The devices aren’t legal under normal circumstances, but that apparently hasn’t stopped some people from continuing to use them during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why Pennsylvania State Police reminded licensed liquor establishments Thursday to refrain from having patrons remain in their buildings to operate illegal video gambling devices.
“The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) recently received an influx of public inquiries related to liquor licensees allowing patrons to remain in their establishments to operate video gambling devices, sometimes marketed as ‘games of skill,’ in violation of restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” a news release said.
Consequently, the BLCE is recommending that liquor licensees and non-licensee businesses including convenience stores and restaurants take appropriate measures to discontinue the use of any illegal video gambling devices and voluntarily comply with Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“While our position on the legality of these devices remains unchanged, ensuring public safety in the midst of the ongoing health crisis is our top priority,” said Major Jeffrey Fisher, director of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, in the news release. “Liquor licensees are cautioned that in addition to potential unlawful gambling charges, they are subject to citation if they fail to take steps to prevent patrons from remaining on premises to operate video gambling devices.”
Wolf has authorized licensed retail establishments–including licensed restaurants and bars–to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic for the purposes of selling food and beverages via carryout, delivery and curbside or drive-thru pickup, so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed to protect workers and patrons.
Licensed beer distributors are also authorized to remain open and sell and supply beer to licensed grocery stores, convenience stores and other retail licensees that are permitted to sell beer “to go.”
The state has also reopened online sales of wine and liquor, however the PLCB site has access limits and few people have reportedly been able to make purchases on it so far.
According to the news release, between March 18 and April 2 the BLCE completed 12,877 checks at licensed liquor establishments throughout Pennsylvania and issued 53 warnings and four notices of violations, which are pending an administrative citation.
“Two establishments have had their liquor licenses suspended by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) for failing to abide by the governor’s order,” state police noted.
As of Thursday, state police said they had issued a total of 163 warnings to businesses that were not in compliance with Wolf’s executive order that shut down all non-life-sustaining businesses late last month. According to the data shared by the state police online, officers from Troop M–who patrol the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County–have issued nine warnings to businesses since enforcement of the order began March 23.
As of April 2, no businesses had been cited for failure to comply by Pennsylvania State Police.
The list of businesses classified as life-sustaining and resources for affected businesses are available from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.