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Skill Machines Remain a Highly-Controversial Issue in Virginia Amid Platania Lawsuit

Reportedly, a recently proposed piece of legislation could make a case regarding skill-based machines subject to further discussions.

In December 2019, manufacturers of skill machines in Virginia filed a lawsuit against Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania. Now, they are asking for the legal action to be remanded to the circuit court, updating their complaint by removing federal issues from the lawsuit. Now, the amended complaint is mainly based on arguments from the code and the state constitution of Virginia.

At first, the machines’ manufacturers accused the Commonwealth Attorney of violating their constitutional rights by determining that the skill-based terminals breach Virginia’s gambling legislation. Three companies – POM of Virginia, Queen of Virginia and Miele Manufacturing – took Platania to the Charlottesville Circuit Court in June 2019. Later, the case was redirected to the Western District of Virginia US District Court that has the power to rule on civil actions filed under the Constitution.

Under the latest changes they made to the case, the plaintiffs now claim that the Commonwealth Attorney violated only the constitution of Virginia when he put under question the legality of the skill machines. The motion was not opposed by counsel for Platania, but a dismissal motion was filed under the argument that the Commonwealth Attorney possesses prosecutorial immunity.

Two Bills Aim at Including Skill-Based Machines in Legal Definicians for Legal and Illegal Gambling

Since the lawsuit was redirected, no hearings on the case were held. However, the General Assembly has taken several pieces of legislation into consideration, and that could render the lawsuit discussions.

Skill machines have been available in the state of Virginia for about three years. The city of Charlottesville was the first one to officially question them. Ever since the gambling terminals have been offered in Virginia, they have remained very popular, even though their official legality has not been settled.

What makes skill machines so controversial, has been the fact that they have very much in common with standard slot machines, which are not legal on the territory of Virginia. The skill-based terminals’ manufacturers, however, have been claiming the machines are absolutely legal because unlike slots, they are not fully-based on chance. According to manufacturers, it is exactly the element of skill that allows their machines to fit within the provisions of the state’s gambling legislation.

A couple of bills, called HB881 and SB908, respectively, seek to make skill-based machines part of the legal definitions of both legal and illegal gambling. The two bills read that skill machines should be regarded as gambling devices in case they indicate the definite result of at least one operation, but not all the operations. They may also deliver a prize of value as a basis other than chance.

Both of the above-mentioned bills have been redirected to a subcommittee. There would be discussions on the proposed pieces of legislation that are expected to be held in the weeks to come.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

Hannah Wallace has been part of our team since the website was launched. She has a master’s degree in IT.