The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is sitting again this week to discuss skill gaming machines and whether they should be considered gambling machines and deemed illegal – or whether they can continue to operate.
How Skill Gaming Machines Really Work
Technically speaking, skill gaming machines aren’t the same thing as slot machines, but the differences are very subtle. According to The Gaming Act, a slot machine is “a mechanical or electrical contrivance, terminal, machine or other device approved by the Board… to receive cash, billets, tokens, gaming vouchers or electronic credits to be exchanged for cash or to receive merchandise or anything of value.”
Skill gaming machines and slots look almost identical at first look – you put money in, you spin, you wait for the payoff. The differences come when you trigger a bonus. In a slot machine, the bonus feature works in the same way as the rest of the game: a random number generator determines how much you’ll win in the round. In a skill gaming machine, the bonus round is a skill-based game: you might need to answer questions, race against other cars to secure first place, get your little man to jump over obstacles. If you fail, there’s no prize – but winning is entirely up to you.
This simple difference means skill machines are unregulated and do not fall under the definition of gambling machines or games of chance – and so the revenues generated by it don’t go to the state to cover taxes. Instead, profits are split among the software producer, the manufacturer of that specific machine brand, and the establishment hosting the machine.
Of course, the state of Pennsylvania isn’t happy.
How the State is Fighting Back
This past November, the issue was addressed in court, where a judge determined that skill gaming machines meet the definition of slots – but she still decided not to clearly mark them as games of chance. As a result, there was no violation of the Gaming Act and nothing changed. The state is still pushing for a review so they can either seize the machines from bars and restaurants or find a way to tax any revenues generated.
For the time being, it looks like local residents can keep playing without having to worry.
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