Local arcade owner says games based on skill, not chance

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 2, 2002

News Editor

Pete Kennedy sees no difference between the adult video arcade games in his business and the children’s arcade games that reward players with tickets for prizes.

"There’s nothing illegal about them," Kennedy said the games inside his North Three Notch Street business in Troy. "If they’re saying these are games of chance, they’re going to have to shut down Chuck E. Cheese’s, too."

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Kennedy is a partner in Frontier Gaming, which operates the arcade on North Three Notch Street. "This is strictly entertainment," Kennedy said last week.

The legality of the Troy video gaming arcade and others like it across the state is in limbo these days, although the local business continues to operate six days a week.

Attorney General Bill Pryor issued an opinion on March 6 declaring these video games illegal games of chance because they rely on luck, not a player’s skill. That ruling comes in the midst of a three-year debate over the machines, dating back to 1999 when a Jefferson County judge ruled that the machines were illegal slot machines because winning depended on the whim of a computer and not a player’s skill. That decision has been appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which last year issued a non-binding opinion saying the machines are illegal. It has yet to issue a definitive ruling.

City Clerk Alton Starling said Troy officials were poised to shut down the arcade after Pryor issued his opinion – just like officials in several Alabama cities had done – but decided wait to see if the Alabama Supreme Court rules on the issue.

Kennedy, who said he is a partner in other video gaming ventures but refused to detail those, said he is also part of a class-action suit involving the video games. The suit seeks "for them not to take our games because there’s nothing illegal about them," Kennedy said.

"These are not one-armed bandits," Kennedy said, referring to a common name for slot machines. In his arcade, players push a button to start a spin on a video screen. When the spinning stops, they win based on the number of matches that appear on the screen. "They can push a button to stop it at any time," Kennedy said.

The machines issue $5 coupons, which can be redeemed at IGA or Wal-Mart, hence Kennedy’s comparison to the children’s pizza restaurant and arcade, Chuck E. Cheese’s. There, games issue tickets which can be redeemed for prizes.

"There’s no cash money" at the video gaming arcade," Kennedy said. "Our customers touch no cash money unless it comes out of their pocket."