I have gotten a number of questions recently related to the PA Skill games that are becoming more and more popular in bars, restaurants, and even convenience stores.  The questions I get are often concerning whether those games are legal and can lawfully be operated by a business owner, particularly if they hold a liquor license.

Recently, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement conducted an investigation and seized a number of games in the Central Pennsylvania area.  In justifying these seizures, they took the position that these machines constitute illegal gambling devices and were subject to seizure by the police. That action by the police led to concerns by restaurateurs and other holders of liquor licenses that they were going to get in trouble or have these machines seized by the police.

After these raids and seizures by the state Police, Pace-O-Matic, one of the manufacturers of these Pennsylvania skill games, challenged the State Police and sought an injunction from the courts to prevent the police from seizing any more of the games they manufacture. They argued that their games do not constitute illegal gambling devices, and base their position on a decision issued in 2014 by a Court of Common Pleas judge in Beaver County. In that decision, the judge concluded that because there is an element of skill involved in the Pace-O-Matic games, they do not constitute illegal gambling. That decision in 2014 led to the wide spread circulation and use of these machines, but has also spurned a lot of copycat machines. Pace-O-Matic was initially granted an injunction by the Court of Common Pleas preventing the state police from seizing any of the machines they manufacture until the issue could further be sorted out in court system.
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One of my memories from childhood is watching my mother build and run her own business. I saw first hand how she lived the job, how seriously she took her responsibilities to her customers and employees, and how she never really stopped thinking about work. It was what she had to do to make the business successful. At the time, I didn’t always enjoy sitting at dinner and listening to my parents discuss the store finances or how to deal with a problem employee; however, I now realize that I was learning by just listening and it has helped inform my approach to working with small business owners and understanding what it takes to establish and maintain a successful business. I know how hard small business owners work. There can be so much focus on building the business and running it day to day that people often forget to address what happens when they no longer want to keep it going or can no longer work at the same pace. I don’t mean what happens when a business fails. What happens when a business succeeds? How do you transition it to the next owner? How do you protect the legacy you’ve worked hard to build?
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Lancaster County has a lot of multi-generational family businesses. You’ve probably seen countless articles like this one highlighting the “tsunami of change.” And if you’ve taken the time to read any of these articles, you’ve learned that the businesses that flourish in the second or third (or later) generations are successful largely because of the way they planned for the future. These succession plans have a number of things in common.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash


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One of the most common issues I am asked about is what a small business can do about online criticism. Here are five practical tips any business can use to help manage their online reputation.

  1. Know What is Being Said About You

To effectively manage your online reputation, you need to know what is being said about your business. Keep an eye on the platforms that matter most to you. For a professional services business like mine, that means watching platforms like LinkedIn. But for other businesses Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon might be more important. And almost every business benefits from keeping an eye on Google’s reviews.

And try to keep an eye on what is being said in the news because many online newspapers allow comments to be posted after articles. We use Google Alerts to get automatic email notifications when our firm or attorneys are mentioned online.

  1. Respond, But Remember You Cannot Argue with Crazy

It is important not to ignore online criticism. But you also cannot argue with a crazy customer. Remember that the primary purpose of responding to an online critique is not to resolve that customer’s situation (more on that below). The purpose is so the rest of the world reading the criticism can see you responded in an empathetic and respectful manner. Use some form of “we are sorry to hear you had a bad experience,” but do not use a stock response. Craft each response based upon the criticism leveled. That shows you are aware of the concern and care about it.
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This is the final installment of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, October 10.

Last week, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on three of the discussion topics from the event:
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This is part two of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, October 10.

Yesterday, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on two of the discussion topics from yesterday’s event:
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This is part one of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce.

This morning, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on two of the discussion topics from this morning’s event:
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Advertising and other commercial activities happen in an instant on social media. Are you covering your bases legally when posting photos of individuals or groups on your company social media accounts?

State law governs when you can use a person’s name or likeness for commercial or advertising purposes – this is commonly referred to right of publicity or right of privacy depending on the context and legal status in the jurisdiction.

In Pennsylvania, there is a somewhat complicated legal framework comprised of both statutes and case law that governs right of privacy and right of publicity.
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Thank you to Chad Umble at LNP for another informative article regarding Pennsylvania liquor laws.  This one is concerning legislation pending in the PA House of Representatives that would impact the way that grocery stores and convenience stores could operate.

More specifically, the article highlights a bill currently being considered in the House’s Liquor Control Committee that would create a “customer convenience permit” which would enable those holding the permit to deny patrons the ability to consume alcohol on their premises, and also allow them more flexibility in terms of where they have to physically locate the beer and wine within their store.  It also proposes to remove some of the restrictions on how many ounces of alcohol can be purchased in any given transaction. As you might imagine, despite this being called a “customer convenience permit”, it is really a permit that was crafted solely by and for the grocery stores and convenience stores. As correctly pointed out in the article, Walmart is a major proponent of this bill and likely provided much, if not all, of the input on the bill as it was drafted.
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Are you thinking about investing in Pennsylvania real estate? If so, forming a Pennsylvania limited liability company (LLC) has numerous benefits that will save you time and money in the future.

Here are the top five reasons why the LLC has become the entity of choice for investment real estate ownership in Pennsylvania:

  1. Realty transfer tax implications and timing

If you plan on owning real estate in an LLC, timing is critical to avoid paying Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax more than once. Realty transfer tax in Pennsylvania is 2% of the value of the real estate.

You should form the LLC prior to signing the agreement of sale, and the party entering into the agreement of sale should be the LLC, not one or more of the individuals’ names. The reason for this is that Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax law provides that a taxable event includes an assignment of an agreement of sale, which would trigger transfer tax twice.

Further, if you buy the real estate in your individual name and later wish to transfer the property into an LLC that is owned by you, you would also be required to pay realty transfer tax on that transfer.

Creating an LLC from the outset would avoid paying more tax than you are legally required to pay under the above two common scenarios.

  1. Limited liability protection for owners of the LLC

The owners (known as members) of an LLC enjoy limited liability for the debts and obligations of the LLC and the negligent acts of other members. A member’s liability is limited to the amount of his or her investment in the LLC, and their personal assets would be protected in the event causing liability.
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