Berks County DA Calls For Laws Against Illegal Gambling Devices

Olufifun Adeleke

There are no laws regulating gambling devices outside the casino environment in Pennsylvania. As a result, there are numerous unlicensed gambling devices in several locations in the state.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams blames the increasing number of illegal gambling devices on the state's legislature. He claims that the Pennsylvania legislature ignores the existence of illegal gambling devices. They do not have specified laws and guidelines against gambling devices usage outside casinos.

The 2014 court ruling with regards to gambling devices has further shrouded the use of gambling devices in ambiguity. This ruling created a legal smokescreen regarding the use of gambling devices in Pennsylvania. During the court sessions at the Beaver County Common Pleas Court, games that required an element of skill to play were ruled not to be games of chance.

Many slot machines fall in this category, but the court did not clarify the slot machines considered legal under the state laws. Also, this court ruling was for one kind of slot machine known as Pennsylvania Skill specifically and excluded other gaming devices. With this, Pennsylvania Skill went ahead to request a temporary injunction which was eventually granted.

The temporary injunction protected their machines from impoundment. With the temporary injunction, there was an increase in the number of gambling devices in Pennsylvania. These devices are unlicensed, unregulated, tax-evasive, and discovered in different locations in the state of Pennsylvania ranging from gas stations to lounges, pizzerias, and other locations.

While these gambling devices are unscathed in different parts of the state, slot machines in casinos are being taxed and regulated with a high hand. Another thing to note is that the element of skill required for a game was game-code based, implying that game code can be changed to convert the game to a game of chance, thus removing the element of skill. The court did not address this probability.

In November 2019, a court clearly stated that slot machines are games that require the element of skill. As a follow up on this court ruling, the temporary injunction became invalid in January 2020. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board finally declared games like the Pennsylvania Skill illegal with the State's police force working towards finding the illegal slot machines.

It became stricter as the PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro chose to wait for court orders or a specific law before he supported the movement against illegal slot machines.

A month ago, 57 video slot machines were confiscated from a gaming lounge in Kenhorst Borough, Berks County found to be an illegal casino, and has been under investigation since February 2020. Before the investigation's commencement, Kenhorst Borough sent a letter requesting for assistance to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The PGCB claimed that it's not in their jurisdiction to handle such cases, but the letter is supposed to have gotten to the right hands; further showing the confusion regarding which authorities are in charge of cases like this.

The manufacturers of Pennsylvania Skill have been seen outing other illegal gambling devices in the State, possibly with the hope to remove the focus from them. With the readiness of the DA and other licensed casinos, more illegal gambling outfits are liable to be shut down.

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