On Tuesday, two gaming industry groups came together to announce a new partnership that seeks to curb the spread of unregulated gaming machines across the country.
In a joint release, the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) say they want to inform state and local officials, including law enforcement and regulatory staff, about the dangers of machines sometimes billed as “amusement” games. Sometimes they’re called “skill” games, which can confuse players who believe they may be like skill-based or skill-influenced machines at casinos.
Such games can be fronts for such illegal activity as money laundering, the groups claim. In addition, they have not been tested to determine if the machines offer fair play, and the games do not provide any tax revenue to state and local governments.
“The spread of these machines represents a serious threat to the overall regulated market that has invested billions in infrastructure while also creating thousands of jobs and substantial tax benefits in the communities they serve,” said Marcus Prater, the AGEM executive director. “Moreover, unregulated machines prey on confused players who see slot machine symbols and think they’re getting a fair chance, when they absolutely are not.”
States Taking Action
The groups noted that some states, like Pennsylvania, have taken notice of the dangers unregulated games present. Law enforcement there has tried to remove the games, but that’s been with limited success, as court challenges have delayed police raids to seize the games from bars.
Last month, a court ruling opened the door for the Pennsylvania State Police to resume their raids. And other states are making it a priority, too.
The AGA is encouraged that policymakers in some states, such as Virginia, have begun to recognize the dangers of these machines and have taken recent legislative action toward outlawing them,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. Unfortunately, other jurisdictions where these machines have become pervasive may believe their only recourse is to regulate and tax them. Rewarding bad behavior is not the answer, and we hope our education efforts will make it clear that the only real solution is to stop the spread of these devices.”
More than 20 state-based, tribal-based, national, and international gaming industry groups have joined AGA and AGEM in the initiative.
Groups Recommend Steps
The groups put together a fact sheet for localities to use in their effort to stop unregulated gaming from spreading.
One recommendation is to use state, county, or local liquor license boards to conduct periodic inspections of packaged liquor stores and bars. If the inspectors find any unregulated games, they could then impose fines or other sanctions against the licensee.
The AGA and AGEM also invite communities to set up a hotline where the public can report where they see such games.
They also encourage cities and states to utilize the business licensure process. In the license application, business owners would be required to identify what electronic gaming equipment would be available. Applicants whose gaming equipment fails to meet the state’s amusement game laws could have their applications rejected or revoked.