Skill Game Legislation to Be Introduced in Pennsylvania

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Afternoon sun illuminates the Pennsylvania Capitol Building which is being monitored by members of the National Guard and police in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP.

Pennsylvania’s Sen. Eugene Yaw plans to file legislation regulating skill games in the “near future.” The Skill Video Gaming Act would create a legal framework for regulating and taxing skill games. 

Unlike casino slot machines and Pennsylvania sports betting which are popular in the state, skill games are not regulated by gambling laws. That means they are not subject to the same high taxes, which also makes them a target of lawmakers. On top of that, the state’s 12 land-based casinos each pay a licensing fee to operate along with a 54% tax rate on revenue, which operators say is unfair.

Yaw noted in a memo to Senate colleagues that his proposal could raise as much as $300 million in immediate annual tax revenue. “Pennsylvania’s skill game terminals are manufactured right here in Lycoming County and the finished products exist in fraternal clubs, veterans’ organizations, and taverns, as well as other local businesses throughout the Commonwealth,” Sen. Yaw said.

“Skill games are a piece of the small business economy in our state, and it’s time we recognize the benefits of this emerging industry and offer regulatory support so that we can ensure it flourishes – safely and responsibly,” Yaw added.

Yaw said the measure will help to do three things, including:

  1. Rid the market of illegal games
  2. Provide a safer playing environment
  3. Support small businesses

The bill is expected to be formally introduced later this month

What the Skill Bill Will Include

All games will be required to be connected to a terminal collection and control system, allowing the Commonwealth to monitor all transactions and guarantee that all taxes are earned and paid, under the proposed legislation. 

Furthermore, those who operate unauthorized and illicit games and gambling equipment will face harsher penalties under the legislation.

What Are Skill Games in Pennsylvania?

Vastly different from gambling or casino-style games, skill games require players to think and take action to win. A Pennsylvania skill game resembles a traditional slot machine in appearance and gameplay. You start playing these games by putting money into the terminal.

Then you spin the reels in the hopes of lining up matching symbols in pay lines. Most of these games have a pay table on the side that shows how much each winning combination pays. How do they incorporate skill?

  • A pre-reveal mechanism that allows you to see if you’ll win or lose the next spin.
  • You must touch “wild” and/or scatter symbols to activate them.
  • Skill-based bonus rounds.

In the end, there is a very fine line between skill games and stand slot machines. Skill games do include different elements than a standard slot, but they’re also deceptive in terms of how much control you have over the results.

What’s Next for the Skill Game Bill in Pennsylvania?

If the bill is formally introduced by the end of the month, lawmakers will begin discussing it almost immediately. Estimates suggest there are as many as 70,000 skill gaming machines currently operating in the Keystone State.

*Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor the developments and the latest in the battle to add eSports to the state’s sports betting menu.