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Pennsylvania skill games center of legal debate

Pennsylvania Skill Games that reward players with money have been the center of debate as the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently heard a case regarding their legality, specifically whether or not the outcome of the games is dependent on luck or skill.

The case ultimately did not change the current legal status of the electronic gaming terminals produced by Pace-O-Matic of Pennsylvania; however, Pennsylvania State Police can confiscate the machines as a part of investigations into illegal gambling.

State Rep. Richard Irvin, R-81, stated the skill games currently operate in a “legal gray area.”

“These skill games operate in a bit of a gray area,” Irvin said. “Since the outcome of the game is allegedly determined by skill, they do not apply to state gambling law. But many lawmakers and lobbyists have argued that they are not based on skill, and they should apply to said gambling laws. What we lack is legislation that clearly defines the games as skill or chance. Right now, it is just interpretation. This is where the current debate stems from.”

The legality of the games is backed by a 2014 Beaver County Court decision, which determined the outcomes of the games were based upon the player’s skill. Because of this decision, skill games are not covered by state gambling laws.

The skill aspect of the games is achieved by having players connect two identical symbols or complete a row of identical symbols. The game provides two identical symbols and asks for the player to choose the third.

“It’s nothing like a slot machine, because it will have people match the third symbol to the first two,” said Pena Regitz, owner and manager of the Snack Shop in Huntingdon, which features several skill games in the adjoining storefront. “There are times when newer players will mess that up. It’s skill-based.”

The games also implement skill-based mini games, such as the “follow-me” mini-game. This game requires players to press dots on the screen as they appear, which becomes more difficult the farther the player gets.

Several local vendors vouch for the games based, in part, on their popularity. The games also serve as additional income for the businesses, though the profit is split between the parties involved with the games.

“It’s pretty popular. The people who frequent our games seem pretty happy with them,” Regitz said. “We do make some money off of them, but only a portion of it. The rest is split between the company that owns the games and the manufacturer. We only see a certain percentage of what the games collect.”

The games have also appeared at various Martin General Stores across the area, including the one in Alexandria. They have also proven to be popular, though legality is a continued concern.

“The games are in many of our stores and have been very popular,” said Janice Martin, general manager for Martin General Stores. “The company that owns the games assured us that a court case supports their use. We have not run into any issues yet.”

Continued legal conflict of the games stems from the Beaver County ruling. As state gambling laws do not apply to Pennsylvania Skill Games, they do not apply to the state’s 34% slot tax. The skill games have also cost the state lottery as much as $138 million annually.

“It’s a big issue that these skill games take away from the state lottery,” said Sen. Judy Ward, R-30. “Many are concerned about the impact this will have on senior residents, not only in Huntingdon but across the state. This had led lawmakers to aggressively oppose them.”

Legislation has been proposed to remedy the issue, such as Sen. Jake Corman’s, R-34, proposal to impose a 52% tax rate on Pennsylvania Skill Games. However, nothing has been passed to change how the games currently operate.

Ultimately, an argument can be made for both sides.

“What will ultimately be done with the skill games is up in the air,” Irvin said. “Many believe the games should be banned, while others believe they should have a tax applied to them, due to their impact on the lottery and casinos. But many local businesses and clubs, such as the VFW, benefit from the games, despite the impact on the state. There is an argument to be made for both sides.”

Irvin believes the first step would be to define what games of skill and chance are in the state legislation.

He added, “I cannot say what will come of this, but I will say the state needs to clearly define what a game of skill or chance is in its legislation. The law which governs these skill games should be more than just interpretation.”


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Steve Miller Band among acts slated to appear this summer at Spyglass Ridge Winery

SUNBURY — The rock group Steve Miller Band will be stopping by Spyglass Ridge Winery during its 2020 “Americana” 40-city summer tour.

The winery announced Thursday that the band led by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Miller will perform Saturday, Aug. 1, with tickets going on sale 9 a.m. Friday.

Formed in 1966, the band has released 18 studio albums and more than two dozen singles, including smash hits “The Joker,” “Rock’n Me” and “Fly Like and Eagle,” which holds a special place in the heart of Spyglass owner Tom Webb.

“It reminds me so much of the days in high school, when I would pop in that cassette, put the roof down and play Steve Miller,” Webb stated Friday. “A friend of mine in high school would wear Steve Miller concert T-shirts three out of five days. He was a Steve Miller nut.”

The band has been at the top of Webb’s bucket list since he started booking acts. Another favorite, Chicago, was scratched off the list after rocking the venue in June.

“I really wanted to book Steve Miller just to meet him and ask questions,” Webb said with a laugh. “He is just an amazing artist, especially with his history with Les Paul.”

Webb said there will be only 3,500 tickets sold, making it one of the more intimate crowds Spyglass has hosted.

The concert will be part of the Spyglass’ Backyard Concert Series that includes concerts by The Black Jacket Symphony presenting Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” on July 25; and Get the Led Out, the American Led Zeppelin, on Sept. 12.

Over the past 10 years, The Black Jacket Symphony has performed over 35 classic rock albums with hand-picked musicians recreating the music note-for-note and sound-for-sound.

Webb described the group’s performance of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” three years ago at Spyglass as phenomenal.

Webb stated that when he communicated with the group’s manager in November, it was suggested that concert attendees relive Queen’s 1975 album, which contains the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The celebration of Queen’s music will be highlighted by special guest Marc Martel, who rose to internet fame for his vocal resemblance of former Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Martel started his own Queen tribute show in 2017 and lent his vocals for 2018 Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Marc can manipulate his vocals and sound just like Freddie,” Webb stated. “He hits every note.”

Get the Led Out returns to Spyglass to celebrate “The Mighty Zep” by bringing the studio recordings to life on the concert stage. The group consists of professional musicians passionate about their love of the music of Led Zeppelin.

“The is not an impersonator act, but rather a group of musicians who were fans first, striving to do justice to one of the greatest bands in rock history,” the group said on their website.

Webb indicated there are at least two more acts that have just been scheduled to perform this summer at Spyglass. The artists will be released on a later date, he said.

On June 6, Spyglass will host a “Live United Live Music Festival” to benefit youth mental health. The all-day event organized by the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way will include performances by Dokken, Warrant, April Wine, Firehouse, Jack Russell’s Great White, George Lynch, Eric Martin and Kip Wagner.

The festival is not part of the Backyard Concert Series and tickets for the event are not included in the season pass.

Webb said the United Way approached him about holding a concert that would benefit the area and agreed to donate use of the property. The decision was easy for Webb, who in the past has hosted several events benefiting various organizations.

“My wife and I love where we live, and we have been very blessed. We work hard at our business, but the area has supported us and we have been lucky,” Webb stated. “The United Way put (the event) all together. If we can save even one kid, then it’s worth it.”


Branimir Kvartuc 

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2007, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, top, goes up for a shot between Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, left, and Al Jefferson during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles. Bryant was one of eight finalists announced Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, as candidates for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, a decision that came as absolutely no surprise in his first year of eligibility. (AP Photo/Branimir Kvartuc, File)


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Lenig stone house appeal set for Court of Common Pleas

SUNBURY — Coal Township businesswoman Mary Lenig has filed an appeal with the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas that challenges a recent decision from the township to disallow her plans of opening a tavern at the former McWilliams Old Stone House, located at 2125 Route 54.

Last month, Lenig appealed to the court following a Dec. 20 decision by the Coal Township Uniform Construction Code Board of Appeals, which voted not to allow her to open the historic property, which she owns, as a public tavern based upon what it deemed was non-compliance with certain regulations stated in the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (PAUCC).

In its letter to Lenig, the township’s UCC Board of Appeals cited two sections of the PAUCC for denying her request for an exemption:

  • First, although the building was constructed prior to 1927, and is therefore believed by Lenig to be uncertified, the board rejected that claim based upon a section of the PAUCC which states that “an uncertified building that was built before Apr. 27, 1927, is deemed legally occupied until the owner proposes to renovate, add an addition, alter or change the occupancy of the building. The renovation, addition, alteration or change in occupancy must comply with the UCC.

Second, according to the board, Lenig’s request to seek relief under the historic building clause in the PAUCC was denied because her property is a “structure that is not intended for residential use.”

Court records indicate that Lenig’s appeal to the Court of Common Pleas was filed by her attorney, Joseph C. Michetti Jr., Esq.

The Coal Township UCC Appeals Board is being represented by the law firm of Wiest, Muolo, Noon, Swinehart & Bathgate, 240-246 Market St., Sunbury.


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Plaintiffs of plane crash lawsuit allege federal government has injected "improper" evidence

WILLIAMSPORT — The children of the late Michael and Christina Apfelbaum alleged in a court filing Monday that a motion to dismiss their wrongful death lawsuit is the federal government’s attempt to inject “inadmissible and improper” evidence before the court.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is accused of negligent and gross negligent conduct in the airplane crash that killed the couple and Christina’s father, Clarence Imgrund, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The Beechcraft A36 Bonanza crashed in Kernersville, North Carolina, on Sept. 7, 2015, while Michael Apfelbaum was attempting a second approach to the Piedmont Triad International Airport in nearby Greensboro.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined Michael Apfelbaum had become disorientated, a condition that occurs when pilots become unable to determine their location in space.

Brianna Apfelbaum Kula, Leah Apfelbaum and Jonsidney Apfelbaum, who are represented by Lane Jubb Jr., of The Beasley Firm in Philadelphia, are seeking unspecified damages from the FAA on claims that their parents’ deaths were a direct result of the defendant’s negligence.

The plaintiffs claim air traffic controllers in Greensboro failed to recognize that Michael Apfelbaum had become disoriented during his first approach to the airport and, by their directives, “exacerbated the disorientation and enhanced the emergency situation.”

“The defendant’s liability for these deaths is so overwhelming and the conduct of their air traffic controllers so outrageous, that it has spent the last four years searching for anything and everything to attempt to blame Mr. Apfelbaum for his own death and the death of his wife,” the plaintiffs argue in their 58-page brief.

The federal government avers there is “undisputed” evidence that establishs Michael Apfelbaum flew a “complex, high-performance” airplane in instrument weather conditions after being advised not to by his flight instructor and that he lost control when the airplane’s autopilot system unexpectedly disengaged during the second attempted instrument approach.

The plaintiffs say that whether or not the autopilot was in operation, or what mode it was operated in, played “no part” in the accident.

“The record evidence of the defendant’s negligence and it’s causal relationship to this crash, is both numerous and substantial,” the plaintiffs state. “Mr. Apfelbaum was not negligent during the accident flight, much less a proximate cause of any of his injuries.”


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LM students, faculty participate in Kindness Week

MANDATA — For Valentine’s Day, students and faculty at Line Mountain Middle/High School took part in a weeklong effort at the school to promote kindness toward others.

Line Mountain School District counselors Trystanne Toczylousky and Amanda Snyder coordinated the Kindness Week campaign at the school.

“The students and staff had a great time participating in Kindness Week,” Toczylousky said. “We had high school students read a book to students in fifth and sixth grade to teach them the impact that a small kind deed can have on others and also to create peer-to-peer connections with high school and middle school students.”

In addition to the peer-to-peer activities, students and staff also created Valentine’s Day cards to mail to a 104-year-old Marine Corps Veteran in California who requested cards to add to his scrapbook.

Students signed a “Pledge to Be Kind” banner and wore “Be Kind” stickers throughout the week. On Valentine’s Day, several faculty and staff members wore “Be Kind” T-shirts to show their support for the campaign.