Gambling Legislation

The gaming industry speaks up on regulation of skills games

States like Pennsylvania are still trying to define what does and doesn’t constitute gambling

Pennsylvania businesses operating in the unregulated gray area defining games of skill and chance could soon find stricter guidelines from state legislators. The Democratic Policy Committee met this week in Radnor to examine the expansion of skill games across the state.

Current gaming legislation makes skill-based games distinct from slots, emphasizing the nature of the games. Slots were legalized in Pennsylvania in 2004 and are considered games of luck or chance. They’re regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

However, skill games give players a chance to win money based on the player’s mastery of the game, forming a window that has seen them appear outside licensed gaming facilities. VP of Public Affairs and Government Relations for PENN Entertainment Jeff Morris spoke in opposition to the machines, noting the potential for player abuse.

Representatives of the coin-operated entertainment industry claim that skill games can be lucrative for the state with suitable legislation. Del Guerrini, president of The Pennsylvania Amusement and Music Machine Association, remarked that pending legislation would tax these machines at 16%, equal to the rate paid for casino games, and would generate $300 million in revenue in the first year.

Executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Kevin O’Toole emphasized that skill-based game machine operators aren’t evading taxes or breaking the law. Still, he has concerns due to a lack of regulation and the state missing the chance to gain tax revenue. O’Toole stated that if the games were regulated, his board would oversee the activity and that it’s the “only agency with the ability and experience to regulate slot machine activity.”

Virginia and Kentucky have both passed laws outlawing skill games, which was hailed by the gaming industry and constituents. However, many Kentucky businesses have filed suits to challenge the ban’s legality, noting the state’s monopoly on the horse racing industry.

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