PA Supreme Court will determine the legality of gray “skill” machines

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Image: Shutterstock / Nagel Photography

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has granted the state attorney general’s request to hear a case on the legality of gray machines from companies like Pace-O-Matic.

The gray machine debate has raged on for years in the Keystone State with no clear decision one way or another on the market.

Recently, a Commonwealth Court panel unanimously ruled that Pace-O-Matic and other similar devices did not violate state gaming laws and qualify as games of skill. For those unfamiliar with the game, they generally replicate the slot machine experience, but there is an optional game with a skill element, like playing a light game similar to Simon.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it last week. Henry is asking the court to answer the following questions:

  1. Does an electronic slot machine cease to be an illegal “gambling device,” governed predominantly by chance, if the machine’s manufacturers embed into its programming a so-called “skill” element that is almost entirely hidden from view and is almost impossible to complete?
  2. Should gambling statutes governing “slot machines” be read in pair materia to supply an appropriate definition of the term?

The term “in pari materia” essentially means laws on similar subjects work together, so the legal definition of slot machine in the state’s gambling laws would prevail in other forms of law, such as skill games, to define what a slot machine is or is not.

Back in December 2023, shortly after the Commonwealth Court issued its opinion, American Gaming Association Senior Vice President, Govenment Relations Chris Cylke noted that the group was hoping it would end up in the state’s highest court where he believes the group will, “ultimately get it right by recognizing that ‘skill’ games are in fact gambling devices.”