The Banilla company offers two games called “Superior Skill One” and “Superior Skill Two, ” which players use a touch screens to solve puzzles. Players can win vouchers for a maximum of $50 or tickets worth up to $50 that are redeemable for merchandise where the machine is located.
The Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals ruled that chance plays an equal role in determining whether a player wins the two games — so they need to be registered with the state. During oral arguments on the case in September, Justice David Wiggins questioned Banilla’s lawyer Thomas Locher about the use of knowledge in the games.
“If you could win with knowledge you should be able if you are a real smart person — and your are really skilled — you should win every time,” Wiggins said. “And there’s nothing in the record that suggests that wouldn’t be the case,” Locher replied.
Locher also said there is knowledge because a person could decide not to play a harder puzzle. “They can opt out, they don’t have to play that particular puzzle or that game. They have 60 iterations which they can play, and in fact they can walk away,” Locher says.
The attorney for the state, David Ranscht told the justices during the oral arguments that this issue goes all the way back to the Territorial Legislature in 1843. “Way back then, 175 years ago, the court concluded just because there is some intermingling of skill and chance does not prevent the game from being dependent quote ‘in a very considerable degree upon chance.’ It also concluded that doesn’t keep the game from being a game of chance within the meaning of the law,” Ranscht. He also said the ability to decide which game to play doesn’t matter.
“The knowledge of what screen is going to appear and the knowledge that you can win, does not in any way influence what screen appears,”Ranschdt said. And he says it does not influence your ability to win.
The Iowa Supreme Court in today’s ruling says the DIA’s determination that winning in the Superior Skill games relies primarily more on chance than on skill or knowledge was “fair and reasonable.