Gov. Youngkin Expresses Fresh Concerns About VA Skill Games Bill

Written By Phil West on March 13, 2024
Photo of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for story on his expression of concerns over the VA skill games bill

A skill games bill passed 11 days ago by the Virginia General Assembly now awaits Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature. But his office has given the clearest indication yet that he’s hesitant to sign it and could even veto it.

Senate Bill 212, passed by the legislative body on March 1, would make the machines legal once again, theoretically resolving a dispute that’s spanned several years.

But in response to a PlayVirginia inquiry about the bill’s progress, a spokesperson for Youngkin issued a statement late Monday that read:

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

Youngkin has issues with other bills on his desk, too

The bill is one of a number passed by a Democrat-led General Assembly in this just-completed session that Youngkin might have issue with.

According to Axios Richmond, other bills that might be rejected via veto include two gun bills (a ban on assault-style weapons and a proposal requiring a five-day waiting period before gun purchases), a bill raising Virginia’s minimum wage to $13.50 per hour in 2025 en route to $15 per hour by 2026, and a bill legalizing the retail sale of marijuana starting in May 2025.

That article also mentions a bill of interest to gamblers where the outcome is even less clear — allowing Petersburg residents to vote on a referendum that would bring a casino to the city.

According to the article, Youngkin has “already vetoed eight bills, including one that would prevent the state from using marijuana alone as evidence of child neglect and another aimed at limiting a school board’s ability to ban books.”

An NBC Washington article notes that, in addition to a budget Youngkin has issue with, the General Assembly has passed and sent more than 1,000 pieces of legislation to his desk this session. As the article states:

“The governor can sign or veto bills, let them become law without his signature, or seek amendments.”

Skill games bill make machines legal again on July 1

If signed into law, the skill games bill would counter a ban on the machines first passed in the General Assembly in 2020. Gov. Ralph Northam invoked a one-year referendum at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing revenue from the machines to go to the state’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.

A judge blocked the injunction in December 2021, but the Virginia Supreme Court vacated the injunction last fall.

Should Youngkin sign the bill, the machines would become legal to operate again on July 1.

The bill was written with assistance from skill games developer Pace-O-Matic and is backed by a coalition of business owners. Rich Kelly, president of the Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition, pointed out in response to the bill’s passage that “thousands of small businesses throughout the commonwealth have come to rely on the supplemental, sustainable revenue provided by skill games.”

But Youngkin has expressed concerns in the past. According to a past statement made via another spokesperson, the governor questioned “the regulatory structure, tax rates, the number of machines, impact on the Virginia Lottery, and broader public safety implications.”

Photo by AP Photo/Sarah Rankin
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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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