Pennsylvania panel takes up bill to outlaw skill games

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A House committee considering legislation to crack down on skill machines heard from supporters and opponents of the games on Monday.

Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks) has introduced Senate Bill 710 to make the machines illegal in Pennsylvania.

“We’re trying to shut it down, not regulate it. If they want it to be regulated, they would have to come in and talk about that,” Tomlinson said.

Skill machines have been popping up in convenience stores, gas stations, and malls. Players feed the machines cash, place bets, then win or lose money.

Supporters of the machines involve skill, not chance. They went before the House Gaming Oversight Committee to say they are open to regulations.

“Regulate and punish those that don’t want to play by the rules and utilize the resources of the revenue that comes into the state,” said Tom Marino, a former U.S. congressman who now works as general counsel to Pace-O-Matic, a skill game provider.

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Lottery also spoke in front of the board. They say over the past year, such games have cost the lottery an estimated $138 million in sales that would have benefited Pennsylvania seniors. 

“We don’t want to hurt our older Pennsylvanians, but they are doing record numbers right now, so I think that kind of offsets that as far as what’s going on,”  Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) said. “We have to look at all venues and how that’s going to happen.”

Mehaffie is on the committee and is split on his decision. 

“I think we really need to be cognizant on where we’re going with this and how we’re going to do it and if we’re going to truly legalize it, what that is going look like,” said Mehaffie. 

Mehaffie says the committee will reconvene and discuss what was brought forth during Monday’s hearing.

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