Philadelphia Judge Rejects Pace-O-Matic’s Appeal Of City’s Skill Games Ban

The City of Brotherly Love has no love for unregulated skill games, and a recent court ruling reaffirmed that sentiment.

Last week, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sierra Thomas-Street denied an appeal from Georgia-based skill game manufacturer Pace-O-Matic (POM) to suspend a ban on skill games at gas stations and convenience stores within Philadelphia city limits. 

The ban took effect in April when Mayor Cherelle Parker signed a bill into law introduced by City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. after the council voted in unanimous support.

Despite the citywide ban, the Commonwealth Court ruled last December that skill games were legal statewide.

Philly skill games ruling does not apply to all businesses

Skill games operate similarly to slot machines, but require a skill component for players to win. Opponents of skill games claim that these components are insignificant and represent no outward difference from slot machines, which Pennsylvanians can legally play at 17 land-based casinos and through its robust, regulated online casino industry.

Many of these businesses are also licensed retailers of lottery draw games and instant win games and benefit from the supplemental revenues of lottery sales as well as skill games.

Philadelphia’s ban only applies to convenience stores and gas stations. Licensed facilities, as authorized and defined in the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, may still offer skill games.

Additionally, businesses such as restaurants and bars can operate up to five machines, provided they have 30 or more seats readily available for non-gaming customers to consume food and beverages.

When signing the ban into law, Mayor Parker called skill games a “literal thorn” in her side regarding safety and responsibility. 

The ban was one of three bills Parker signed that day aimed at making the city “safer, cleaner, and greener.” The city council cited its unanimous ruling in favor of the bill, which came with support from the Philadelphia Police and community advocates.

POM marches forward with lawsuit, says ‘ordinance is unenforceable’

Separate from the denied request, POM filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia in March over the citywide ban.

POM has long advocated for a statewide regulated skill game industry, claiming that legal skill games would help local businesses and bring the state a significant new tax revenue stream. 

Company spokesperson Mike Barley told PlayPennsylvania, a sister site to PlayiLottery, that the city’s ban forced the company to take legal action and “protect the interests of hardworking Philadelphia business owners.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, POM attorney Matt Haverstick said:

“The city knows this ordinance is unenforceable, and we’ve tried to work with the city to get Pace-o-Matic games out of nuisance locations. But since the city won’t work with us, we’ll keep on with the litigation.”

PA Supreme Court to revisit stance on skill games

Philadelphia’s recent ruling to uphold its skill game ban confirmed the city acted within its rights, even though the games are legal statewide. 

Officials are also split on the matter. Some want the games banned, while others believe the ruling should not change. A third camp thinks the industry should be taxed and regulated.

Gov. Josh Shapiro falls in that third group and proposed a bill to regulate the industry with a 42% tax that experts believe could bring another $300 million in annual state tax revenue.

Others, such as State Attorney General Michelle Henry, feel the games should be illegal. Henry filed a petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the Commonwealth Court’s ruling on the matter, which the Supreme Court accepted last month.

As a result, the Supreme Court will decide the state’s fate on the matter. If it rules definitively in favor of regulating the industry, Philadelphia gas stations and convenience stores could resume their skill game operations.

Of course, it could go the other way and banish skill games from the Keystone State entirely. Only time will tell.

 

Photo by Keith Srakocic / AP

About the Author

Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby has been writing about the online and retail lottery industry in the US since 2021. He is a contributor to multiple Catena Media sites and has a background in poker, sports and psychology which he incorporates into his writing. You can email him at [email protected].
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