Guest Editorial by Bill Shay
If you want to know how tough times are for small family businesses, just ask me.
I talk to tavern owners, along with social clubs and veterans organizations, on a daily basis. They have struggled financially over the last nearly two years of the pandemic. The financial anchor though that has kept many of them from closing their doors is legal skill games.
My Lebanon business distributes games of skill and other amusement games to these establishments. They like skill games because their customers enjoy playing them and the machines are a revenue lifeline to them.
As for those daily conversation I have with my partners in business, here is what they tell me:
A family-owned bar in Lebanon only hung on in 2020 because of skill games. Today they would be out of business if not for revenue from the games.
A VFW in Palmyra battled to make ends meet before they installed skill games. Now financially sound, they put a new roof and deck on their building and bring in even more revenue through events.
My own business benefits from skill games. Shay’s Vending was started by my grandfather in 1938. Through the years we have delivered pool tables, skeet ball, juke boxes and pinball machines to establishments. In more recent years though, the amusement business slowed down. That changed when skill games were ruled legal by a Beaver County Court of Common Pleas in 2014. Now, I am able to pass down my company to my son, Billy, and daughter, Samantha – the fourth generation to run it.
Plus, businesses that provide parts for the manufacturing of skill games and pay good wages dot the state.
One of the ways to make sure legal skill games continue and support family businesses and fraternal groups is for state lawmakers to pass legislation introduced by Sen. Gene Yaw and Rep. Jeff Wheeland that would regulate skill games and funnel $250 million to the state through a new revenue source. Just as important, the bill would create better enforcement to crack down on illegal games that have spread across the commonwealth.
My hope is that other lawmakers will support the legislation knowing that many families and businesses in their districts count on skill games to survive.
Just to be clear, these games are not competing with other forms of gaming, or for that matter, gambling. There is no overlap in customers. Someone playing skill games in a bar or a VFW is looking for a totally different experience than someone who goes to a casino. They want the no flash, friendly feel of gathering in a neighborhood establishment. They eat, drink and play a few skill games.
Another reason these games are so important is that they are critical to communities. Establishments use money they receive from skill games to support efforts through food drives, student scholarships, women’s shelters and first responders. The Palmyra VFW I mentioned spends thousands of dollars each year supporting local programs.
This year Pennsylvania Skill, which is made up of skill game operators such as myself, will donate $1 million to organizations in need.
It would be easy to discount skill games in Pennsylvania as some nameless, faceless issue. But the future viability of real families and businesses, including my own, is at stake. Lawmakers must pass legislation to regulate skill games to make sure countless people have economic security. It is a winning proposition.
This article was originally published by Penn Live.