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Virginia Could Postpone Electronic Skill Games Ban to Fund COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has proposed to postpone enforcing the ban on electronic skill games until next year. Earlier this year, state legislators approved by a wide margin HB 881, a piece of legislation that seeks to effectively outlaw the operation of such gaming machines across Virginia’s restaurants, convenience stores, and truck stops as of July 2020.

Only family entertainment centers were exempt from the ban but on condition they offered non-cash prizes, such as merchandise, billets, vouchers, or free electronic credits. The approved bill was rather similar to another piece of legislation, SB 971.

Governor’s Northam’s idea is to delay banning the machines for one year and tax them to fund the state’s COVID-19 relief efforts. According to the Governor, if left in operation and taxed, the electronic skill games could bring over $150 million to the state’s coffers in the form of taxes.

The extra funds can help the state in a variety of ways, including assisting struggling businesses to get back on their feet. A portion of the money could also go toward providing support to local nursing homes, people who currently struggle with unemployment, and the homeless.

Governor Northam Proposes a 35% Tax on Skill Games’ Revenue

The Governor’s office is looking to amend the bill outlawing the skill games, allowing them for one more year in certain places. Under the proposed changes, each location operating them would then have to contribute a tax that amounts to 35% of the revenues the machines have generated, minus the deducted cash payouts.

Governor Northam urged the legislators from the Old Dominion to consider his proposed amendments to the bill in a post on the social networking platform Twitter upon their return to Richmond later this month. The changes would help relieve the state’s residents and enable them to weather the current pandemic crisis, he stressed.

Virginia’s Governor had until Saturday night to amend, reject or approve legislation passed by the state’s General Assembly earlier in the year. Bills amended or vetoed by Northam are returned to the Virginia legislature for further consideration when the Assembly reconvenes on April 22.

Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer commented on the proposed amendments during a media briefing this past Sunday. Mr. Mercer stressed that banning the electronic skill games during this crisis would further hurt certain retail businesses that are already struggling financially because of the COVID-19 measures.

If adopted, the proposed changes would alleviate financially thousands of retail businesses that were forced to cease or curtail their operations to prevent the further spread of the virus. With that said, Governor’s Northam proposed changes would also cause a delay in the potential arrival of a new Hard Rock Casino to the city of Bristol.

The introduction of the casino was approved by the General Assembly in March but the lawmakers will now have to vote again because of the suggested amendments. However, Senator Todd Pillion who sponsored the casino bill spoke in favor of Northam’s proposed amendments.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

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