What is the latest on the legality of skill games in Pennsylvania?

What is the latest on the legality of skill games in Pennsylvania?

What is the latest on the legality of skill games in Pennsylvania?

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What is the latest on the legality of skill games in Pennsylvania? Philadelphia, PA - The ongoing debate in Pennsylvania about the future of skill games is complex, and lawmakers have been previously wary of intervening. That was, of course, until March 2024, when the Philadelphia City Council finally banned skill games within the city, allowing only bars and eateries to operate the machines. So, why have they done this, and is this the end of the skill game debate in Pennsylvania? We’ll answer all these questions, but first, you might ask what skill games are.

What are skill games?

A skill games machine is, for intents and purposes, a digital slot machine. If you’ve raised your hand after reading that to ask why they’re described as being games of skill when slot machines are typically down to chance, you’re already raising one of the most pertinent points in the debate sweeping the Keystone State.

Opponents of these machines would call the name misleading and a grey area, while supporters would allude to the fact winning is based on spotting patterns and correct decision-making when faced with a chance to win a specific jackpot.

Wherever you are in the debate, the answer probably falls somewhere in the middle; luck is a factor, but you can increase your chances of winning by understanding the intricacies of the skill game in question. While the term skill games has produced a few strong opinions, it is not the main reason they are banned within Philadelphia and perhaps soon to be the whole of Philadelphia. 

Why have skill games been banned in Philadelphia?

The short answer is that skill game machines aren’t regulated, which means they aren’t taxed. At this stage, it’s worth making the distinction between skill games in brick-and-mortar shops and ones found in online casinos, which are regulated and taxed.

Casino Gaming

A look at this page which contains the latest casino offerings in Pennsylvania will give you a better idea of the thriving online betting landscape in the state with international vendors such as BetMGM, Betway Casino, and Caesars Palace all offering verified bonuses to new players.

While bettors are sure to find value in these promotions, the broader point is that the debate surrounding skill games centers solely on their place in thousands of retail stores around Pennsylvania. 

To that end, one problem with not having regulations in place in locations like these is that skill games eat into the profits of other forms of gambling that are taxed.

For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania Lottery have said they are losing around $170 million a year due to the rise of skill game machines. Remember that there were only a couple hundred skill games in Pennsylvania in 2016, but there are closer to 4,000 today. 

Considering the rapid increase in skill games, which could be found anywhere from gas stations to furniture stores, you can understand why there are fears that illegal machines have flooded the market.

However, Pace-O-Matic, the official supplier of skill games in Pennsylvania, has, for a while, asked for legislation to protect its machines. This, in turn, will boost the revenue of the state and, crucially, also that of small business owners.

We are now in the somewhat unusual scenario of the leading skill games manufacturer asking for earnings to be taxed to stay in business. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro agrees with this sentiment, which is why he is trying to push through legislation that will see a 42 percent tax on any daily income generated by skill games. 

The future of skill games in Pennsylvania 

Should this pass, Shapiro estimates it will generate $150 million in additional funds for Pennsylvania. Tellingly, Shapiro’s legislation is expected to be backed by both Republicans and Democrats, which is why skill games could once again become legal across Pennsylvania in the future. This is undoubtedly one to watch closely over the next few months. 

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