Pennsylvania skill game battle continues with Dauphin County court decision

Tic tac toe on a chalkboard
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Gray machines company Pace-O-Matic (POM) celebrated another lower court victory in the state of Pennsylvania, but the Commonwealth has yet to fully determine whether or not these machines meet the letter of the law.

The Commonwealth Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Pace-O-Matic in a Dauphin County case. This is the second victory for Pace O’Matic in state courts after a victory in Monroe County.

“In summary, the POM machines are not slot machines as commonly defined, and we decline to import a broad definition used to regulate legal gambling into this criminal statute,” read the appeals court opinion authored by Judge Lori Dumas.

In the opinion, Dumas said the court was swayed by POM’s argument that the company’s games, which incorporate elements of Tic Tac Toe and a light game similar to the board game Simon required a preponderance of skill. The court was particularly impressed with testimony from Dr. Olaf Vancura, who ran 10 million simulations of the game and concluded the machines were predominantly games of skill.

“We have won every Pennsylvania county court decision that has questioned the legality of our games, and this ruling should put an end to any discussion on the matter. Additionally, the Court took note and objected to the continued actions of state actors who have purposefully ignored the law, and court decisions, continually and purposefully misrepresented how our games operate, and put their fingers down on the scales of justice in a reckless attempt to have our skill games found illegal,” said POM Chief Public Affairs Officer Michael Barley. “Largely at the behest of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and a handful of casinos, led by Parx Casino. Thankfully, the court saw through those actions, analyzed the facts, and ruled appropriately our games are legal games of skill.”

POM is so convinced the PGCB and casinos in the state are unfairly pursuing the company that they have filed a separate court case in which they charge local law enforcement, the PGCB, and the casino industry are violating state law in their legal pursuit to shut POM machines down. POM seeks a court order demanding the groups to cease “harassing” the company.

The American Gaming Association has gone on record several times that the industry views these games as illegal slot machines.

“A core element of so-called “skill” game manufacturers’ playbook is to use litigation as a dilatory tactic, while continuing to profit and even expanding their business during the pendency of their claims. We’ve been encouraged that courts in Kentucky and Virginia have seen through this ruse and denied their ability to continue abusing litigation,” AGA Senior Vice President, Government Relations Chris Cylke told SBC Americas.

We continue to hold out hope that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will ultimately get it right by recognizing that ‘skill’ games are in fact gambling devices. In the interim, this latest ruling reinforces the need for policymakers in Pennsylvania to use their legislative authority to explicitly ban these predatory machines.”

While the Commonwealth Court has ruled on the matter at the appeals level, Cylke is correct that this matter has yet to be litigated in the state’s highest court.