Skills Games Legalization Question Won’t Be Resolved In State Budget

Written By Phil West on May 14, 2024
Skill game machines blurred out, signifying the likely failure of skills game legislation in the Virginia legislature

Virginia state legislators and Gov. Glenn Youngkin finalized a state budget on Monday afternoon, with the General Assembly overwhelmingly voting for provisions the two sides hashed out on Saturday. While that’s good news for a number of people with a vested interest in the negotiations, it doesn’t bode well for those wanting skills games to be legalized.

The Virginia Mercury, reporting on the bill negotiations on Monday morning, noted that the budget lawmakers agreed on doesn’t factor in skills games revenue. That report stated,

“The budget scraps nearly $94 million in skill game revenue anticipated for fiscal year 2025, an indication the machines are unlikely to be reactivated by July 1 as the business owners wanted.”

Skills Games On Life Support In Virginia Legislature

Without legal online casinos in Virginia, skills games have become a contentious form of gambling in the Commonwealth.

The governor can now either sign or veto the skills games bill the General Assembly delivered to him in March. Initially, Youngkin sat on the bill for more than a month; then he returned it with considerable amendments that the General Assembly immediately rejected. Those included prohibiting skills games from being located within 35 miles of a casino or a racetrack, as well as restrictions on how close they can be to schools, day cares, and places of worship.

There’s some slim hope for supporters: According to the Mercury, “The new budget retains several provisions anticipating regulatory costs for legalized skill games, a sign there’s still a chance for the machines to be legalized later.”

Some proponents want to make that sooner rather than later. Sen. Aaron Rouse, a sponsor of the skills games bill who has butted heads with Youngkin on his changes, told WVTF-FM,

“We are definitely in support of getting something done for skill games. And whether that means coming back in a couple of weeks or in a month, we are definitely going to continue to work on this issue.”

But in that same story, a fellow Democrat, Delegate Paul Krizek, remarked,

“I don’t really feel like one bill of that nature that’s not an emergency really rises to something that requires a special session. They can come back next year and do it.”

Convenience Store Protests Over Skills Games Continue

A number of convenience store owners and other business owners who participated in earlier protests to signal their discontent with Youngkin launched another protest Thursday night, halting the sale of lottery tickets. According to WRIC-TV’s coverage, participants hope the protest will prompt lawmakers to let them start up their machines again.

Munir Rassiwala, a convenience store owner contacted by the station, said regarding the protest,

“It’s a lot of money just sitting there, not being able to make any kind of return on investment or anything. I mean, it’s sad, but this is what we have been used to for the last six months.”

It’s not yet clear how Youngkin will proceed, though it seems that lawmakers will have to make another attempt during a future session to satisfy all stakeholders.

Photo by Shutterstock
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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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