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Issue Date: Vol. 48, No. 10, October 2008, Posted On: 9/15/2008

Gov. Paterson Vetoes 'Free Game' Bill, Sends Blow To New York Trade

Nick Montano

ALBANY, NY -- Gov. David A. Paterson last week vetoed a bill that would have amended a law prohibiting free games or balls awarded by coin-operated amusement devices. In his veto statement, the governor suggested that bonus balls or time on pinball machines or videogames might threaten the public's safety.

"While I support the goal of ensuring the vitality of the amusement machine industry in this state," Paterson said, "I cannot do so at the expense of public safety. The changes proposed by this bill could weaken enforcement efforts against actual illegal gambling throughout the state. I am not aware that there has been a spike in the number of criminal prosecutions or citations against amusement machine operators who operate free plays for pinball or other arcade games to warrant enactment of this legislation at this time."

The "free game" bill, which had been introduced in the Senate, easily passed both houses of the New York State Legislature in June. It was intended to clarify the definition of "gambling" as applied to coin-op amusement devices. The bill's language makes clear that the extra ball, free game or additional playing time awarded by a coin-op game to a skillful player does not constitute "something of value" and is not comparable to a prize won by chance from a gambling device. | SEE STORY

By deleting language pertaining to bonuses awarded by amusement games from the definition of "something of value," the bill would have amended a penal law dating back to 1987. That law was intended to curtail gambling, but failed to make the distinction between coin-op amusements, which do not dispense money or coupons, and wagering devices. Rather, a free ball on a pin game or extra time on a videogame is earned by a player's skill.

The Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York, which launched the "free game" campaign almost eight years ago, said it will continue to fight to change this 21-year-old discriminatory ordinance.

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