In the shadow of the Liberty Bell, a legal battle is brewing in Philadelphia, a city as synonymous with the foundations of American law as it is with its cultural icons. The heart of the controversy? A humble convenience store’s “skill gaming machine” and a city council bill that threatens to sweep such devices into the dustbin of illegal gaming.

A local 7-Eleven franchise, nestled in the vibrant streets of South Philly and owned by Tariq Jalil, has become the unlikely battleground for this clash. Jalil, in a fusion of David-and-Goliath proportions, aligns with Pace-O-Matic (POM), the titan of Pennsylvania skill games and the mastermind behind the contentious software, Pennsylvania Skill. Together, they’ve launched a lawsuit defiantly targeted at the city’s very psyche.

The conflict arose as Philadelphia’s legislative body, in a decision stirring both support and dissent, passed Bill No. 240010—a decree to enforce the banishment of all gaming machines that dare to blend chance with skill, save for those sanctified by a liquor license and a place for patrons to rest and partake in the spirit of camaraderie. As this edict hovers on the brink of affirmation, waiting only for Mayor Cherelle Parker’s signatory nod, the city’s small businesses fume at the potentially crushing daily fines of $1,000 per contraband device.

It’s a tale of unintended consequences, the city argues, with unregulated machines heralding crime—robberies, violence, and the unsought attention of the criminal underworld. These places, they say, become beacons for the seedier elements of urban life.

Yet, the specter of this ban carries new champions. Georgia-based POM, though not formally in the legal fray, has emerged as the financial Patron Saint of the lawsuit. At the vanguard stands Matthew Haverstick, a Philadelphian attorney, whose declaration that these games are not “crime magnets” but lifeblood for businesses teetering on razor-thin profit margins, echoes through the city’s bustling corridors.

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., brainchild of the bill in question, stands undeterred, even as the gaming industry flexes its legal muscle, bristling with lobbyists and brimming wallets. “We’ll be sued,” he acknowledges, “but we will not accept the status quo. Not anymore.”

Pennsylvania’s casino industry peers with wary eyes at the proliferating skill games, claiming them as rivals to their taxed, regulated, and pricey-licensed slot machines. As fate would have it, Philadelphia is a nexus for this formidable industry, hosting Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Philadelphia within its very bounds, while Parx Casino, the state’s revenue titan, looms a stone’s throw away.

The state itself is a patchwork of over 80,000 such games, dotting the landscape in establishments of refreshment and sustenance alike. Yet, there may yet be an ally in Harrisburg, where whispers of legislation and the Governor’s inkling to tax skill games at 42%, dancing upon hopes of $150 million in new annual revenue for the 2024-25 budget, brings a new act to this unfolding drama.

The courts have spoken: Skill games like Pennsylvania Skill, navigating the lacuna between chance and mastery, do not violate the state’s Gaming Act. “Legal skill games are legal,” Pac-O-Matic CEO Paul Goldean asserted, drawing a line in the sand against “illegal gambling devices” and championing regulation that illuminates the path for operators, establishments, and those that uphold the law.

As the storm brews over Philadelphia’s bold step to regulate its gaming landscape, only time will unveil if this city of historical firsts will lead a new revolution or fold to the status quo.

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Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson, a Senior Editor and respected voice in iGaming and sports, brings over a decade of journalism experience with a focus on digital gaming and cryptocurrency. Starting in sports analysis, he now leads a team of writers, delivering insightful and advanced content in the dynamic world of online gaming. An avid gamer and crypto-enthusiast, Mark's unique perspective enriches his professional analysis. He's also a regular speaker at industry conferences, sharing his views on the future of iGaming and digital finance. Follow his latest articles and insights on social media.


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