Did Virginia Mistakenly Approve Skill Gaming Titles?
A recent vote among Virginia Legislature has many turning their heads with the possibility that skill game machines were legalized for another year instead of being banned.
When it comes to lawmakers and the legislative process, a great deal of deliberation is used on any topic to ensure the right outcome is reached. However, in Virginia, it is believed that a recent vote on skill gaming legislation resulted in lawmakers deciding to allow the machines for an additional year instead of banning the games. Confusion abounds in the state today as lawmakers try to make sure the correct decisions were made.
Skill Machine Issue
In 2020, Governor Ralph Northan decided to take and regulate the skill game machines. These games were already set up in truck stops and convenience stores in the state. The games were able to operate due to a gray area in the law.
The idea of the governor was to allow the machines to be legalized for just one year. If they did so for the short time frame, it would help the state’s finances as businesses struggled due to COVID-19. The tax revenues generated from the industry could then be placed in a COVID-19 relief fund.
The new plan started in July 2020 and the machines were able to bring over $70 million in revenues to the fund. However, lawmakers now want the machines to stop operating. A bill was created to extend the machine licensing for one more year by proponents, but the measure was unable to move out of a committee hearing.
Because of this, the games were to continue functioning until July 1 of this year. Then, the machines had to be removed. However, now, it seems a bill had changed everything. A measure was created to make it easier for illegal gambling to be prosecuted in the state. At the same time, it extends the licensing of the machines for one more year. It seems lawmakers approved this measure without understanding the licensing change.
The new measure says that illegal gambling operators should be fined up to $25,000 for offering services. There are exemptions to the law. The measure says that a person or an organization that operates games such as instant bingo, duck races, and other options, including regulated gaming, on or before February 1, 2021, will be able to continue with such activities through June 2022.
The bill passed in February within both state chambers. Skill games were considered regulated gaming by the date set in the measure, so technically, it appears that the games can continue to function. Once this missed detail came out, it caused instant confusion in the state. Some are calling the effort a conspiracy against the state.
Delegate Don Scott is the main sponsor of the measure, who stated that it was not his intention to see skill gaming extended. However, he can see that the language used in the measure would be open to various interpretations.
He constructed the language of the measure with the charitable organizations in mind. He wanted to make sure that such organizations were not impacted by the measure in a negative way. As far as interpreting it with skill gaming considered legalized for a longer time period, Scott says that if people are interpreting it another way, then it’s on them.
While there may be an issue with the bill’s language, it still has not been signed by the governor. He will most likely veto the measure and the bill will be changed to ensure skill gaming machines cannot continue to offer services. The governor was the driving force behind the one year of services, so it doesn’t make sense that he would extend it further, as he expects the games to end this year.