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New Bill Seeks to Authorize, Regulate and Tax Skill Games in Virginia but Bristol Casino Owners Say “No”

The owners of the Bristol Casino once again shared they have been against a new piece of legislation aiming at the legalization of so-called skill games that currently remain unregulated in the state of Virginia.

House Bill 2295 has been introduced by House Majority Leader Del. Terry Kilgore who is trying to see skill games finally authorized in the state in order to Virginia to receive tax revenues. Originally, the General Assembly suspended the games.

The aforementioned piece of legislation is trying to make so-called “grey machines” legal and have them regulated under the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority by extending the prior regulatory system of a flat monthly tax available in the state until July 1st, 2024, at the earliest. The proposed bill also seeks to see the Virginia ABC adopt what has been described as emergency regulations in order to implement the provisions of the newly unveiled piece of legislation.

Under the bill, a joint committee of 10 members from the House Committee on General Laws and the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology to study the future electronic gaming regulation across the Commonwealth is to be formed.

So far, the draft piece of legislation has not been referred to a committee.

Skill Machines Were Suspended by General Assembly in 2020

As CasinoGamesPro already reported, back in 2020, the General Assembly voted to suspend the so-called skill machines and postponed the process for one year because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, it ordered Virginia ABC to collect a $2,500 monthly tax per machine, which eventually generated tax revenues of over $100 million.

For the time being, the machines remain operational in the state of Virginia because of an injunction in a legal action filed by Hermie Sadler, a former NASCAR driver, who operates some of the electronic gaming terminals in local restaurants, convenience stores and truck stops. Mr. Sadler claims that the skill machines generate revenue for his businesses and he would like to keep them operational. Still, he welcomed the proposed state oversight.

However, the owners of the Bristol Casino opposed the attempt to legalize what they described as “grey machines” after the state’s General Assembly has repeatedly banned the machines’ operation in the Commonwealth in an effort to tackle problem gambling. The Bristol Casino owners believe that the Commonwealth should become more focused on backing the development projects that were having a positive impact on financially deprived areas by creating more jobs or fresh tax revenue.

In 2020, the state of Virginia allowed five cities to host referendums regarding the addition of casino gambling, with four of the locations having already overwhelmingly approved the proposed expansion. The temporary casino in Bristol started operation in July 2022, while the Hard Rock permanent facility is expected to open doors towards the middle of 2024. Casinos in Norfolk and Danville are also expected to start operation in 2024, while Rivers Casino Portsmouth is set to open by the end of January 2023.

Skill games, however, remain widely criticized. Reportedly, state officials are unable to confirm the exact number of skill games and other electronic gaming machines in Virginia, and the worst part of that is that all of these games remained unregulated and untaxed. The aforementioned bill is seeking to change that and make skill games operational only in businesses that hold a license issued by Virginia ABC.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

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