Gambling’s eternal question ‘skill vs chance’ rears its head in Pennsylvania

The eternal question of games of skill versus games of chance is the gambling world’s equivalent of what came first, the chicken or the egg? It’ a question that’s challenged in almost every market in some way or another. That includes everything from innocent claw games (which were recently banned in Thailand) to online poker, which was determined to be a game of skill in the United States. Now that question is being asked by lawmakers in Pennsylvania with regards to the contents of video betting terminals (VBTs) made by a company called Pace-O-Matic.

A Pennsylvania court recently found in favor of Pace-O-Matic in a case where the company’s operations in the Keystone State were challenged as illegal gambling. This is a huge decision for the company as Pennsylvania is one of the biggest US gambling markets outside of Las Vegas. But it’s an issue that’s torn a rip through the gaming industry as some casino operators see VBT storefronts as a way to sidestep the time-consuming and expensive process of actually getting a gambling license.

That’s a worldview that’s backed up by Jess Fiel, the senior director of government relations for the American Gaming Association (AGA). Fiel commented on the matter saying, “We don’t really want to reward this behavior. We don’t want to say, ‘Just because you’ve been doing it without proper protections, doesn’t mean it should continue.”

Not surprisingly, Pace-O-Matic Director of Communications Mike Barley disagrees with Fiel’s view. In a statement to, Barley countered, “We understand the confusion that exists as law enforcement has a difficult time discerning between what is a legal skill game and what is an illegal gambling device. Our commitment is to continue working with the legislature to regulate, tax and provide strict enforcement of the legal skill game industry.”

For now, however, Pace-O-Matic’s products are still considered games of skill and the company is free to operate without a gambling license.