On the 4th of December, Pace-O-Matic (POM) of Pennsylvania filed an amended complaint in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania outlining the coordinated corruption between state and local government agencies on behalf of actors in the private casino industry, who identified themselves as “Team Casino.”
POM of PA’s complaint asks the court to order the Bureau of Liquor Control & Enforcement (BLCE) and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) from targeting POM’s Pennsylvania Skill games by publicly and privately declaring them illegal.
“Over the course of nearly seven years, at the behest and with financial support provided by the private casino industry, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE), and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office have engaged in a coordinated campaign to attack and undermine the standing of POM’s legal Pennsylvania Skill games,” said Chief Public Affairs Officer, Mike Barley. “With the urging and coaching of actors representing the private casino industry, the state government ignored and/or purposefully misrepresented the law, court decisions, and basic elements of how our skill games operate in a coordinated, yet desperate, attempt to reputationally harm POM’s ability to operate a legal product in Pennsylvania.
“While the PGCB was created to oversee the private casino industry, their actions show they are wholly owned subsidiary of the industry they are intended to oversee. The BLCE is meant to interpret the law as written and respect court opinions, yet time and time again they took their orders from the private casino industry and ran a targeted campaign to harm the Pennsylvania small businesses and fraternal clubs who operate our skill games and rely on the supplemental revenue these games generate, as well as intimidate players from using our legal products. These actors were part of a national effort, led by the private casino industry in Pennsylvania and across the nation, to attack the legal skill game industry. Their behavior was appalling and does deep reputational damage as well as harms public confidence in the process.”
Yesterday, in another matter related to the legality of POM’s Pennsylvania Skill games, the Commonwealth Court unanimously ruled that POM’s skill games are legal games of skill. In the case, originally brought forth in Dauphin County, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the POM game is a game of predominant skill, not a game of chance, and that the “POM machines are not slot machines [and] the POM machines are not illegal” as noted in the ruling.
The newly amended complaint names the Bureau of Liquor Control & Enforcement (BLCE), Scott Miller, James Jones, Scott Berdine, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine, Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Throckmorton, Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso, Thomas J. McMahon from the Criminal Investigations Division, Chief County Detective Eric Kerchner with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, PGCB Senior Counsel Denise Miller-Tshudy, Deputy Chief Counsel Christopher Herrington with the Pennsylvania State Police, and former BLCE Supervisor Todd Merlina.
There is a long history of corruption by these actors that the courts have noted in their opinions over the past year.
In yesterday’s unanimous Commonwealth Court opinion, the court notes “the Commonwealth was aware of adverse legal authority [referring to the Pinnacle case in which the POM game was determined a game of skill], it was required to cite and distinguish it.” Yet the Commonwealth omitted it. The court goes on to state that they “caution the Commonwealth that the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct require candor toward the tribunal and, specifically, the disclosure of directly adverse authority.”
In March, Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas Judge, Andrew H. Dowling, castigated the Commonwealth and the BLCE for their biased conduct, writing, “All three of the Commonwealth witnesses opined that the games were predominantly games of chance. However, we do not find these opinions to be persuasive for a number of reasons. Initially, it is this Court’s belief that the Commonwealth’s investigation shows case bias. The Commonwealth is seeking to make all machines like the POM machines into illegal gambling devices, and their whole approach and intent is to shut down games regardless of the actual gameplay. The fact that Officer Wentsler never played the Follow Me feature while undercover is indicative of this. Thus, the Commonwealth as a whole is biased against the games, and their approach lacks case credibility.”
This is the second court in as many months to rule the games were legal games of skill and allege misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of legal skill games.
In February, Monroe County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Harlacher Sibum wrote, “The court finds that the Commonwealth improperly withheld and misrepresented material evidence relative to the issuance of the search warrant in this matter, and that such conduct warrants the suppression of the seized property.”