The police authorities raided five bars and restaurants in the Keystone State’s counties of Cumberland and Dauphin, seizing skill-game machines on suspicions of illegal gambling. These controversial machines are a common sight across restaurants and bars in many parts of the state.
The skill-game machines are almost identical to conventional slots and are mostly courtesy of the Pennsylvania Skill brand. In recent years, said machines have popped up across many convenience stores, bars, diners, and fraternity organizations in the Keystone State.
The establishments operate them without actually having proper licenses from the state’s regulatory watchdog, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The head of the State Police Communications, Ryan Tartowski, explained that the machines were seized from liquor establishments which only possess licenses of the Restaurant “R” type.
Mr. Tartowski also said that the police authorities have collected machines manufactured from a minimum of four different companies. He declined to provide any additional information on grounds of the ongoing investigation.
Five Establishments Were Hit by the Raids, One Manager Is Disgruntled by the Confiscation
Some of the establishments that had their machines seized include the Gilligan’s Bar, the Champions Sports Bar, and the Stadium Club Tavern. The last two bars are based in Highspire but the exact Gilligan venue’s location remains unclear. The other two raided locations are yet to be identified.
Mr. Jason Naugle, who manages the Champions Sports Bar, complained to local media that the police officers unexpectedly appeared on the premises and confiscated the machines without providing any explanation for the reasons.
The Champions manager also said that many of the customers who frequent the establishment were very disappointed when they arrived on the spot only to find the machines were missing. Mr. Naugle finished by saying that if the skill-based machines were illegal, the police should have removed them from all other restaurants and bars in this area, not only from Champions and a few other venues.
The raids occurred after a court petition on behalf of Pace-O-Matic. The company specializes in the manufacturing and software development of skill-based video game machines on the territory of Pennsylvania.
The Machines Are No Different Than Slots, Insists the Department of Revenue
The question of whether or not machines of this type are skill-based and legal is still debatable. The police raids took place just weeks after the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed the argument of the Department of Revenue, which insisted that the machines are no different than slots and as such, require licenses from the state regulator, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
However, the Commonwealth Court ruled out that this regulatory authority only controls gambling operations that take place in casinos. The slots’ operation in the state is regulated under a 2006 piece of legislation that allowed legal slot play in up to fourteen locations around the Keystone State.
The gambling industry in Pennsylvania has expanded since then, however, since the state currently allows online games operated by landbased casinos as well as video gambling terminals at commercial facilities such as truck stops. Mini casinos are permitted since 2017.
The Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough argued that the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board does not extend to establishments like convenience stores, diners, bars, and restaurants. The Court’s dismissal of the Department of Revenue’s argument only left the matter of skill-game machines in a gray area.
The controversial machines are spreading like wildfire across the Keystone State, so much so that several members of the Pennsylvania State Senate, including Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, co-sponsored a new piece of legislation that aims to altogether prohibit the distribution of such skill games. However, the bill is still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.