Illegal games of skill in Pennsylvania are reportedly hurting lottery revenues. A senator, the state police and senior groups have come together to create legislation that targets the illegal games. An estimated $138m (£108m) in lottery sales have been lost within the year due to the games, cutting down on the amount of funds available for senior programs in the state.
Senate Bill 710
Senator Tommy Tomlinson has introduced Senate Bill 710 to fight the illegal games of skill, ensuring funds are generated for the programs offered for senior citizens. Such games are already considered illegal and are not taxed or licensed in the state. Yet, they are still in operation. Tomlinson’s bill would strengthen the law in an effort to stop the games.
Any individual who knowingly makes games of skill, assembles the machines, maintains the games, leases or sells the machines will face a criminal offense. Currently, just over 5,000 of the illegal machines are in operation within retailers of the lottery. It has been estimated that as much as $2,284 (£1,794) is lost per month per machine.
Senator Tomlinson said: “I drafted this legislation after learning the impact these machines have on the Pennsylvania Lottery. I am concerned about the negative effect these unregulated, unlicensed, untaxed gambling machines have on unsuspecting players, youth and lottery funds that support essential services for our senior citizens.”
Illegal activity and consequences
Many of the illegal games of skill can be found in establishments with liquor licensing. The primary authority over such facilities is the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. According to the organization, since January, officers have been able to confirm that illegal gambling devices are in operation in every county of the state.
Such venues as convenience stores, shopping centers and strip malls offer the illegal games. Tomlinson’s new bill will establish clear guidelines to help business owners be fully compliant with enhanced penalties in place for those who break the law.
Under the new measure, the first offense will be considered a first-degree misdemeanor. With a conviction, this charge has a $5,000 (£3,927) fine per violation. For a second offense, the charge remains the same but the fine goes up to $10,000 (£7,855) per violation. A third offense will be considered a third-degree felony. Per violation, the individual will be charged $15,000 (£11,782) with a conviction.
Hurting new games
On top of being illegal, the games of skill are also affecting new games authorized by the lottery. In 2017, Act 42 authorized monitor-based games such as Xpress Sports and Keno. The games were launched in 2018 to increase the products offered by the lottery. However, many retailers did not opt to carry the new products and instead offer the games of skill.
With the illegal games of skill in place, the state lottery stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, funds that go towards much-needed programs. Tomlinson’s bill reaffirms that the games of skill are not authorized and strengthens penalties in the hope of seeing them come to an end in the state.