Pennsylvania Skill machines still in legal limbo


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — State police last month seized several games of skill machines from Midstate bars, saying they’re illegal. One manufacturer is challenging that claim in court.  

At issue is Pace-O-Matic’s Pennsylvania Skill machines. The company was granted a temporary injunction last month to stop state police from seizing its machines.  

After Wednesday morning’s hearing, the judge has yet to make a final ruling. Pace-O-Matic lawyers believe state police are specifically targeting them.

State police say they aren’t targeting anyone and that last month’s raid included three different manufacturers. They view all games of skill as illegal and say they are unregulated and a risk to minors.

Pace-O-Matic’s attorney Matt Haverstick says the company actually welcomes regulation and has offered state police to take a look at its software and understand how the game works.

“We’d like to work with them. We’ve asked and made that ask on many occasions. Pennsylvania State Police has never taken us up on it,” Haverstick said.

State Police Capt. James Jones argued in court that by singling out Pace-O-Matic, it would send the wrong message about other illegal gambling machines. He cited a recent raid of an illegal speakeasy in Lancaster County where a Pace-O-Matic machine was seized.

“We don’t want customers who are otherwise breaking the law, so if that place wasn’t operating legally, we don’t want our game there and we hope they’re put out of business,” Haverstick said.

Haverstick said the company is fine with its machines being seized if it is part of a larger raid and not Pace-O-Matic specifically. 

He points to a 2014 Court of Common Pleas ruling in Beaver County that said the machines are games of skill, not chance, and therefore can’t be regulated like slot machines.

“We support our customers. As long as they’re obeying the law, we want to keep doing business with them and they should remember that is the only game is the only one in Pennsylvania that’s been declared by a court to be legal,” Haverstick said.

The judge says it is still unclear whether the machines are legal, so the arguments from the attorney general’s office regarding the injunction are void until that’s decided in court.

Ryan Tarkowski, communications director for the Pennsylvania State Police said:

“The Pennsylvania State Police will continue to abide by the injunction that remains in place, pending the judge’s decision. Investigations into illegal gambling activities in the commonwealth are ongoing during this time. The department continues to pursue all legal avenues to combat illegal gambling in Pennsylvania. These illegal devices are siphoning off funding for programs that hundreds of thousands of seniors rely on. The Pennsylvania Lottery estimates the devices have resulted in the loss of more than $200 million in sales. That means there is less funding for senior programs such as property tax relief, senior centers, meals on wheels, low-cost prescription drugs and more.”

A statement from the Attorney General’s office:

“We maintain that POM is engaged in illegal activity under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and the Gaming Act and we are committed to supporting law enforcement in its efforts to protect Pennsylvanians from the harms associated with illegal gambling.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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