Navigating the Legal Waters: PA Skill Games and Gaming Landscape



  • Pennsylvania skill games deemed legal by Commonwealth Court.
  • Regulated casinos face challenges with slot reductions due to skill games.
  • Uncertainty lingers with potential Supreme Court involvement or regulatory measures.

The persistent ambiguity surrounding the legal status of skill games in Pennsylvania has reached a watershed moment, as the Commonwealth Court recently delivered a unanimous ruling declaring these unregulated games as legally sound. However, this resolution not only provides a clear legal stance but also introduces a host of questions regarding their coexistence with the established and regulated gaming industry, sparking concerns and potential shifts.

Understanding the Court's Definitive Stance

Skill Games Emerge Victorious* 

In a landmark decision, the Commonwealth Court unequivocally affirms the legality of skill games within the state. This comes despite assertions from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office drawing parallels between skill games and traditional slot machines. The court's classification of these games as skill-based activities rather than games of chance stands as a significant triumph for advocates of the skill games industry.

The Ongoing Struggle of Pace-O-Matic

A Legal Odyssey 

Pace-O-Matic (POM), a key player in the skill games landscape, has been embroiled in legal battles since 2019. The court's determination that the state wrongfully seized POM's skill game machines serves as a crucial milestone, emphasizing the legitimacy of their operations. Paul Goldean, POM's President and CEO, sees this ruling as a resounding victory, solidifying the lawful nature of their operations.

Implications and Challenges for the Gaming Industry

Coexistence Conundrum

While the Commonwealth Court's decision settles the longstanding debate over the legality of skill games, it simultaneously introduces a fresh set of challenges for the regulated gaming industry. The prospect of skill games coexisting with retail and online casinos prompts concerns within the gaming community, with some expressing apprehension about the potential negative impact of unregulated games on the well-established industry.

The Ripple Effect on Regulated Casinos

Slot Machine Counts in Flux 

A consequence of the proliferation of skill games is the reduction in slot machine counts at various regulated PA casinos. Establishments such as Harrah’s Philadelphia, Mohegan Pennsylvania, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, and Lady Luck Nemacolin have sought and received approval to decrease the number of slot machines. This adjustment is attributed to the surge in skill games, prompting concerns about the potential correlation between their presence and the decline in casino volumes.

Industry Opposition and Adjustments

Criticisms and Adaptations 

Members of the regulated gaming industry, including voices like PENN Entertainment, have vehemently opposed skill games. Skill games have been labeled an "unregulated, unmitigated disaster" during policy hearings, citing concerns about increased crime and the absence of consumer protection. This opposition adds complexity to the cohabitation of skill games with the regulated sector, raising questions about the adaptability of the established gaming industry.

Potential Future Scenarios and Regulatory Considerations

Supreme Court Prospects or Regulatory Measures?

While the Commonwealth Court's ruling seemingly concludes the legal debate surrounding skill games, the journey may not be over. The case could escalate to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, introducing an additional layer of uncertainty to the situation. Furthermore, the prospect of regulating skill games, as proposed by Senator Gene Yaw, remains on the horizon, providing a potential avenue for addressing concerns and streamlining operations.

Navigating the Uncharted Waters

Adaptation and Coexistence 

As the gaming landscape in Pennsylvania undergoes a transformative phase, stakeholders are faced with the challenge of adapting to the coexistence of skill games and regulated casinos. The ripple effect of skill games on slot machine counts raises important questions about the industry's ability to navigate this uncharted territory. The potential integration of regulatory measures or a Supreme Court intervention adds layers of complexity to an already intricate legal and operational landscape.

What it all means for PA Gambling Market 

The Pennsylvania skill games' legal saga has reached a critical juncture with the decisive ruling from the Commonwealth Court, affirming their status as legal games of skill. However, the implications for the regulated gaming industry are vast, raising important considerations for stakeholders.

The coexistence of skill games and regulated casinos requires careful navigation and strategic adaptation as the gaming landscape in Pennsylvania continues to evolve.

A huge sports fan; locally, many know me as the guy who does the PA for our high school football team on Friday nights. Having grown up in Michigan, I am a sports fan of all the Detroit teams, and at the college level, I love Michigan State sports. I have covered sports betting, iGaming and casino industry news for many well known websites.