Former NASCAR driver and Virginia small business owner Hermie Sadler says Virginia's ban on skill games is unconstitutional and he’s fighting it.
An attorney representing Sadler filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring in the Circuit Court of Greensville County seeking “declaratory relief” from the court. They want the court to rule that the banning of skill games in Virginia is unconstitutional as a matter of law and is therefore unenforceable.
A new law in Virginia, known as SB 971, in its current form is set to go into effect on July 1 which would ban skill games at any businesses other than family entertainment centers. The ban follows the state's recent decisions to legalize sports betting and give the green light to open five casinos in the Commonwealth as early as 2023.
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“Whether you are for or against the legalization of gambling in Virginia, both the legislature and executive branch have spoken, legalizing the multi-billion dollar industries of sports betting, horse racing, slot machines and casino gambling,” Sadler, from Emporia, Va., said in a Monday news release. “But inexplicably, Virginia has determined that skill games, games that have been legal in the Commonwealth for decades, are now somehow ‘undesirable,’ and should be made illegal.
”This action is unfair, and quite frankly, unconstitutional. This is a fight worth fighting to protect the rights of all Virginia small business owners and operators.”
Sadler and attorney Bill Stanley held a press conference in Richmond on Monday to announce the lawsuit aimed at fighting the ban that “will adversely effect hundreds of convenience stores, truck stops, restaurants and bars throughout the Commonwealth,” The Stanley Law Group said in the news release.
Skill Games Distributor Shutting Down
Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment (QVS), the largest distributor of skill game machines, announced last week it is ready to shut down its operations with the July 1 deadline looming. The gaming machines provided $74 million to Virginia’s COVID-19 Relief Fund in the last year, as the commonwealth struggled through the pandemic, QVS said in a press release.
For December 2020, there were approximately 9,038 reported skill games in Virginia. Skill game distributors, like QVS, reported there was $175 million wagered on skill games and $136 million in prize winnings paid out, according to published reports.
Skill games have had a profound impact on the state's financial well-being, according to Jeanna Bouzek, QVS general manager. “Our small business partners frequently tell us they depend on this skill game revenue to survive,” she said. QVS manages more than 5,000 skill game machines across 1,600 locations in Virginia, about 54% of the number in the state.
All total, QVS and other regulated skill game businesses will have contributed $130 million to the state in revenue during the fiscal year that ends on June 30, according to a QVS news release.
“Our financial support and charitable giving helped small businesses and residents during a critical time last year,” Bouzek said. “We are happy to play a major part of the recovery efforts in the state.”
Virginia legalized sports betting last year and currently has seven mobile sportsbooks live in the state.