For some time now, casino facilities as well as other non-essential businesses in the state of Pennsylvania have been shut down. Like many other states across the US, PA has focused on trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus by calling for everyone to practice social distancing. However, while casinos are no longer in operation, players can still access around 15,000 unregulated gambling devices. Officials in the state are now ready to do something about it and plan on trying to stop the games from being played.
Shut Down but Still Playing
A few weeks ago, the Governor of the state had licensed liquor stores to close due to the virus. However, many of the license holders are offering end-runs which allows players to come in and play the video gambling devices while out and about. The State Police checked over 12,800 liquor businesses from March 18th to April 2nd during a mandated shutdown to see if they were in compliance with the order.
During that time frame, 53 warnings were issued. So far, two businesses have had their liquor licenses suspended. According to State Police, the public was checking in about the stores and reported how they were in violation. Liquor establishments have been told that they will receive a citation if they are found to be allowing patrons on site to play the video gambling machines.
The order by the governor shut down the liquor stores but allowed for carry-out or drive-thru as well as delivery. The goal was to keep places operational but still meet the social distancing requirements. The State Police provided a press release, stating that the license holders and convenience stores and restaurants that offer the video gambling machines need to volunteer to stop allowing the games to be played to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling advocacy group have long been opposed to these games. They are supported by Parx Casino and Racing, who sees the games as a threat. In late March, the group called for the unlicensed machines to be shutdown across the state.
There is concern about such machines because the virus can linger for many hours and even days on the game surface. With players repeatedly touching the screens, the virus could easily spread from one person to another. The group has asked the state’s Department of Health and county health departments to order businesses with the games to stop operating them immediately.
The group is happy with the efforts by the police department in being proactive and trying to stop the games from operating. They recently praised the police as they try to tackle the public health risk. The group pointed out that the casino industry stepped up and helped their 20,000 employees stay safe as well as customers by shutting down their facilities. The group feels that if these machines continue to operate it will put the state at a greater health risk.
The state does not receive taxes for these games and players are at risk when playing due to no regulatory safeguards being in place. The Lottery along with the advocacy group claim the machines are illegal and divert money from the regulated gaming industry.
Efforts against the machines are about to take place as the Gaming Control Board has provided grant money to local law enforcements to investigate violations regarding the games and enforce illegal gambling laws.