Pennsylvania: Skill gaming machines manufacturer secures legal victory

Manufacturer Pace-O-Matic (POM) has secured a legal victory in Pennsylvania, amid its ongoing claim that its so-called skill gaming machines do not run afoul of the state’s commercial gaming laws. The maker of the Pennsylvania Skill cabinets won a return of property motion in Monroe County after gaming machines, related equipment and cash were seized during raids conducted by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office in 2021.

As part of the court’s order, Monroe County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Harlacher Sibum wrote: “The court finds that the Commonwealth improperly withheld and misrepresented material evidence relative to the issuance of the search warrant in this matter, and that such conduct warrants the suppression of the seized property.” The ruling also castigates the district attorney’s office for its conduct.

“This ruling reaffirms our status as legal games of skill,” said POM spokesman Mike Barley. “This is another tremendous victory for Pennsylvania Skill games, powered by Pace-O-Matic, and our Pennsylvania small business and fraternal partners. We applaud the court’s decision, especially regarding the matter of protecting Pace-O-Matic’s intellectual property.”

Barley called the prosecutor’s behavior in the case “egregious,” and stated that Pace-O-Matic is “deeply concerned” about the motivation to “disregard, bend and violate” the law in what the manufacturer labels “a coordinated effort” to harm the company and the small businesses, clubs and veterans groups that benefit from skill gaming revenue.

Pace-O-Matic’s machines are currently operating in six states, including Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. While POM argues its machines are legal and do not constitute illegal gambling because of their skill element, the Pennsylvania casino industry says that the devices are essentially the same as slot machines.

The key difference between skill machines and regular slots is that in skill-based gaming, players must identify a winning payline, whereas slot machines automatically tell players if they won. This has led the legality of skill gaming to be put into question in state courts, although Monroe County’s 43rd Judicial District Court grants POM more legal footing on which to stand.

“Every time the legality of our skill games has been called into question, the legal status of our games has been upheld by the judiciary,” the POM spokesman added. “Pace-O-Matic stands out among our competitors as the active and driving force seeking additional regulation and taxation. We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with the state General Assembly and asking for legislation providing additional regulation and increased tax money for the state.”

The ruling last week follows a decision in October 2021 by Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine, Jr.’s office to authorize raids on two businesses that housed Pennsylvania Skill terminals. Police confiscated 13 skill gaming machines and $36,000 in cash from the Fill and Fly gas station and Smokin’ Joes Tobacco Shop, both located in Stroudsburg.

The businesses then filed a joint lawsuit in response, seeking the return of the money and the skill gaming machines. In her ruling, dated February 8, Monroe County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Harlacher Sibum sided with the petitioners as the court found that the devices at issue are legal games of skill, and that the commonwealth “has failed to establish that the devices, as designed, are games of chance.”

In its statement following the decision, POM further went on to claim that its skill gaming machines – which can be found all over Pennsylvania inside gas stations, bars and convenience stores – have been embraced by the public and are providing critical revenue to small businesses. 

The company further stated that more than 90% of Pennsylvania Skill profits remain in the state, and that research data proves skill games do not impact the revenue of casinos and the lottery, “both of which are achieving record profits year after year.” Pace-O-Matic’s Pennsylvania Skill products are manufactured by Miele Manufacturing in Williamsport.