Pennsylvania Skill Games Operators Win Following a Court Ruling, State Likely to Appeal

Skills games are popular across the U.S. They usually operate inside small business establishments. While these machines provide revenue boost to small business owners, opponents believe they should be illegal because they are unregulated.

This has led to the filing of cases in courts in different states for judges to clarify the issue. Pennsylvania is one of the states where small business owners operate these machines. The skill machines are found in bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and private clubs.

According to legal casinos in Pennsylvania, skills games hurt their business. This led to court proceedings and a ruling that skill games were not illegal. The decision was appealed.

Following a few months of waiting, skill games have once again won. The Commonwealth Court reviewed the appeal of Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling's ruling in March and found skills games were not violating the Gaming Act. The judge explained that skill games would be games of chance if the chance element predominated the skills element.

The Commonwealth Court unanimously agreed with Judge Andrew Dowling with a 7-0 vote. They said that games that looked, sounded, and operated almost like traditional slots lacked the gambling characteristic.

Dowling explained that a game involving a large element of chance was not a gambling device. The county judge continued to say that the element of chance rested on the player rather than the machine, contrary to slot machines. Dowling also ordered state police to return confiscated machines and cash that was seized from business owners.

How Skill Games Operate

Dowling’s ruling and Commonwealth Court judges’ decisions are evidence-based. To understand their decision, you can learn how skill games operate.

One of the most popular skill games in Pennsylvania is called Pennsylvania Skill. It is an innovation of Pace-O-Matic, a software developer based in Georgia. Meanwhile, Miele Manufacturing manufactures and distributes the game’s cabinets.

Las Vegas-style slot machine reveals whether a spin won or lost automatically. Upon spinning the reels, your winnings are credited depending on the winning combination and pay line.

Meanwhile, a skills game player must pinpoint the winning combination. For a game like Pennsylvania Skill, a player has 30 seconds to tap on the winning line, which could be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, before the round concludes.

Choosing the winning line depends on a player’s skills. According to the Commonwealth Court, skill is predominant in the gameplay of skill machines.

State to Appeal

The state is not likely to drop the issue at this stage. According to the attorney representing the Attorney General, the state is planning to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court.

The state’s legal casinos are also on board. They insist that skill games steal businesses from them. Also, licensed casinos pay 54 percent of their revenue as taxes, while skill games offer no tax benefits to the state.

Meanwhile, skill gaming firms are willing to pay taxes. They have asked the state to legalize and tax their games, giving players confidence to play them. There is also a bill in Harrisburg seeking to legalize and prohibit skill games.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.