Business owners who sought an immediate injunction to temporarily halt the ban on skill games in the Commonwealth of Virginia have had no success as of yet as the gaming machines have remained turned off since July 1. The ban on the games remains in effect pending the outcome of a series of lawsuits filed against the commonwealth.
All total, skill game machines contributed $130 million to Virginia Gambling revenue during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment (QVS), a provider of skill games in the state. A new law that went into effect July 1 now bans the games.
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Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment recently announced it was leaving the state because of the ban.
Business owners cited irreparable harm if the ban remains in place. However, a judge recently denied a motion and ruled plaintiffs did not prove there would be irreparable harm, the injunction would be in the public interest or they would likely succeed on the merits of the case, according to The Center Square.
An estimated 9,000 skill game machines are in the state, often found in bars, convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants.
Human Rights Act Violation Alleged
Six business owners in Norfolk and Virginia Beach are suing the state over the prohibition, claiming it violated the Virginia Human Rights Act. According to the plaintiffs, the stores are disproportionately operated by religious and ethnic minorities who will be barred from operating the games when horse racing venues will be allowed to operate similar games, The Central Square story says. The act prohibits discrimination on protected classes, such as sex, race, religion and national origin.
The gaming machines provided $74 million to Virginia’s Covid-19 Relief Fund last year, as the commonwealth struggled through the pandemic. The judge ruled most COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have ended and the plaintiffs failed to prove that skill games would be necessary to keep these businesses operating.
The legislation to prohibit skills gaming came shortly after the commonwealth approved the construction of several casinos in the state. Casinos are now planned in Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Richmond and Bristol. Currently seven Virginia sports betting are live and started operating in January with five Rosie's Gaming Emporiums operational since 2019. Some opponents claimed lawmakers supported a ban on skill games to cut back on competition for the casinos.
Responding to the judge's decision, former Norfolk Councilman Randy Wright, who has been speaking on behalf of some of the business owners who have skill machines, said, “We will not give up. We're exploring our options. Those options will not exclude further legal possibilities. We plan to be a factor in the upcoming election in November. We will conduct a grassroots campaign, second to none. We cannot allow bigotry and discrimination to our Asian Americans. We will fight for their rights and protect against slanderous statements from anybody.”
Now considered a gambling state with sports betting launching on Jan. 21 and casinos on the way, the state has exceeded $1 billion in total wagering handle since launching.