Pennsylvania’s Game of Skill Litigation: A Legal Update
If you have ever been out to a bar, convenience store, or even a grocery store and noticed a machine on the counter or off in a corner, there’s a good chance it might be a game of skill machine. On November 30, 2023, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in In re: Three PA Skill Amusement Devices, et al. issued a unanimous opinion on the legality of the game of skill machines. This is a huge win to business owners who have been targets of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“PLCB”) over the years for the use of such machines, which the PLCB contends are games of chance, which are regulated and possibly unlawful under the Pennsylvania’s criminal code.
The controversy around the machines is the similarities between game of skill machines and game of chance machines, such as inserting money into the machine for points/credits hoping for a payoff following completion of the game, but there are two major differences. A game of skill machine is exactly how it sounds. It requires skill for a player to win, which is different from a game of chance. Some of the games include a tic-tac-toe type puzzle or a memory-type puzzle. Another unique difference is that game of skill machines are not regulated under the state’s gambling law or subject to taxation, which is unlike game of chance machines.
The November 30, 2023 opinion upheld a Dauphin County trial court decision over the legality of game of skill machines. The Dauphin County trial court opined that game of skill machines do not constitute slot machines or illegal gambling devices. The Commonwealth Court highlighted the difference between game of skill machines and game of chance machines and determined that game of skill machines are not slot machines.
The Commonwealth’s opinion was a win for business owners, but unfortunately, the debate has not ended. The Pennsylvania Attorney General appealed the Commonwealth’s opinion to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on January 2, 2024, thus it is up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to decide whether to hear this matter.
We are monitoring the action closely.
Written by Summer Pannizzo, Esq. The information contained herein is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice from Shumaker Williams P.C. or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. This blog is current as of the date of original publication.
January 19, 2024