Skill Games: A Menace to Community Well-Being

Amen Brown
Op-Ed by State Rep. Amen Brown, 10th Legislative District

Across Philadelphia, the proliferation of skill games presents a growing concern that threatens the very fabric of our neighborhoods. These games, often touted as harmless forms of entertainment or even sources of income, conceal a darker reality that undermines the quality of life for countless individuals. From the negative impact on social cohesion to the economic strain they impose, the presence of skill games casts a shadow over community life.

At first glance, skill games appear innocuous, promising quick amusement or a chance to test one’s abilities. However, their omnipresence in neighborhoods is linked to a range of detrimental effects. Perhaps most alarmingly, these games can foster a culture of gambling, where vulnerable individuals, including youth and those struggling with financial stability, are lured into a cycle of risk-taking behavior.

School children use the unregulated machines to gamble away their lunch money, according to this article. Unlike regulated casinos, there is no one to monitor the skill games, therefore they attract minors due to their proximity to schools.

Moreover, the proliferation of skill games in communities erodes the social fabric that binds neighbors together. Our neighbors aren’t spending time together, catching up on porches or front steps, they’re trapped in a vicious cycle of spending their precious time and money in pursuit of fleeting victories.

This disengagement diminishes the sense of belonging and unity that are crucial to a thriving community.

Economically, the impact of skill games is equally damaging. According to the American Gambling Association, Americans bet $109 billion each year, which can cost states over $8 billion in taxes¬†and $27 billion in legal gaming revenue. They have taken approximately $650 million from Pennsylvania Lottery scratch offs; it’s estimated that this year’s lottery revenue will lose at least $170 million.

This money is a vital source for funding senior citizen programs and benefits across the state, including the newly expanded and extended Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program which helps seniors stay in their homes.

The promise of easy money through skill games often proves illusory, leaving participants financially worse off and further straining already vulnerable households.

Furthermore, the presence of skill games can contribute to a decline in property values and a rise in crime rates. Areas with a concentration of gambling-related activities often experience increased incidents of theft, fraud, and other criminal behaviors. These consequences not only jeopardize public safety but also tarnish the reputation of the community.

Addressing the issue of skill games requires a multifaceted approach that combines regulation, community engagement, and support for alternative forms of entertainment and economic opportunity. Local authorities must enforce existing laws and regulations to curb the proliferation of these games and hold accountable those who exploit community members for personal gain. Simultaneously, communities must invest in initiatives that promote social cohesion and provide viable alternatives to gambling-related activities.

Ultimately, the fight against skill games is a fight for the soul of our communities. It is a fight to preserve the bonds of trust and mutual respect that underpin a healthy society. By confronting this challenge head on and working together, we can reclaim our neighborhoods from the grip of exploitation and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

I’m thankful that Mayor Cherelle Parker, Councilmember Curtis Jones and so many others are working to get these unregulated games out of our communities. It will restore a sense of community in Philadelphia’s smaller neighborhoods.

The time for the legislature to act is now, for the well-being of our communities depends on it.

State Rep. Amen Brown, hailing from West Philadelphia, currently serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 10th District since 2023. Brown previously held office in the 190th District from 2021 to 2022 before redistricting relocated him to the 10th District.

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