Virginia Skill Gaming Bill Headed for Veto After Senate Rejects Younkin’s Changes

Posted on: April 18, 2024, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: April 18, 2024, 09:52h.

The Virginia skill gaming bill passed by the General Assembly only to be returned by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) with a myriad of changes was quickly rejected by the state Senate on Wednesday.

Virginia skill gaming bill veto Youngkin
Virginia skill gaming machines are seen inside a Norfolk restaurant. Skill games are likely to remain illegal after the state Senate rejected Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s changes to the legislature’s skill gaming bill. (Image: CBS3)

Senators wasted little time in voting 34-6 against the governor’s sweeping changes. Youngkin overhauled the legislature’s skill gaming measure, most consequentially with far-reaching limitations as to where the controversial slot-like gaming machines could operate.

The Senate’s vote immediately sent the statute back to Youngkin who is expected to veto the bill.

I recognize that this bill faces an uncertain future if it goes back to the governor’s desk, but I stand with small businesses in every corner of our commonwealth urging the governor to do right by small businesses and sign this bill,” Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach), the statute’s primary sponsor, told the Virginia Mercury.

Youngkin included a 35-mile buffer zone surrounding casinos and pari-mutuel wagering venues and a 2,500-foot exclusion from all schools, daycares, and places of worship. Youngkin also wanted a higher state tax on gross skill gaming proceeds — 35% compared with the 25% the legislature proposed.

Skill Gaming on Hold

Youngkin said he had many issues with the assembly’s skill gaming bill.

The governor believes the measure didn’t do enough to protect public safety. He explained that the 35-mile condition for casinos and pari-mutuel facilities like Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums was a carryover regulation from the state’s 2020 commercial gaming bill.

Skill gaming supporters, the numerous lawmakers who backed the original bill and the hundreds of small business owners who housed the machines in their convenience stores, restaurants and bars, and gas stations, said Youngkin’s amendments essentially represented a skill gaming ban. State Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), an attorney who represented a truck stop company in its legal fight to retain skill games, published a map showing how the prohibited zones would render nearly all of the commonwealth immune from skill games.

Youngkin additionally proposed allowing local municipalities to exclude skill games, something the assembly’s original bill didn’t include. A veto by the governor would keep the games illegal unless lawmakers opt to include a skill gaming provision into the budget bill they’ll finalize later this spring. Of course, Younkin could strip the gaming component before signing the biennial spending plan. 

Petersburg Casino Bill Signed

In other gaming news, Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday approved Youngkin’s lone amendment to a bill seeking to allow Petersburg to consider a commercial casino resort. The General Assembly signed off on removing the reenactment clause, a vote that formally designates Petersburg as an eligible casino host city under the state’s 2020 gaming law.

This opportunity has the potential to be a game changer for our city,” said Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham.

The 2020 casino bill allowed local government officials in Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol to field casino proposals and present one to voters through a local referendum. Voters in all but Richmond subsequently approved their city’s casino projects through local ballot votes.

After Richmonders twice voted against a casino, lawmakers relocated the casino license about 25 miles south to Petersburg. The Petersburg City Council’s request for proposal for casino projects fielded responses from The Cordish Companies, Penn Entertainment, Rush Street Gaming, The Warrenton Group, and Bally’s.