Gov. Youngkin Makes Multiple Amendments To Virginia Skill Games Bill

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin advanced a bill that would legalize skill games just before Monday night’s deadline to act.

However, Youngkin included a number of amendments to the legislation that contains much stricter regulations. He cites the games being a threat to the Virginia Lottery as to why he made drastic changes. Many believe skill machines could cannibalize some of the activity around options like instant lottery games or fast cash.

The governor’s bill is much different than the one he received, making it unclear how the General Assembly will respond to it.

What the original bill Youngkin received included

The original VA SB212 that reached Youngkin’s desk called for the ban on skill-based games to be lifted. Only this past fall did the law prohibiting such games go into effect.

The legislation that made it to Youngkin would have allowed gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and other retail businesses the ability to have up to four skill games at their respective venues. Truck stops would be allowed up to 10 games.

The machines would be licensed by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage and Control Authority. A 25% tax on the revenue from the games would go to the PreK-12 Priority Fund.

Had Youngkin accepted the bill he received, skill games would have been back in circulation starting July 1.

Youngkin’s amendments limit where VA skill games can be located

Youngkin’s changes to the bill impact a lot of avenues.

One of the biggest amendments is that the games wouldn’t be allowed within 35 miles of a casino, horse track, or “historical horse racing” parlor. They would also be prohibited within 2,500 feet of churches, daycares, and places of worship.

In order to have the games at an establishment, said location must already sell lottery tickets. That would exclude most restaurants.

Qualifying establishments would be limited to three skill games, while truck stops would be down to seven.

The amended bill also called for more expansive criminal background checks for those involved with the skill games. Youngkin calls for the games to be under the regulation of the Virginia Lottery, as opposed to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

The governor also gives the power to local governments to ban the machines. He wants to cap the total number of games throughout the state at 20,000, as well.

When it comes to tax revenue, Youngkin wants the number increased beyond 25%.

Store owners unhappy with changes

Business owners who were pushing for the bill to be signed into law are not pleased with Youngkin’s amendments.

Particularly, the detail keeping skill games from being within 35 miles of other gambling locations. That provision would prevent a large number of store owners from being able to utilize the machines.

Kunal Kumar, Vice President of the Virginia Asian American Store Owners, told the Washington Post it could impact nearly 90% of convenience stores:

“In the future, are we going to tell Burger King not to open up next to McDonald’s?” he said.

Multiple lawmakers expressed displeasure with the massive changes to the bill just before Youngkin’s deadline to act.

When asked for the reasoning behind the wholesale changes, Youngkin’s spokesman, Christian Martinez, expressed the need for strict regulations of skill games:

“A robust regulatory framework overseen by the Virginia Lottery, enhances consumer and public safety protections, and grants localities and Virginians a voice.”

The stance is somewhat different from Youngkin’s 2021 take on the matter. When running for election, Youngkin addressed skill games in a radio interview. He came out in support of 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.”

What’s next for Virginia skill games bill?

Youngkin’s amended bill now returns to the General Assembly.

Legislators can act on the changes when they reconvene on April 17.

A two-thirds supermajority can override a veto, while a simple majority can reject the amendments. However, Youngkin will get the final say on any bill that is returned to him in its previous form. He will be able to veto it, or choose to sign it into law.

 

Photo by PlayiLottery

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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