Virginia Animal Rescue Billy The Kidden Suing After Poker Law Disrupts Charity Funds

Written By Brant James on July 5, 2022 - Last Updated on July 10, 2022
Poker Ban And Kitten Funds Are Being Fought From Virginia Animal Rescue

The kitty just dried up for a Virginia animal rescue. But Billy the Kidden has vowed not to pause its fight for charitable poker and the funding it generates.

An appeal to the state Supreme Court is apparently the next step in this bizarre yarn about charity, underground poker rooms, and a level of apparent self-dealing that led the Virginia Legislature to fold on a plan to legalize charitable poker games in 2020.

Billy the Kidden, which describes itself as “the largest rescue of its kind on the East Coast,” filed suit against the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last week after the Circuit Court of the City of Virginia Beach refused to block the implementation of a law shutting down the charitable poker and bingo industries in the state.

In the US gambling industry, these both vary state to state as far as legality.

Funding for charities impacted when Legislature shut down poker rooms

According to Billy the Kidden, its cat-focused rescue derives as much as $500 per week from these games, which were effectively outlawed this year.

In making her ruling, Judge Anne Bonwill Shockley noted,

“Very strange and very contradictory things sometimes coming out of Richmond,” according to the Virginia Mercury.

However, said she didn’t believe the BTK case could win on its merits. Unlicensed poker rooms are subject to fines between $25-50,000 per offense under the new law.

Virginia legislators initially legalized charitable poker in 2020 but after a raft of allegations and apparent irregularities, including the chairman of the state Charitable Gaming Board opening an unlicensed poker room and for-profit gambling management company. The state shut the whole thing down in 2021.

Virginia is for lovers… of all types of gambling

With Virginia casino gambling coming soon, VA mobile sports betting already legalized, pari-mutuel wagering, and a lottery, Virginia are suddenly awash in gambling. It had none until charitable gambling – first through bingo – was legalized in 1973.

According to Virginia Mercury, the state devised state-sanctioned poker as a way to sustain charitable gambling with the advent of sports betting, racinos and casinos.

That charitable gaming has become such a convoluted and controversial part of its gambling situation now is just another weird facet of a weird story.

One that won’t end any time soon, according to a statement from Billy the Kidden’s leader.

“I am disappointed with the Court’s ruling today, but our fight is not over and we will be taking this to the Supreme Court,” Emilie Jackson, president & CFO of Billy the Kidden said in a press release.

“Many have been telling me it’s a ‘David and Goliath’ fight, to which I simply say ‘let’s not forget how that turned out.’ It is un-American and unacceptable to punish and target charities simply to increase the bottom line for the Big Casino and Gaming industry.”

Photo by Shutterstock / Brant James
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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY,,

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