At the beginning of the year, casino operators in the Keystone State launched an aggressive campaign whose main intention was to prevent further operation of the so-called “skill gaming” machines. Available in a number of convenience stores across the state, these machines have remained very controversial particularly because they are unregulated despite the fact that they share quite a lot with regular slot machines.
Despite the calls for their abolishment, the skill gaming machines have continued to operate in the state for the past couple of months. This was during a period where even other retail gaming facilities were not in operation due to the lockdown caused by coronavirus pandemic. Now as the state’s casino operators prepare to reopen, there seems to be a renewed push to have the skill gaming machines abolished, a plan that is championed by Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling (PAIG).
In addition to pointing out that the skill gaming machines are unregulated and therefore do not pay gaming tax, PAIG’s supporters have also noted with concern that the continued operation of these machines may compromise the health of the patrons.
“You don’t have to be a health expert to know that the extended period of times in which players interact with these machines could accelerate the spread of coronavirus to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”Peter Shelly, PAIG spokesperson.
While the health concerns can certainly be justified, it goes without saying that the main reason why the skill gaming machines have been in the spotlight is the fact that they compete directly with other gambling offerings. The fact that they are unregulated makes them by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board makes them even more problematic.
According to recent reports, the plans to go after the machines have now been put on hold. As it turns out, the pause that has been put on the enforcement plans is something that was done by design. The office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro confirmed that they have indeed halted the enforcement since the matter at hand is still pending before the Commonwealth Court.
That said, even though the agency actively emphasizes that the skill gaming machines are illegal, they have chosen not to go after them, that is until the Supreme Court delivers a verdict on the same. This decision has, of course, been met with criticism especially by the members of Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling. They believe that the office of the attorney general is ignoring the illegal activity and try to justify it.
For now, not much can be done to sort but hopefully, things are cleared when the state’s courts and related industries return to normalcy.