legislation outlawing skill games is the opposite of the route taken by state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport. His bill, SB706, would regulate the machines. However, Yaw’s legislation has been dormant since May 26, residing in the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

Meanwhile, Cappelletti and Rozzi said in the Tuesday announcement about their bills:

Both pieces of legislation would, among other provisions, amend Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Crimes and Offenses) to incorporate the definition of a “slot machine” as set forth in the Gaming Act. In the 2017 amendments to the Gaming Act, the definition of a slot machine was expanded to include all forms of skill games. Under Section 5513 of Title 18, slot machines in the Commonwealth are illegal unless they fit within certain narrow exceptions, including slot machines authorized by the Gaming Control Board for placement in regulated casino facilities.

SB969 wasn’t listed today among the 324 bills Cappelletti has sponsored. Also, Rozzi is using a memo to gather co-sponsors, so it doesn’t yet include a bill number.

Pennsylvania Skill Games Are Untaxed

Because Pennsylvania skill games are unregulated, they’re also untaxed. Cappelletti and Rozzi contend that the machines are slots, which are taxed at 52%.

Even online slots generate sizable gross gaming revenue (GGR).

In September, Pennsylvania online gambling sites alone brought in $187.3 million in GGR. That makes the Keystone State No. 1 in online casino and poker revenue.

Rozzi wrote in his memo dated Oct. 23:

According to [Pennsylvanians] Against Gaming Expansion, “skill games” have diverted over $650 million that could have gone to programs that help some of our most vulnerable seniors. That equates to about $2,284 per machine, per month.

Nationwide, there are at least 580,000 unregulated machines, Chris Cylke said in an interview with Bonus on April 24. The senior vice president of government relations for the American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated Americans bet $109 billion yearly on the machines.

So that’s a lot of uncollected tax dollars.

POM says it gives back to communities on its own. For instance, the POM site details a $10,000 check from Pennsylvania Skill presented to the American Legion Post 268 of Williamsport. Yaw and others are in the August 2022 photo.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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