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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 15, 2020 11:00 AM
From: Senator Robert M. Tomlinson
To: All Senate members
Subject: Illegal Gambling Devices
In the near future, I will be reintroducing legislation to stop the proliferation of illegal gambling devices. These devices advertised as “games of skill” continue to flourish within the Commonwealth and in fact, continued to allow players to gamble during the state’s COVID shutdown. These “Pennsylvania Skill Game” machines can be found in liquor establishments and clubs, convenience stores and malls. These machines use the name “Pennsylvania” despite the fact that there isn’t any regulation or oversight from the Commonwealth. In some locations entire rooms are devoted to these machines making them look like mini-casinos. A player inserts cash (in some cases these machines will accept $100 bills) to win a cash prize.

Many people view gambling as a victimless crime; however, we must recognize these machines remain unregulated. There is no consumer protection provided through monitoring to prevent minors from gambling, assist problem gamblers, regulate payout rates or ensure collection of taxes.

Furthermore these machines have been strategically placed near Lottery machines thereby diverting funds from the Lottery and the programs it supports. The Pennsylvania Lottery projects it loses approximately $2,284 per machine, per month.  Considering that the Pennsylvania Lottery benefits programs for our most vulnerable seniors, any diversion of funds will lead to cuts in critical programs such as prescription drugs , long term living services, meals and transportation.

Additionally machines have been found next to candy vending machines with no safeguards to prohibit minors from playing. Some estimates indicate that there are approximately 20,000 skill gaming machines in Pennsylvania and that number is growing every day.

These machines are advertised as games of skill which manufacturers say make them different from slot machines. My legislation provides clarity to the definition of a slot machine. This legislation was cosponsored last session by Senators Martin, Hughes, Costa, Santarsiero, K. Ward, Tartaglione, Regan, Boscola and Aument as Senate Bill 710.

Introduced as SB212