Machines to remain illegal

Virginia Governor vetoes legislation to regulate skill games, garners applaud from AGA

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin
Reading time 1:30 min

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has vetoed 48 bills passed by the Democratic-led General Assembly, including legislation aimed at taxing and regulating so-called "skill games" in the state. This decision deals a major blow to gambling interests and business owners who had pushed for the reinstatement of these machines in various establishments, such as convenience stores, truck stops and restaurants.

The vetoed bill was part of a concerted effort to officially regulate skill games, which have evaded taxation and oversight for the most part, leading to legal battles and suspensions over the past years. Skill game supporters hope a new bill could emerge from the remains of the failed one, although it’s unclear how that might happen, reports Virginia Mercury.

While a ban on the machines took effect in 2021, it was suspended for nearly two years as skill game backers fought the decision in court. The Supreme Court of Virginia reinstated the ban last fall, leading to a push by the skill game lobby to change the law and get rid of the prohibition.

The bill's failure might mean that the machines remain prohibited for at least another year unless General Assembly leaders decide to call lawmakers for a summertime session. However, a call of that nature on a gambling issue would be an unusual scenario.

The governor had suggested implementing a higher tax rate, more stringent regulations, and broad geographic restrictions on skill games to prevent these machines from diverting revenue away from Virginia's casinos and Rosie’s gambling facilities associated with horse racing.

The decision has garnered praise from the American Gaming Association (AGA), with President and CEO Bill Miller issuing a statement in support of the veto.

"We applaud Governor Youngkin’s veto of SB 212, which will protect communities from illegal gambling machines and uphold not only the original ban passed by the General Assembly in 2020 but subsequent judicial determinations in Virginia’s courts," stated Miller.

"We will continue to work with law enforcement, faith-based, and civic stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth to protect the critical role communities play in determining whether 'skill games' are permitted in their respective jurisdictions, which recent polling clearly indicates is a top concern for Virginia voters who overwhelmingly oppose the reintroduction of these machines," Miller added.

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