Gov. Youngkin Has A Week To Sign Or Veto Bill Legalizing VA Skill Games

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has one week to act on a bill that would legalize skill games in the state.

VA SB212 would repeal the ban on retail skill games, which have only been prohibited since October. This would allow local gas stations and restaurants to include these games that resemble slot machines in their businesses to produce gambling revenue.

Although said skill games are banned in other states, Virginia aims to legalize and regulate them to aid businesses while also creating added funding for the PreK-12 Priority Fund. It would also provide responsible gambling provisions for those looking to self-exclude from the machines. And it would give regulatory oversight of skill games to the Virginia Lottery.

Youngkin, who is on record for supporting skill games in the past, has until April 8 at 11:59 p.m. to take action on the pending legislation.

Bipartisan support gets VA skill games bill to Youngkin’s desk

Earlier this month, the Virginia Senate and Virginia House of Delegates both passed VA SB212. It would repeal the ban on skill games. The prohibition was originally put into law in 2021, but didn’t take effect until last October when the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ban.

The Virginia Senate had a 31-9 vote in favor of the new legislation, while the House had a 49-43 vote in favor. In both cases, it had bipartisan support.

The bill now sits at the desk of Gov. Youngkin. He can elect to sign the bill in its current form into law, veto it, or recommend changes and send it back to the General Assembly.

The current form of the bill would give gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and other retail businesses the ability to have up to four skill games at their venue. Truck stops would be able to offer as many as 10 games.

Machines would have to be licensed by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage and Control Authority. There would be a 25% tax on the revenue from the games that would go to the PreK-12 Priority Fund.

Should Youngkin accept the bill, skill games would be allowed back into circulation on July 1. They would operate under a temporary licensing system with the Virginia ABC handling oversight. Broader regulations would be worked on and put into place by 2027 under the supervision of the Virginia Lottery.

Youngkin supported skill games during latest campaign

Youngkin’s past remarks are now being used by business owners looking for him to sign this new bill into law.

When up for election in 2021, Youngkin was asked about the skill games ban during a radio appearance. At the time, he came out in support of legalizing the machines:

“I’m supportive of the skill games and I just think all businesses should be allowed to do business. Skill games actually do enable so many small businesses to not only grow their business, but also simply to survive as we’re watching so many of the abilities to serve customers change. We’re seeing restaurants and gas stations and everybody have to remake their business. I actually am a big supporter of the skill games and I think that all businesses should have access to them,” Youngkin said during the 2021 interview.

Now, business owners are trying to hold Youngkin to those words.

A rally took place last week in Virginia’s Capitol Square that featured many of the same business owners. They believe skill games were critical for business, especially during the pandemic.

Proponents of the skill game machines attest they aren’t forms of gambling because the skill of the player factors into the outcome.

Youngkin hasn’t made any official statements on the current bill or his intentions.

Bill wouldn’t give options to local communities

The way the current law sits, allowing these machines would not be up to the voters. Local governments also wouldn’t have the ability to ban the games in their jurisdictions.

Opposition to the bill comes from residents concerned over youth gambling.

Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines is a casino-funded group that is speaking out against the legislation.

Its website cites concerns that kids will have easy access to these machines and worries over increased crime due to the machines being legalized:

“These games line the pockets of game makers who cater to novice players, including teenagers. When it comes to the safety and well-being of the commonwealth’s communities, Virginians can’t afford to roll the dice. Virginia already has plenty of gaming options.”

The current bill doesn’t include a card system that would verify the identity of players. However, the bill does deliver criminal penalties for businesses that knowingly allow players under the age of 21 to use the machines.

 

Photo by Alex Brandon / AP

About the Author

Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis

Lead Writer
A member of Catena Media since 2020, Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer at PlayiLottery, where he handles coverage of the online and retail lottery industry in the US. He previously spearheaded news content at PlayMichigan, where he covered one of the most prominent online lottery industries in the US — among the many other aspects of Michigan's sprawling iGaming market. You can email him at [email protected].
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