PA Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case On Skill Games

The determination regarding the future of the skill game industry in Pennsylvania is at critical juncture. This past week, the State Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of a unanimous Commonwealth Court ruling on November 30, 2023 that upheld the legality of the games. The previous Commonwealth Court ruling had agreed with the position of the skill game industry that those games have an element of skill that differentiate them from games of pure chance as defined in state gambling laws.

After the Commonwealth Court ruling, the state Attorney General announced that her office would pursue an appeal. Many Capitol observers were surprised by the Supreme Court announcement that it would entertain her motion.

In deciding this case, the higher court would have the power to rule skill games as being illegal in the Commonwealth (unless a law was passed expressing authorizing their operation).

Meanwhile, after Governor Shapiro announced his support of regulating and taxing skill games in his budget address, there have been ongoing discussions in the legislature as to what form a regulatory system would take.

The major skill game distributors in the state have been in support of establishing a regulatory and tax for skill games in statute. Complicating the development of that legislation is the strong opposition of the casino industry to the legalization of skill games, and a push by other entities for the expansion of video poker terminals.

The legislation negotiations have been behind closed doors. It is completely clear at this point is where the discussions stand regarding the tax rate that would be imposed on the operation of the skill games, if there will be a change in what prerequisites businesses may need to meet to obtain licenses, or whether there will be limitations set on the number of licenses granted.

PPA has communicated with legislators the critical revenue that skill games have become for member stores an the small convivence store retailers whom they distribute motor fuel.