Decisive win lauded as judge rules on PA police skill game seizures

As the state’s fiscal year came to a close, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board published a record figure for yearly tax revenue - standing at over $2.3bn for 2022/2023.

Pace-O-Matic of Pennsylvania has lauded a “decisive win” in a court battle with the Bureau of Liquor Control and Enforcement, as a Keystone State judge rules that state police can continue seizing skill games pending a potential further legal wrangle.

Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler has ruled this week that a request for a preliminary injunction by POM could negatively disrupt the status quo as well as negatively affect public interest.

The latest move follows numerous claims and counterclaims, with the latest hearing filed last year as Pennsylvania State Police seized several POM games as part of a wider investigation.

Striving to prevent PSP from seizing any POM games as well as all related equipment, a number of casino operators across the state have also filed opposition to the firm with an application asserting that POM games are illegal slot machines under the state’s crime code.

Hearing testimony from PSP captain James Jones, it was asserted that a small fraction of those confiscated were directly related to POM, with the firm never having been the direct target or focus of investigations and seizures. POM, which assembles machines under the Pennsylvania Skill brand, agreed that state police were seizing what it believes to be illegal gambling machines.

In the ruling it was said that: “After careful consideration, the court finds that POM has not met its burden of providing that the injunction is necessary to preserve the status quo, that the injunction is reasonably suited to abate the offending activity, or that the injunction will not adversely affect the public interest.

Rejection the request, it was later added: “The court recognises that unless, or until, POM Games are considered to be illegal gambling devices under the Crimes Code, POM may suffer harms to its reputation and property interests as a result of the seizures.

“However, given the credible testimony of Captain Jones, POM’s acceptance of the PSP’s important public function in identifying and curtailing illegal gambling operations with its attendant harms, the tiny fraction of POM machines that have actually been confiscated as part of larger investigations and confiscations into illegal gambling operations, and the fact that POM does not intend to challenge these isolated seizures as long as POM is not specifically targeted, this court finds no improper conduct by the PSP that warrants the imposition of an injunction at this time.

“As it stands now, granting the relief requested by POM would negatively disrupt the status quo by inhibiting the PSP from performing its important functions, would not be reasonably suited to abate the offending activity, and this may adversely affect the public interest.”

Securing its victory against the Bureau of Liquor Control & Enforcement’s appeal of its recent loss that the Gaming Act does not apply to skill games, POM welcomes a decision stressing that there is “no debate” regarding the decision.

“This is a significant ruling,” commented Mike Barley, spokesman for POM of PA. “We have said from the start that our machines are games of skill – not gambling devices – and should not be regulated under the Gaming Act. The court has now agreed with us twice.” 

However, it was added the firm agrees with the state, including the PSP, that illegal games are a problem in the state, and is pushing to see legislation pass in the General Assembly creating enforcement, accountability and a taxation system benefiting the commonwealth.

“These two rulings show that POM of PA games are on solid ground,” said Barley, “and we are doing everything we can to help the state put a system in place that rids communities of illegal gaming.”