Virginia Business Owners Sue to Keep Skill Games
Several business owners in the state of Virginia are suing to keep skill games in operation past a banned date of July 1.
On July 1, skill games in the state of Virginia will be banned. Business owners who offer these games hope that the ban date will not come into play. Six owners of businesses in the state that offer skill machines are suing the commonwealth, with a lawsuit filed in the Norfolk Circuit Court. Attorneys say that the games that are offered in restaurants, convenience stores, and bars are needed for the businesses to stay afloat.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs call the ban of the skill games discriminatory. They say that similar games like the historic horse racing machines will remain legal, even though their games play in a like fashion. The plaintiffs are seeking a stay on the effective date of the skill game ban.
They want the games to continue operating while Attorney General Mark Herring investigates if the decision is a violation of the state’s Human Rights Act. Supporters of the games feel that this is their last shot to try and be able to continue offering the games.
The skill games function like a slot machine. However, after the first spin, the player can adjust the symbols to create a winning pattern in order to win more cash. This is how the games differ. Business owners receive a portion of the money generated from the machines. The games actually keep customers in the locations longer and more money is spent on additional products.
Lawmakers Are Opposed
Within the past two years, several lawmakers in the state have come forward in opposition to the skill games. These individuals are critical as to how the games entered the state, without permission, and have affected lottery ticket sales.
The General Assembly voted on the ban in 2020 but the pandemic saw Governor Ralph Northam propose taxes and regulation of the games for one year to help with revenue needs. The money was used to create a COVID fund and the businesses were able to stay afloat due to money from the games.
The largest gaming provider in the state, Queen of Virginia Skill, said they provided $74 million to the COVID-19 relief fund in 2020 alone. Mike Joynes, an attorney representing the business owners, says that banning the games now is not sensible.
It was skill games that kept businesses afloat during the pandemic and these businesses are just now getting back on their feet. As soon as they do, the attorney says the governor just wants to take away the games that provided help in the first place.
According to Joynes, a large portion of the business owners that offer skill games fall into the religious or ethnic minorities. He says that the majority of casino companies coming to the state or those that are already operational are not owned by minorities and the ban on the skill games is a violation of the Human Rights Act in the state.
Casinos still have their games and so do the horse racing companies. The plaintiffs believe they are being treated unfairly and want to be given the ability to continue offering their games as well.
After a letter was issued to the office of the state’s Attorney General, officials have 180 days to provide an opinion on the matter. Joynes is hopeful that a judge will allow the games to continue while the issue is under review.
Queen of Virginia has already created a campaign to stay goodbye to the state. If the company is unable to offer services, residents will lose out on tens of millions in assistance.