Games of skill

Games of skill are shown inside as gas station in Strasburg.

Pennsylvania State Police must hold off on seizing any more “Pennsylvania Skill” machines, the Commonwealth Court ordered Friday.

The state police raided five restaurants in Dauphin and Cumberland counties and seized “suspected illegal gambling” devices on Monday, including eight “Pennsylvania Skill” machines.

State Police said they’d follow the injunction but still views “Pennsylvania Skill” machines as illegal gambling devices, a spokesperson said in a statement. This sets the stage for the legal battle to continue between its operator and law enforcement.

Games of skill machines – which look nearly identical to slot machines and are often under the “Pennsylvania Skill” brand – have been in legal limbo as they pop up in bars, convenience stores and fraternal organizations throughout Lancaster County and the rest of Pennsylvania.

State Police spokesman Ryan Tartowski said in a statement police will continue investigating illegal gambling activities.

"The State Police continues to view the so-called Games of Skill, which have proliferated throughout the state, as illegal gambling devices and will continue to vigorously pursue all legal avenues to combat this unlawful and detrimental activity," Tartowski said.

A Beaver County court ruled in 2014 that the “Pennsylvania Skill” machines require a certain level of skill -- not chance -- to be successful and win money. Because of this, the brand’s operator Pace-O-Matic touts itself as a court-adjudicated machine. Games of skill are not currently regulated or required to pay any slots tax like casinos or video gaming terminals.

Friday’s order by the Commonwealth Court does not prevent state police from seizing other suspected illegal gambling devices. It is unclear whether this injunction will require Pennsylvania State Police to return the games it has already seized.

“We got injunctive relief stating PSP can’t seize any more Pennsylvania Skill Games machines,” said Mike Barley, an associate of Long & Nyquist, the Harrisburg-based lobbyist for Pace-O-Matic.

The court’s order follows an emergency petition filed Thursday by “Pennsylvania Skill” operator Pace-O-Matic, which is based out of Georgia. Miele Amusements, the manufacturer, is based out of Williamsport.

The Commonwealth Court ruled last month these games of skill machines are not subject to the Gaming Act, but didn’t rule out whether it could be prosecuted under the state’s crimes code.

Brad Bumsted contributed reporting.