Virginia Senate Rejects Amended Skill Games Bill, Sends Original To Governor

The Virginia Senate overwhelmingly rejected changes made by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to their bill that would lift the ban on skill games in the state.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 34-6 to decline Youngkin’s drastic changes to SB212.

The move has the support of local business owners. They felt Youngkin’s amendments were too extreme and excluded most of them from being able to utilize skill games.

As a result, those business owners protested this week by choosing not to sell retail lottery tickets at their stores. Residents were still able to purchase Virginia online lottery tickets.

This latest move by the Senate now sends the bill back to the governor’s desk as it was given to him back in March.

How Youngkin altered the Senate skill games bill

Skill games have been a hot debate in Virginia for some time.

During the pandemic, business owners credited the games for helping them stay afloat.

However, Virginia passed a law in 2020 to ban the games, with the law going into effect in 2021. After years of legal battles, the skill games weren’t actually banned until October 2023.

Senate legislators began working on a bill to lift the ban in January. SB212 was sent to the governor on March 11 after being passed by both the Senate and the House.

Youngkin waited until April 8, just hours before his deadline to act hit, to unveil multiple changes to the Senate’s bill.

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
Tax25%35%
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

Senate strongly declines the amendments

On Wednesday, the Senate had bipartisan support to reject Youngkin’s changes to the bill.

That will send their originally passed bill back to the governor.

However, Youngkin will now have the option to veto the legislation entirely, leaving the skill games ban in place.

While rejecting the amended bill, legislators indicated Wednesday that a special session would be occurring in the future to deal with the state budget. That would keep the door open to readdress the skill games issue should Youngkin veto the bill.

Virginia business owners protest Youngkin’s changes

Virginia business owners have been very vocal about wanting the skill games ban lifted.

However, the amendments that Youngkin made are considered more harmful than helpful to the majority of them.

In a unified effort, store owners representing the Virginia Amusement Coalition and Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition protested the amended bill this week.

The businesses elected to shut down their lottery sales on Monday. Sales were also stopped from 3:50-4:50 p.m. on Tuesday. The timeline was in response to the 35% tax proposal that the business owners say can be increased to 45%.

According to VAC President Bhavin Patel, the amended bill would have prevented 90-95% of small business owners from being able to utilize skill games.

On Wednesday, the store owners held a rally at the Governor’s Mansion and General Assembly building to voice their displeasure with the amended bill.

 

Photo by Steve Helber / 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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