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Commonwealth Court rules skill gaming terminals are not slot machines

By: - November 30, 2023 5:08 pm

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The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled in a unanimous decision on Thursday that Pace-O-Matic (POM) gaming terminals are skill games, not slot machines as defined by state law.

The appellate court sided with POM, the developer and distributor of the machines in question, that their gaming terminals are not slot machines as the Commonwealth argued, but are instead “primarily games of skill and, thus, not gambling devices per se,” ending a years-long legal battle over how to categorize the company’s machines. 

“The POM machines at issue in this case are not slot machines as commonly defined,” Judge Lori A. Dumas wrote in the opinion. “Accordingly, these electronic games are not illegal per se. Further, … these POM machines are not gambling devices per se and, therefore, do not constitute derivative contraband.”

POM, which is a leading distributor of skill games in Pennsylvania, has long argued that its machines rely  more heavily on skill or ability to determine outcomes, compared to slot machines in which outcomes are determined by chance. 

Lawmakers in Harrisburg have hotly debated the status of POM machines, citing concerns about regulatory oversight and consumer protection. 

In the face of a call to ban skill games, Pa.’s biggest player is pushing back hard

In July, state Sen. Amanda Cappelletti announced that she would introduce legislation to ban skill games statewide. 

“Despite the illusion that the state has oversight over these machines, there is no consumer protection measures, prevention for minors, assistance for problem gamblers, or other regulations protecting Pennsylvanians from these predatory machines,” Cappelletti wrote in a co-sponsorship memo seeking legislation support. 

The bill, SB 969, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it currently awaits a vote. 

Paul Goldean, president and CEO of Pace-O-Matic, reacted to news of the court’s ruling, calling it a “major victory.”

“This is also a win for many players across the commonwealth who enjoy skill games as a popular entertainment option,” Goldean said in a statement following the ruling. “Our games have always been legal, and this ruling proves that once and for all.”

With Thursday’s ruling, representatives for the Georgia-based company say they hope to refocus state lawmakers on regulating and taxing skilled games used across the commonwealth. 

“We are urging the General Assembly to pass reasonable legislation, not only to support the small businesses and organizations who benefit from skill games but to generate tax revenue for the state while also to giving law enforcement the framework they need to tackle illegal gambling,” POM’s Chief Public Affairs Officer Michael Barley said in a statement. “It’s a win-win for the commonwealth.”

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Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller was the associate editor at the Capital-Star.