Virginia Gov. Youngkin Vetoes Skill Games Bill; Legalization Unlikely In 2024

Late Friday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed nearly 50 bills that were passed on to him by the General Assembly.

Among those bills he axed was the legislation to lift the ban on skill games.

It’s the latest in a long series of moves that is keeping skill games from being available in Virginia businesses.

The hotly debated issue looks to be reaching a conclusion for 2024, even though it could lead to further disruption of the state’s retail lottery. Several business owners have already stopped selling lottery draw games and scratchers in their stores in protest of the ban.

Vetoed bill far different from Gov. Youngkin’s proposal

Senate Bill 212 calls for the ban on skill games to be lifted in the state. The bill that was originally sent to Youngkin in March was heavily amended by the governor weeks later in April.

The bill he sent back to lawmakers was quite different and the Senate rejected the amendments in a 34-6 vote.

Here’s how the two pieces of legislation compared:

SB212 DetailsWhat Senate PassedWhat Youngkin Amended
Skill games allowedUp to 4 games for most businesses. Up to 10 for truck stops.Up to 3 games for most businesses. Up to 7 for truck stops. Max of 20,000 in the state.
Location restrictionsnoneNo games within 35 miles of casino, horse track, or "historical horse racing parlor." No games within 2,500 feet of churches, daycares, and places of worship
Licensing fees$250 for stores and truck stops$9,000 for stores, $21,000 for truck stops
Local governmentCan't ban skill gamesCan ban skill games

That gave the bill back to Youngkin, who vetoed it in its current form, citing concerns over safeguards:

“In recent years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has authorized casinos, sports betting, and parimutuel wagering, on top of longer-standing gaming options like the Virginia Lottery, horse racing, and charitable gaming.

“When it comes to additional gaming options, such as games of skill, we must proceed with a robust set of safeguards.

“I sent over a package of amendments, which addressed my many concerns with the bill. While it is regrettable that my recommendations were not adopted, I remain open to working with the General Assembly going forward on this subject.

“Accordingly, I veto this bill.”

Virginia House could still override Youngkin’s skill games veto

Now, something drastic would have to take place for skill games not to be banned into 2025.

General Assembly leaders will need to bring their constituents in for a special summertime session.

The House would be required to override this latest veto, but would need two-thirds approval. Previously, SB212 only had a simple majority pass in the House, not two-thirds. If the House doesn’t override the veto, it will stand, and the bill will not become law.

The ban on skill games originally took effect in 2021. Two years of legal battles kept the ban from being officially implemented.

Virginia’s Supreme Court reinstated the ban in the fall of 2023, leading to the new legislation in the 2024 session.

If things remain as they are, the ban on skill games will have to be revisited in 2025.

Businesses boycotted retail Virginia Lottery sales in protest

The skill games ban caused a lot of reaction from Virginia business owners.

They cited that skill games were crucial to their survival during the pandemic. They also believe they are essential to help make up for increased business costs, as well as lost retail lottery sales with the state expanding to sales through its Virginia online lottery.

On two different occasions, Virginia businesses have boycotted lottery sales at their locations in protest of the ban.

Following Gov. Youngkin’s veto, Rich Kelly, President of the Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition, offered up a statement on the matter. He indicated the VA MAC looks forward to working with Youngkin on a resolution and did not mention further lottery boycotts:

“While we are disappointed that Senate Bill 212, strong bipartisan legislation to regulate and tax skill games, was vetoed by the Governor, we remain optimistic about working with Governor and Legislature on a resolution in the coming weeks.

“For years, thousands of small businesses throughout the Commonwealth have come to rely on the supplemental, sustainable revenue provided by skill games. These games have given thousands of small business owners peace of mind knowing they can keep their doors open, create jobs, and support their local communities.

“On the campaign trail, Governor Youngkin promised to support small businesses by affirming his support of skill games. We celebrate Governor Youngkin’s commitment to carving a path forward for skill games in the coming weeks alongside the bipartisan group of legislators who have championed this issue on behalf of small businesses in Virginia.”


Photo by Maxx-Studio via Shutterstock

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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