Virginia Special Session On May 13 Could Decide Fate Of Skill Games

The future of skill games in the state of Virginia will be decided as part of a special legislative session.

In April, the House of Delegates rejected all of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed amendments to the state budget. Included in that were sweeping changes to a bill that would lift the state ban on skill games.

Now, a May 13 special session will be held where Youngkin and state lawmakers will attempt to rework the budget before a potential July 1 government shutdown.

The skill games issue has been a hot topic, with business owners adamant in their stance that the ban be lifted.

They’ve gone as far as to boycott the sale of lottery draw games and instant win games for periods of time as a message to Youngkin.

Virginia budget needs to be set by June 30

The current Virginia budget is set to expire on July 1, leaving legislators until June 30 to come to an agreement.

With a Democratic-led House and a Republican governor, there have been a number of disagreements on setting the future budget.

Virginia runs on two-year budget cycles. The next state budget will be utilized over two fiscal years, spanning from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2026.

During the legislative session to open the year, Democrats passed their own budget, but Youngkin sent it back with over 233 amendments, a record number for a Virginia governor.

Last month, all 100 members of the House voted to rule those amendments “specific and severable.” That established the special session where they will have to find a compromise with Youngkin on the budget and the bills that will be included.

Youngkin, lawmakers far apart on skill games ban

One of the bills that will draw a lot of attention in the special session is SB212, which would lift the ban on skill games.

The Virginia Senate passed a bill to Youngkin in March on the matter, but the governor made drastic changes to the bill in April. The Senate voted 34-6 to not accept the new changes.

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

Business owners boycott Virginia Lottery sales in retaliation

The amendments Youngkin made to SB212 were also not well received by Virginia business owners.

They felt the amended bill would prevent most of them from being able to utilize skill games to add to their revenue.

As a sign of their displeasure, hundreds of Virginia Lottery retailers stopped the sale of tickets on Monday, April 15.

They then went on to stop sales again for an hour the following day before protesting at the Governor’s Mansion on April 17.

Bhavin Patel, President of the Virginia Amusement Coalition, told PlayiLottery in April that the business owners are prepared for further actions if the skill games bill isn’t altered to their benefit:

“As retailers, we bring in a lot of revenue to the Commonwealth, tax money revenue. There’s sales tax, cigarette tax, gasoline tax, taxes from lottery sales. On a day-to-day basis, we are representatives of the state when it comes to tax collection. We wanted to show what can happen when we break that routine. If the lottery is shutdown for a day, what does that look like for the state? If we don’t exist to sell lottery tickets, that’s a lot of revenue for the state that isn’t collected.”

The threat of impacting retail lottery sales is something the Virginia Lottery is monitoring. It told PlayiLottery that it will be focusing on the upcoming special session in hopes of a resolution for all parties involved:

“Like everyone else, we will be watching the May 13 special session of the General Assembly, and we will do whatever we are tasked to do.”

Customers were still able to use the Virginia online lottery for tickets during the retailer’s protest.

Youngkin expresses willingness for compromise

After the Senate rejected Youngkin’s amendments to the skill games bill, the governor spoke to The Daily Progress. He expressed a willingness to work with legislators to find a compromise on the key issues:

“But I also want to be clear that I am open to discussing particularly the issues with … the perimeter policies, and I think we can address that. I think first of all the perimeter, that 2,500-foot perimeter around schools and churches particularly, was something that a bipartisan group of legislators discussed. I think the unintended consequences of that are real and we can address that.

“And then the 35-mile perimeter is something that has been in previous gambling legislation, particularly casino bills.” Youngkin continued, “And we had a lot of discussions around that. And as I said, I can work with legislators to address both of those.”

The May 13 special session is expected to lead to voting on a new budget for May 15.

 

Photo by Virrage Images 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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