The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania unanimously agreed on the legal interpretation of Pace-O-Matic’s (POM) gaming terminals. The court, which is one of Pennsylvania’s two intermediate appellate courts, ruled that the company’s gaming terminals fell into the category of skill-based games, not slot machines.
Pace-O-Matic is a Georgia-based software developer and distributor of games of skill in the United States. The decision of the Commonwealth Court put an end to a tumultuous legal contention dealing with the classification of the company’s line of products.
The appellate court categorized the games as “primarily games of skill and, thus, not gambling devices per se”. Games of skill are defined as games, contests, or competitions where the outcome depends on players’ judgment and ability, rather than luck. The legality of skill gaming varies across the states, with Federal law not specifically prohibiting it, and regulation being left to individual states.
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Lori Dumas identified POM’s electronic games as ones not associated with gambling since their outcome was reliant on players’ skills and the opportunity to measure and assess outcomes. In contrast, the outcomes in games of chance are determined by a randomizing device.
Paul Goldean, POM’s CEO Comments on the Court’s Ruling
The question of whether a specific game predominantly depends on skill or chance has given rise to heated discussions among legislators lately. The status of POM’s gaming terminals has been debated for quite some time in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Some legislators claim that the lack of proper regulation and consumer protection mechanisms poses a threat to consumers.
Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti and State Representative Mark Rozzi have introduced legislation that sought to ban skill-based games in Pennsylvania. Similarly to several other states, skill-based games can be found across various locations, such as bars, restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores. Although they look and sound like traditional slot machines, and operate in a very similar way, they are not monitored for fair play. These gaming products lack guaranteed payout rates. There are no regulations in place that prevent underage play or provide assistance for problem gamblers.
The skill-based gaming industry is not without its supporters in the state, with many small business owners relying on these products. Following the ruling of Pennsylvania’s appellate court, Paul Goldean, president and CEO of Pace-O-Matic, commented on the topic. He said that the company’s games have always been legal and enjoyed by many players across the state ”as a popular entertainment option”.
Michael Barley, Chief Public Affairs Officer at POM, also commented on the victory, stating that the company has prompted the General Assembly to pass legislation in favor of skill-based gaming. It would support the activity of small business owners and generate revenue for the state.