HARRISBURG – Saying skill games are a lifeline for many small businesses, volunteer fire companies, veterans groups and fraternal clubs, supporters at the state Capitol have called for legislation that would regulate and tax the games.
Members of the Pennsylvania Taverns and Players Association, PA TAP, said state lawmakers must pass the bill to financially help businesses and organizations across the state and provide the commonwealth with a steady stream of new revenue. Former NFL and Penn State football player LaVar Arrington also attended an event to highlight the good skill games do in communities.
“Some business owners are just barely making ends meet thanks to inflation, supply chain issues and an ever-changing business model,” said Doug Sprankle, chair of PA TAP. “But one factor that has allowed many of them to stay in business and keep serving their communities is Pennsylvania Skill games.”
Sen. Gene Yaw, of Lycoming County, said he introduced the legislation because of the benefits he sees coming from skill games. He added that there needs to be regulation to stop illegal games and taxation to provide state funding that will in part pay for enforcement of skill game laws.
“Pennsylvania Skill games are manufactured in Lycoming County and over 90% of the profits stay inside the state,” Yaw said. “These games not only mean supplemental income for small businesses, veterans groups, volunteer organizations and fraternal clubs, but they also mean Pennsylvania jobs.”
Nicole Miele of Miele Manufacturing in the Williamsport area agreed with Yaw saying her company, which manufacturers many of the skill games in the market, has been able to hire more than 200 employees. She added the company even invested in a larger facility because of the skill games manufacturing.
“One of the important aspects of skill games is that they are Pennsylvania built,” she said. “Parts for the machines and other supports come from all over the commonwealth. As the legal skill game business grows, these businesses grow, too.”
Rep. Danilo Burgos, House sponsor of the skill games regulation and taxation bill, said he has seen the positive impact of the games in his Philadelphia district. Businesses and other organizations, he explained, are able to use their skill game revenue to make repairs and improvements, and sometimes use the funds to simply keep their doors open.
“Ninety percent of the revenue from skill games stays in Pennsylvania, which is phenomenal,” he said. “And from what I see, much of that money stays right in the communities where the games are located.”
Skill games are not like casino games, which are based on luck and chance, instead a player can win every time by using patience and skill. In the state, Pennsylvania Skill games, powered by Pace-O-Matic, have been ruled games of predominant skill by courts in Beaver, Dauphin and Monroe counties, and just last week, by York County.
Sprankle said in the grocery stores his family owns in western Pennsylvania, skill games have provided enough revenue that he is able to give his employees health benefits and free lunches. He also said his Pennsylvania Lottery sales have gone up since skill games were added to his family stores.
Dave Ragan, president of Veterans Promise near Scranton, said he knows people play skill games because they enjoy the challenge, but what they might not know is that Pennsylvania Skill provides millions of dollars in donations to causes all over Pennsylvania.
“Communities have benefited greatly from skill games,” he said. “Because of donations, we are able to help veterans who are suffering and assist their families.”
Arrington said lawmakers should support skill games because they benefit businesses and organizations in each of their home districts. He added that he has seen firsthand the good work that comes from skill games revenue.
“This is a great opportunity for elected officials to show they back small businesses and other important groups,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I have heard businesses, veteran groups and others talk about how much they count on skill game revenue.”