Campaigners are calling on Pennsylvania’s authorities to confiscate thousands of gambling machines at establishments across the state after a court ruled that they are defined as slot machines.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court confirmed in a ruling on Wednesday that video game machines manufactured and distributed POM of Pennsylvania, which trades under the names Pace-O-Matic and Savvy Dog Systems, and markets the games using the term ‘Pennsylvania Skill’ are considered “slot machines” under Pennsylvania law.
POM, which which trades under the names Pace-O-Matic and Savvy Dog Systems, is though to have as many as 5,000 of the machines in operation, in convenience stores, bars, restaurants and other establishments.
The ruling was made as part of an ongoing action filed last year by POM against state authorities. The manufacturer requested that the Department of Revenue and the City of Philadelphia should be instructed to cease seizing or threatening to seize POM equipment and arresting or prosecuting persons in connection with operation of POM games.
In a counterclaim, the Department of Revenue requested that POM be ordered to remove its machines from all Pennsylvania establishments and cease further sale and distribution of its machines within Pennsylvania unless and until POM obtains the proper licenses from the Gaming Control Board.
POM argued that their machines were a “game of skill” and therefore not a slot machine under Pennsylvania law, and that they were not under the remit of the Gaming Law.
Judge Patricia McCullough found that elements of skill did not mean it could not be considered a slot machine under the terms of the Gaming Act. The court also concluded that POM’s games therefore are subject to the state’s Crimes Code, and not the Gaming Act, as they do not fall under the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s jurisdiction.
Campaigners, including Parx Casino, said the court’s ruling means that these machines are now subject to forfeiture as under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, Title 18 Section 5513, the manufacture, set up, sale, lease, or ownership of a slot machine for gambling purposes is illegal.
“With this decision, we urge the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of Attorney General, police departments and District Attorneys across the state to enforce Pennsylvania law to halt the proliferation of thousands of illegal Pennsylvania Skill slot machines now,” said Parx Casino’s vice president of legal and chief counsel Thomas C. Bonner.
“We know that illegal slot machines and full-blown illegal casinos are popping up all over Pennsylvania. We know that minors are gambling, and we know that the state lottery is losing tens of millions of dollars that should be going to our seniors because of these illegal machines. It’s time to confiscate these machines and put these illegal casinos out of business.”
In ruling the POM machines were not under the jurisdiction of the Gaming Act, the court denied the Department of Revenue’s counterclaim and application for summary relief.
Judge McCullough said: “Because the plain language of the Gaming Act indicates that the General Assembly did not intend for the Gaming Act to regulate unlicensed slot machines which fall outside the ambit of the licensed facilities clearly delineated by the Gaming Act, and/or supplant the Crimes Code’s regulation of the same, we conclude that the POM game is not subject to the Gaming Act.
“We therefore deny the Department’s application for summary relief in the nature of a motion for a judgment on the pleadings.”
The Pennsylvania Lottery has been a vocal critic of the machines, estimating that their existence has cannibalised scratchcard sales by as much as $185.2m. A bill has also been filed, by Senator Tommy Tomlinson, to have the machines declared a form of illegal gambling. This bill, introduced in July, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.