Deadline Approaches For Youngkin To Act On Skills Game Legislation

Written By Phil West on April 8, 2024
Neon skills games screens signifies deadline for Gov. Youngkin to act on skills game bill

It’s been more than a month since the Virginia General Assembly sent a skills game bill to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, the legislation would make the gambling machines legal in the commonwealth, ending several years of legal limbo.

With the deadline fast approaching, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has yet to approve the measure. Through a spokesperson, Youngkin has voiced concerns with the legislation and indicated he might veto it. He must sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature by April 8.

One political observer in Virginia sees the decision as a particularly telling one for the governor’s legacy.

Will Youngkin ‘go rogue’ on skills games?

Last week, proponents of legalizing skills game machines rallied at Richmond’s Capitol Square in an effort to spur the governor to act on the legislation. They say the slots-like machines, which resemble those in Virginia casinos, are a vital revenue source for small businesses in the Commonwealth. Opponents argue the machines bring violent crimes to businesses that house them.

In a story from 8News (WRIC-TV), the station’s political analyst, Rich Meagher, said the governor’s action on the bill will be telling.

“I think this skill games bill is probably, even more than all the other Democratic priorities, is the one that can tell us the most about how Glenn Youngkin is thinking about his role as governor right now.”

Speaking specifically to Youngkin’s hesitation to sign it, given the broad bipartisan support the bill generated, the story noted “a veto could give us a peek inside Youngkin’s mindset for his final 21 months as governor.”

Meagher said the issue is a double-edged sword for the governor.

“Whatever the reasons are, it suggests he is willing to go out on his own, go rogue in a certain way, take things into his own hands, chart his own course. That, I think, would be a very risky move for him, but one I think suggests he is going to go his own way.”

Governor must also deal with the state budget

Skills game legalization is not the only contentious issue Youngkin has to deal with this session.

There’s still the matter of the state budget. A Virginian-Pilot article suggests that he “might be about to scrap the entire budget proposal from the Democratic-held Legislature” if he can’t make the fixes he wants via the limited line-item veto powers he has.

The 8News story indicates the General Assembly might reconvene on April 17 to consider any changes Youngkin makes to the budget.

Spokesperson says Youngkin has several issues with the bill

Youngkin spokesperson Rob Damschen told PlayVirginia a few weeks ago that Youngkin had several concerns about the skills game bill.

“The governor is reviewing the legislation related to skill games and remains concerned regarding the administration, proliferation, and children’s access to skill games.”

Damschen did not respond to a follow-up request about the status of the bill.

The machines would become legal on July 1 if Youngkin approves the legislation.

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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