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Youngkin Settles Virginia Skill Games Debate For 2024 With Veto

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed a bill that could have regulated skill games in the state, pushing the issue to 2025.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Photo by Steve Helber/AP photo
Derek Helling Avatar
3 mins read

Brick-and-mortar casino operators in Virginia can tangentially claim a legal victory, albeit a potentially short-lived one. The debate on whether Virginia will repeal and replace its existing law banning such games is over for 2024.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed a bill that could have carved out some space for skill games in the commonwealth’s legal gambling industry. With proponents likely to mount a similar effort in 2025, the question of enforcement is now one that many parties in Virginia will have to answer.

Youngkin ends conversation on skill games in 2024

A news release from Youngkin’s office laid it all out in black and white for everyone interested; SB 212 is officially dead. That bill represented a potential reversal of Virginia law on the issue of the legality of “skill games.”

Skill games is gambling industry jargon for gaming terminals that are commonly found in smaller businesses like bars and convenience stores along with fraternal organizations. The games existed in a legal grey area in the commonwealth until 2020, when then-Gov. Ralph Northam approved a law to mostly ban such gaming.

That law did not take immediate effect, however. Virginia’s government gave entities currently offering them to patrons a grace period through 2021. Additionally, a lawsuit challenging the ban put the statute into question until October 2023.

At that point, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ban. That ruling prompted SB 212, which received necessary approval from both chambers of the Virginia Assembly. At that point, Youngkin employed a unique privilege as Virginia governor.

In Virginia, governors have a third option as far as how to respond to legislation they receive from the Assembly. In addition to approving the bills with a signature or outright vetoing them, they can amend the bills and return them to the Assembly.

Youngkin opted for that course of action, tightening some of the policies that SB 212 proposed. While the Virginia House of Delegates accepted his amendments, the Virginia Senate rejected them. With that move, Youngkin’s options dwindled to two; sign or veto.

Had Youngkin simply vetoed the bill upon his first receipt, the Assembly would have had a chance to override his veto then. Given the path that Youngkin and the Assembly took, though, Youngkin’s veto marks the final word on SB 212 for 2024.

That effectively means the status quo as of the 2023 Virginia Supreme Court ruling stays in place. Now, the ball is in the court of law enforcement in Virginia.

Why enforcement of the 2020 ban might not be immediately forthcoming

Youngkin’s amendments to SB 212 show that he is amenable to some form of legal skill games in Virginia. The majority of the members of the Assembly are as well. That creates a chance for some kind of change in 2025 or beyond.

Virginia legislators might pounce on that chance in 2025, attempting to frame a bill more to Youngkin’s liking. Should they succeed, the current law on the books on this issue would become obsolete.

Given that possibility, it’s also possible that law enforcement bodies in Virginia may not be overly eager to start enforcing the 2020 ban. In the time it might take to prosecute parties on violations of the current law, that statute might be amended or repealed.

However, Virginians that currently offer skill games should not count on that leniency right now. Technically, making such games available in Virginia could be illegal at this time. The best course of action is likely to consult legal counsel before continuing to offer such games.

While the future is still uncertain, the present is less so. If this debate is to continue in Richmond, it won’t have any substance to it until 2025 at the earliest.

Derek Helling Avatar
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Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

View all posts by Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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