SACRAMENTO, CA -- Redemption experts are studying how a new bill being considered by the California Assembly could affect amusement skill games that award prizes. The bill (AB 1753), introduced by Rep. Isadore Hall III of the 52nd district (D-San Diego) on Feb. 8, carries a bland technical title referring to its intent to modify the state penal code regarding slot machines.
The proposed bill's legal language expands the definition of "slot machine" to include any device that is coin-operated and can "sell, deliver or present some merchandise, indication of weight, entertainment or other thing of value."
This machine classification would be restricted to awarding prizes limited to the value of the price per play and increase penalties for certain gambling violations.
Certain industry members have questioned whether the proposed law could negatively impact the operation of amusement redemption games. However, one clause in the bill explicitly exempts "pinball and other amusement machines or devices, which are predominantly games of skill."
Taken at face value, this exemption might seem to close the matter. Yet California, like other states, has had an uneven history of enforcement of gaming statues -- including the occasional misinterpretation by law enforcement and misapplication to amusement games.
"If the bill is misread by local police and district attorneys to apply to redemption games, it could conceivably shut down the redemption industry in parts of California or in any state or jurisdiction that adopts copycat legislation," warned one leading operator.
According to attorney Bob Snyder (Corona, CA), who has studied AB 1753, amusement professionals don't need to worry about proposal. Snyder has more than 30 years of experience in the coin-op industry in California and nationwide, where he has consulted for scores of redemption game manufacturers and operators.
"I don't think it even applies to redemption games or the amusement industry," Snyder told VT. "There is a specific exemption for amusements which, admittedly, could be spelled out a little stronger."
VT sought additional clarification from the office of Rep. Hall on the bill's scope and intent. At presstime our calls had not been returned. Further information will be reported as soon as it's available.
Separately, a spokesman for Skill4Cash (Hallandale, FL) said the company believes the proposed law will not affect skill with prize (SWP) machines operating in California because SWPs are predominantly based on skill, not chance.
Skill4Cash touchscreen games dispense $1 coins as cash prizes. Content consists of skill-based videogames that award winnings based on players' scores or achievement levels. The first SWPs began running in California last year. Read more about SWPs.