“They make a huge difference in our community,” said Kelly Scott with Park Ave Amusements in Meadville.
Scott says skill games provided supplemental income during a very challenging time.
“A lot of our bars were at the point where they were going to close, especially in outlying areas- Titusville, Tionesta- those areas were really struggling. Some of those locations now have been able to hire more employees, they’ve remodeled, some of our places even started other businesses. So, it’s really helped,” said Scott.
Advocates say income from skill games also supports veteran organizations, fire halls, and many other non-profits.
“These games are important to businesses across Pennsylvania, and not only to businesses, but to veteran organizations, volunteer fire companies and fraternal groups,” said LaVar Arrington, former NFL and Penn State Football player.
“Last year alone, through our Hardship Grant program, we gave out $45,000 in hardship grants to veterans and their families and our community. For a small organization, it is absolutely a miracle that we’re able to do that. The only reason why we’re able to do that is because of the generosity of Pennsylvania Skill’s Charitable Giving Program. These folks are helping us save lives,” said Dave Ragan, the President of Veterans Promise in northeast Pa.
However, critics argue skill games take money away from the PA lottery, which benefits seniors.
“If you go in a convenience store and you see a skill game and a lottery machine, put the money in a lottery machine. You’ll know you’re helping seniors,” said Pete Shelly, a Harrisburg-based consultant with Parx Casino, who also started Pennsylvanians Against Gaming Expansion (PAGE). “There will be a lottery machine and then three or four or five skill games. Those skill games are draining money from that lottery machine,” he added.
Shelly says his stance on the legality of skill games aligns with several state agencies. He also says there are concerns over safety at the locations of skill games.
“The Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of the Attorney General and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, among others, agree that skill games are gambling devices. All of those agencies believe that, under current Pennsylvania law, they are illegal,” said Shelly. “Many crimes have been associated with the presence of skill machines in convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats, a thrift store, for instance. The casino has got a Pennsylvania State Police presence, their own security, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board- trained people working the door to make sure you’re not intoxicated. You just don’t have the problems in a casino that you have in convenience stores,” said Shelly.
There is ongoing litigation across Pennsylvania over the legality of skill games, including in the state Supreme Court.
Barley with Pace-O-Matic says so far, the legal status of skill games has been upheld in each court case, meaning they have yet to lose.