Assessing Impact Of 2 Recent Pennsylvania Skill Games Decisions

Pennsylvania establishements are allowed to offer skill game terminals to customers, but such games are encountering legal challenges of late.

Banilla Games, Pinnacle Amusement, Pace-O-Matic, and G&B Amusements are contending with repeated court cases and legal obstacles.

On March 21, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court paved the way for Banilla’s Keystone skill games to operate in the state. The state Supreme Court denied requests to review a previous decision allowing Banilla Games to offer its titles in Pennsylvania.

Banilla and Pinnacle have long history with PA skill game court cases

Banilla Games first came into question when the BLCE — Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, part of the state police — seized 11 electronic game machines in 2019 and 2020. Ten of the seized games were owned by Pinnacle Amusement and manufactured by Banilla.

Skill games, often called video lottery terminals, look and feel much like slot machines found at retail casinos, as opposed to your standard lottery options like instant win games or keno.

Pinnacle Amusement filed motions for the BLCE to return its machines. The motions were granted on the grounds that the games did not constitute gambling “per se.” The BCLE then appealed that decision, but the Commonwealth Court affirmed the initial ruling.

The latest attempt to resurface the case saw the BLCE take it to the top, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the request, keeping Banilla and Pinnacle Amusement games legal in the Commonwealth.

The court decision declared that Banilla’s “nudge,” “hot swap,” and “Follow the Banana” features within the Keystone skill games constituted “elements of skill” and not chance, thus allowing them to operate. The BLCE was ordered to return the seized machines.

G&B Amusements and 7-Eleven franchisee suing over Philadelphia ban

Another gaming provider has teamed up with an establishment franchisee to sue over a recent city council ban on specific game types. The South Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to prohibit games with cash payouts from locations “without a liquor license and at least 30 seats,” according to Metro Philadelphia. The measure is still awaiting a signature from Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker.

The ban imposes a fine of up to $1,000 per day for locations in violation of it, and the potential to lose a commercial license.

G&B Amusements — distributor for game company Pace-O-Matic — and a local 7-Eleven franchisee, Tariq Jalil, who owns a 7-Eleven in South Philadelphia, are suing on the grounds that the state legislature alone should make such decisions governing regulated gaming of any sort.

In a statement, representatives from Pace-O-Matic cited various lawsuits and court decisions that have resulted in the continued operation of skill games in Pennsylvania.

So … to summarize the recent events:

  • A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision maintains the status quo — that skill games can be offered in the state, even though they are not currently regulated and taxed.
  • Philadelphia is trying to ban skill games at facilities that don’t have a liquor license or at least 30 seats. The City Council approved the ban, and now it’s just waiting on the mayor’s signature.
  • A local 7-Eleven franchisee is suing Philadelphia for that decision, and according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pace-O-Matic is funding the lawsuit.

Translation: Yes, skill game manufacturers are happy they can keep operating in Pennsylvania … but that prospect is much less alluring if they can’t operate in Philadelphia, the state’s most populous city. No dates have been set yet in regard to the 7-Eleven franchisee’s lawsuit.


Image by PlayiLottery

About the Author

Cole Rush

Cole Rush

Cole Rush is a contributor for PlayiLottery who spent six years working at Scientific Games, one of the world's leading lottery operators. He writes for a handful of Catena Media sites, covering online lottery, iGaming, sports betting, and more. A prolific writer in the US gaming market, Cole also has bylines at iGaming Business, ICE 365, and IGB North America. You can email him at [email protected].
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