Supporters Rally To Urge Youngkin To Sign Skills Games Bill

Written By Phil West on March 29, 2024
Supporters rally to urge VA governor to sign skills game bill into law

The Virginia General Assembly delivered a skills game bill to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk at the start of the month. It remains unsigned.

Supporters rallied this week at Richmond’s Capitol Square to urge the governor to sign the bill into law, calling it a “lifeline” for small businesses in the commonwealth.

At the rally, they reminded the governor that he publicly supported regulated skills games while on the campaign trail in 2021.

Law would tax skills games machines at 25%

Virginia skills game machines have been a controversial issue for several years. Senate Bill 212, written with assistance from skills games developer Pace-O-Matic and backed by a coalition of business owners, seeks to resolve the last few years of legal limbo for the machines. They are currently illegal after the Virginia Supreme Court vacated an injunction blocking a ban first issued in 2020.

The bill includes a 25% tax on the machines’ gross receipts. It allows as many as four gambling machines in businesses licensed by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage and Control Authority and up to 10 machines in truck stops.

If passed, the law would go into effect July 1.

At the rally on March 26, Ankit Patel, who runs a convenience store in Winchester, told WRIC-TV that skills games are crucial to his business.

“It’s a lifeline. My family, my employees, my 10 employees have 10 families who run with my business. If I shut down my business, then they’re going to be out of their jobs.”

Spokesperson says governor has concerns about the legislation

A little more than two weeks ago, Youngkin’s office gave PlayVirginia a statement expressing some hesitancy about signing the bill into law.

Spokesperson Christian Martinez listed the governor’s concerns.

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

Youngkin came out in support of the measure in 2021 while on the campaign trail. Interviewed by WNIS-AM, the future Virginia governor acknowledged how crucial the games are to some small businesses.

“I’m supportive of the skills games. I just think all businesses should be allowed to do business. Skills games actually do enable so many small businesses to not only grow their business but also simply to survive.”

Recently, Martinez told the Virgina Mercury the governor must now address the actual bill that sits on his desk.

“The governor is closely reviewing the legislation and budget language sent to his desk, but still has numerous issues to work through including the regulatory structure, tax rates, the number of machines, impact on the Virginia Lottery and broader public safety implications. In 2021, when asked about this industry broadly, candidate Youngkin intimated interest in what expansion to these activities in convenience stores could potentially look like in Virginia, but now he has to look at the legislation presented to him.”

Bhavin Patel with the Virginia Amusement Coalition said the governor should adhere to what he said in 2021.

As the debate around the regulation of skills games unfolds, I hope that Gov. Youngkin stands by what he said on the campaign.”

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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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