Virginia Skill Gaming May Not Return Soon to Small Businesses

Posted on: February 6, 2024, 02:34h. 

Last updated on: February 7, 2024, 09:30h.

Virginia skill gaming machines have been powered down in small businesses across the Commonwealth. That’s since the state’s Supreme Court in October overturned a circuit court judge’s decision to issue an injunction that had allowed the Queen of Virginia and other branded terminals to continue operating.

Virginia skill gaming machines slots
A political ad opposes Virginia skill gaming machines in small businesses. Though many state lawmakers believe skill games should be allowed to help restaurants and convenience stores, politics might get in the way of their legal return. (Image: Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines)

Virginia lawmakers are scrambling to return the machines to small businesses. But how the state should go about regulating and taxing the machines, as well as providing consumer protections, has presumably extended the timeline for the games to be powered back on. Del. Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax) chairs a special subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ powerful General Laws Committee. He says the current skill gaming bills are inadequate.

Senate Bill 212 and House Bill 590 are similar pieces of legislation that seek to allow restaurants, bars, and convenience stores holding state liquor licenses to house up to five skill gaming machines. Truck stops would be permitted up to 10 machines.

Krizek says the bills don’t do enough to benefit the state or to protect consumers.

Amended Bill

In his subcommittee’s review of HB590, authored by Del. Cliff Hayes (D-Chesapeake), Krizek said the statute needs more stringent rules, such as assuring underage people cannot access the games and that the games are regularly tested for fair play. He also wants more cash for the state.

Your bill doesn’t have these safeguards,” Krizek told Hayes during Friday’s review of the bill. “What we’ve really been trying to do with our gaming is to be very particular, making sure we are really benefiting the commonwealth.”

Krizek and his subcommittee introduced a replacement measure of HB590 and voted it 5-0 to the General Laws Committee. It will likely face much opposition from skill gaming proponents who don’t want to overly regulate and tax host establishments.

Krizek’s subcommittee rewrite increases the small business’ expense from a $250 initial registration to $3,000 per year per machine. The Senate bill proposes a $100 toll per machine yearly fee to be paid by the host business.

Since Krizek’s subcommittee is where a Senate skill gaming bill would land in the House for initial consideration, the odds of mutual ground being found at this juncture are presumably long.

Political Campaign

Along with politics perhaps getting in the way of Virginia skill gaming machines returning, a well-funded political campaign recently deployed television ads across the commonwealth opposing the controversial terminals.

A newly formed political action committee, “Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines,” has inundated commercial breaks. Its 30-second ads encourage Virginians to voice their skill game hostility to their state lawmakers.

“Convenience store slots — the so-called gray machines — bring crime and violence to vulnerable Virginia communities,” one commercial tells viewers. “Enough is enough. Tell your lawmakers to vote no on predatory convenience store slot machines.”

The state’s current legal casino interests are helping fund the PAC. Rivers Casino Portsmouth, Caesars Virginia in Danville, HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk, and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol are listed as campaign supporters. Churchill Downs, which owns and operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and is building The Rose in Dumfries, is also a backer. The American Gaming Association is additionally behind the campaign.