Skill games have helped and even saved small businesses. I could tell hundreds of stories of how businesses, along with fraternal clubs and veterans organizations, have benefited in exceptional ways from legal skill games.
Instead, I will just tell one story, my story. Sprankles Neighborhood Markets is a small family business run by my father, brother and I. We are a central place in the three towns where we are located. In 2018 we decided to try something new in our stores, adding skill games.
We had no idea just how much the games would change our business. For the first time, we were able to provide health benefits to our employees and provide free lunches for them, all through skill game revenue. This has allowed us to keep great staff. While many businesses around us have desperately posted “help wanted” signs in their windows, we have to turn people away who want to work for us.
Chances are you know a business, fire hall, fraternal club or veterans organization that also can tell you how much they benefit from skill games. Some of them would have closed their doors forever because of COVID if not for skill game revenue.
I am perplexed that casinos, owned by out-of-state behemoth companies, would attack small businesses like mine that are trying to make ends meet and take care of our employees. They want the government to shut down these machines that were deemed legal in a Pennsylvania court.
And their claim that my skill games are taking revenue away from casinos, when the nearest one is nearly an hour away from my store, is hard to swallow.
I highly doubt anyone planning a night out at Parx Casino, for example, decides on the way there to instead pull over at a Moose Lodge to play skill games. They are completely different experiences for patrons. For one thing, gambling is based on algorithms that guarantee the House wins – a lot. Skill games can be won every time with skill and patience.
Skill games are an important part of the small business economy in our state and will be one way those businesses make it beyond the current economic downturn and increasing price on all of their goods and services.
Pennsylvania Skill games, as well as skill games in various states, are manufactured in Williamsport and employ hundreds of Pennsylvanians. Parts for the games are made by companies across the commonwealth. Unlike casinos, much of the revenue from skill games stays in the state and the games mean millions of dollars in tax money through the industry. In fact, the skill game industry wants to pay more taxes and supports legislation introduced in the General Assembly that would further regulate skill games and place taxes on the games that would go into the state coffers.
The casinos also are quick to say skill games have an impact the state lottery. I agree with them 100% that our stores have seen an impact. We have witnessed an increase in our lottery sales since we installed skill games. This is not conjecture like you hear from casinos but fact; we see it in the numbers we are required to report to the state Department of Revenue. We are not alone, many places that have both skill games and lottery machines will tell you the same.
In fact, independent economic studies have concluded that skill games do not negatively impact lottery sales. An economics professor at Villanova University has conducted exhaustive studies which find that in states where skill games operate, state lotteries have seen increased profits.
Opponents of skill games may like to visit casinos and enjoy the glitz and glamour of gambling, and that is great. Casinos are making record breaking revenue and that helps the state. However, I would invite them to come to Armstrong County and visit my family’s neighborhood grocery store. They won’t see flashing lights, hear ringing bells or walk past rows of slot machines. But they will see a few skill games and people having a good time while they contribute to the state economy and our hard-working employees.
Doug Sprankle is chair of Pennsylvania Taverns and Players Association, a new organization representing hundreds of small businesses, fraternal and social clubs that supports members’ interests in Harrisburg.
This article originally appeared on Penn-Live Patriot News on 08/19/2022.