Johnstown Council considering mechanical amusement device fee

Feb. 9—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The seemingly ubiquitous Pennsylvania Skill games might be included in a proposed City of Johnstown ordinance that would create a new fee schedule for mechanical amusement devices.

Pool tables, gambling machines, jukeboxes and other forms of entertainment were already being planned for inclusion in the program that would charge a flat rate per device.

City Manager Ethan Imhoff said that, after legal research was conducted, he feels the skill games can be counted, too.

"We did come to the conclusion there's no prohibition on the amusement tax applying to skill machines," Imhoff said during Johnstown City Council's regular monthly meeting on Wednesday. "With that in mind, we do have this ordinance applying to skill machines, which would considerably increase our enforcement responsibilities.

"And so, we're still at the point — the staff — that we're discussing how we would go about that."

As opposed to pool tables, for example, which are usually found in bars, Pennsylvania Skill games can be placed in grocery stores, gas stations, smoke shops and numerous other locations.

"If you go around Johnstown now, there are machines everywhere, places that you would never even think you would see a machine," Johnstown City Councilman Ricky Britt said.

How to enforce the proposed law is a question council is trying to figure out, with the ordinance being taken off the table, discussed and tabled again during the meeting. Each machine would need to be individually counted every year, possibly by a city employee.

"We (put) a lot of ordinances in place that we really don't have a plan for — or a realistic plan for — enforcement," Deputy Mayor Michael Capriotti said.

"We've got to be sure that if we're going to go through with this that there is a plan in place and it's not going to cost you more to enforce it than you're going to recoup in the revenue process of doing this."

City Councilman Chuck Arnone proposed using an outside contractor to count the devices.

"Let the third party do it, as a commission basis, because then you don't put the burden on the employees that are already here," Arnone said. "Their incentive is to get as many as they can because they're getting paid to do it."

Council is expected to take up the matter again at its March meeting.