Rozzi, Capelletti introduce legislation to outlaw so-called ‘skill’ slot machines
HARRISBURG, Oct. 31 - Today Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware/Montgomery, and Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, announced that they introduced legislation to outlaw so-called “skill” slot machines in the Commonwealth.
“In addition to preying on users of the machines, skill games also steal money that should be going to Pennsylvania Lottery programs that support programs for our senior citizens,” Rozzi said. “These games also divert casino patrons and negatively affect legal slot machine revenue. Given the 52% tax rate on slot machine revenue, this reduces payments to the Property Tax Relief Fund, the Race Horse Development Fund and the economic development and local share accounts that routinely help pay for important local projects and the operations of numerous non-profit agencies, including volunteer fire companies and other public safety agencies.”
“These gaming machines can be found in convenience stores, restaurants, malls, gas stations and other places of business throughout Pennsylvania,” Cappelletti said. “Despite the illusion that the state has oversight, there are no consumer protection measures, prevention of play by minors, assistance for problem gamblers, money laundering controls, or other regulations protecting Pennsylvanians from these predatory machines.”
Cappelletti and Rozzi noted that that these unsanctioned gambling devices routinely attract the sort of serious criminal and other negative activity that the General Assembly specifically sought to avoid through passage of the Gaming Act in 2004. Carefully designed amendments made to the Gaming Act, in 2010 and 2017, further established that gaming should only occur in tightly regulated and controlled environments and not on every street corner. Newspapers across the Commonwealth routinely include reports describing the occurrence of serious criminal activity wherever “skill games” are located, including violent robberies, and in a tragic case occurring in Hazelton, a cold-blooded murder.
Rozzi’s legislation, which is currently circulating for co-sponsors, is a companion bill to Cappelletti’s S.B. 969. Both pieces of legislation would, among other provisions, amend Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Crimes and Offenses) to incorporate the definition of a “slot machine” as set forth in the Gaming Act. In the 2017 amendments to the Gaming Act, the definition of a slot machine was expanded to include all forms of skill games. Under Section 5513 of Title 18, slot machines in the Commonwealth are illegal unless they fit within certain narrow exceptions, including slot machines authorized by the Gaming Control Board for placement in regulated casino facilities.
Cappelletti and Rozzi also noted that in a recent legal brief filed in Commonwealth Court by the Criminal Law Division of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, state prosecutors wrote that the skill game machines manufactured by a leading supplier operated in a two-phase manner, including a slot machine-style game of chance and then another phase called “Follow Me.” The prosecutors argued:
“If ... a company decided to sell lottery tickets and drew numbers with the same ball machine used by the state lottery that would certainly be an illegal lottery. The nature of the lottery wouldn’t be changed if all losing players were given a chance to try to kick a 70-yard field goal to win back their bet plus 5%. A lottery is still a lottery. So too here. These devices are slot machines. [The skill game proponents] do not actually directly challenge that conclusion. Instead they argue that every player gets to essentially, “kick a 70-yard field goal” to win five cents on the dollar. ‘Follow Me’ does not change the innate nature of this device [i.e. the skill game.] It is a slot machine.”
For more information, constituents can visit Cappelletti’s website at www.pasenatorcappelletti.com or Representative Rozzi’s website, www.reprozzi.com.