The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has again ruled the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has no oversight in the licensing or regulation of skill games. Therefore, the court denied intervention motions by PGCB and the casino industry.
“This ruling once again establishes that our skill games are not regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board,” said POM’s Chief Public Affairs Officer, Mike Barley. “Additionally, the casinos have been exposed through this process as possessing no evidence that our games harm their record profits. The Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear the state appeals of our legal victories in both Dauphin and Monroe counties in October.
“In both of those cases, the County Court of Common Pleas declared our games legal games of predominant skill. Each ruling also cited the extreme lengths to which our opponents chose to attack us, as one court cited prosecutorial misconduct and another witness bias in the unsuccessful cases against our skill games.
“These prosecutions were aided by the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) and the PGCB on behalf of the powerful casino industry. Make no mistake about it, as it relates to the PGCB, the regulated have usurped the power of the regulators.”
In her ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough referenced the PGCB’s lack of oversight of Pennsylvania Skill games several times, writing: “However, as the Gaming Control Board has no regulatory authority regarding the POM Game, the Gaming Control Board does not have any legally enforceable interest that will be affected by a determination in this matter.”
Barley added: “Some in the legislature have argued skill games should be regulated by the PGCB, but the reality is the PGCB has been overrun and weaponized by the casinos to attack small Pennsylvania businesses and fraternal clubs. Clearly through their past actions and statements, PGCB’s intention would be to regulate us out of business. The lack of criminal and legislative investigations concerning the actions of PGCB is alarming.”
Dauphin County and Monroe County are among several county courts who have ruled the games were legal games of skill. They also alleged misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of legal skill games.
Dauphin County Common Pleas Judge Andrew H. Dowling wrote in March: “All three of the Commonwealth witnesses opined that the games were predominantly games of chance. However, we do not find these opinions to be persuasive for a number of reasons. Initially, it is this Court’s belief that the Commonwealth’s investigation shows case bias. The Commonwealth is seeking to make all machines like the POM Machines into illegal gambling devices, and their whole approach and intent is to shut down games regardless of the actual gameplay. The fact that Officer Wentsler [the BLCE investigating officer] never played the Follow Me feature while undercover is indicative of this. Thus, the Commonwealth as a whole is biased against the games, and their approach lacks case credibility.”
In February, 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.”
Barley concluded, “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. Pace-O-Matic stands out among our competitors as the active driving force seeking additional regulation and taxation. We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with the General Assembly and asking for legislation to establish additional regulation and increase tax money for the state.”
In 2014, the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Pace-O-Matic’s Pennsylvania Skill games are legal as games of predominant skill.
In addition, last year, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and the Clearfield County District Attorney’s office negotiated a settlement to return wrongfully seized Pennsylvania Skill games, related equipment, and cash.
This year, the York County Court of Common Pleas issued an order indicating Pennsylvania Skill games are legal and gaming equipment and monies to be returned. Both Luzerne and Delaware counties have returned wrongfully seized equipment and monies after reviewing the law and relevant court decisions.
Pennsylvania Skill has pumped new life into the commonwealth’s small businesses, fraternal and social clubs, volunteer fire companies and veterans’ organizations by providing them with an entertainment product that the public enjoys. Pennsylvania Skill games are also manufactured in the commonwealth, and over 90 per cent of the profits stay inside the state.