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Virginia Legislature Returns April 17 To Consider Amendments To Skill Games Bill

Written By Katarina Vojvodic | Updated:
Virginia General Assembly At The Capitol

Hundreds of convenience stores in Virginia have started a two-day protest against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s skill games amendments, which were sent last week, according to news reports.

Youngkin is defending his decision to make major changes to the bill (SB 212) to legalize skill games in convenience stores, restaurants and truck stops.

The bill lifts a ban on skill game machines that Virginia lawmakers implemented in 2021. The ban stems from the skills games’ resemblance to slot machines and whether the games require “skill.”

Sen. Aaron Rouse sponsored the bill, which passed the House and Senate. The skill games debate will continue on April 17, when the General Assembly meets for the veto session.

Virginia convenience stores start two days of protests, April 15 – 16

The Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition (VA MAC) has started participating in a two-day strike, hoping to urge Youngkin and the General Assembly members to reverse the amendments to Virginia’s SB2121.

According to a Virginia Mercury story2, nearly 500 businesses stopped issuing Virginia Lottery tickets on April 15. They were hoping to demonstrate the economic impact the closure of these stores could have on the lottery and the tax revenue they generate.

As for April 16, participating stores announced closure from 3:50 to 4:50 p.m. The hour-long closure aims to show customers, communities, and localities the harmful impact Youngkin’s amendments could have.

As Youngkin’s spokesman Christian Martinez previously announced, the changes address the governor’s “serious concerns” about the regulatory structure, tax rates, and the number of machines.

According to Youngkin’s adjustments, skill games cannot legally operate within a 35-mile boundary around existing gaming facilities — casinos, horse-racing tracks or off-site betting facilities. The changes also include prohibiting skill games within 2,500 feet of a school or place of worship.

Youngkin’s proposed changes also include raising the small business tax rate to 35%, up from the previous 25%. The tax proceeds will go toward the PreK-12 Priority Fund.

Such measures could close thousands of convenience stores across the state.

Virginia General Assembly meets April 17 to consider skill games amendments

Virginia lawmakers will meet again in Richmond this week to consider Youngkin’s amendments. The General Assembly could also attempt to override the governor’s vetoes, but the measure would have to pass by a two-thirds majority.

If both legislative chambers agree to Youngkin’s entire set of amendments, the bill, as amended, would become law. If lawmakers only accept certain amendments, the bill would return to Youngkin, who could either sign or veto it.

Following Youngkin’s amendments, Rouse said he would work with his co-sponsors3 to ensure the “harmful provisions” put into place by Youngkin do not advance.

The Virginia General Assembly voted to ban the machines in 2020, primarily because it was concerned skill games might take a share of the lottery’s revenues. The legislatures were also frustrated over skill game companies operating untaxed machines, as gambling laws didn’t apply since skill games are technically not the same as slot machines.

If skill games become legal in Virginia, the General Assembly and Youngkin will appoint the Virginia Lottery as the permanent state regulator. In the meantime, the General Assembly’s skill game bill identifies the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage and Control Authority to oversee the machines temporarily — that is, until the Virginia Lottery prepares a final regulatory structure.

Sources

  1. Virginia’s SB212 ↩︎
  2. Convenience stores shut down Virginia Lottery sales in protest for skill games ↩︎
  3. In rewrite of skill game bill, Youngkin proposes tougher rules on industry ↩︎
Photo by AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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