Published: January 11, 2024

Some Virginia Legislators Push To Undo Ban And Allow Skill Games

The future of skill games could be a hot topic of debate during the 2024 legislative session

A group of legislators and small businesses are pushing back against Virginia’s skill game ban. 

HB 590 was filed this week, and the bipartisan bill would establish the Virginia Small Business Development Act. The act would create a regulatory framework in Virginia for small businesses to offer slot-like skill games that have been banned in the state. 

recent legal ruling in Virginia allows law enforcement officials to enforce the ban of skill games that was imposed by the legislature in 2020 and then challenged by industry representatives in court. Some small businesses say the games have been a valuable revenue driver, and they and a group of legislators held a press conference this week to discuss the new effort to allow the games. 

“These games helped in keeping a lot of our stores open in southwest Virginia,” Del. Terry Kilgore, one of the legislators who introduced HB 590, told the media.

Distributors of the machines would pay a 15% monthly tax on gross revenue under the bill’s language. Of the tax revenue generated, 55% would go to the state’s General Fund.

Divisive issue

While some legislators agree with Kilgore’s stance that skill games can greatly benefit small businesses in the region, other stakeholders strongly oppose the skill games. 

Convenience stores and other outlets have offered the games without regulation, making it nearly impossible to monitor if underage customers were playing them. Some legislators argue that even if the industry were regulated, asking each small business or store to police underage use of the machines would be a challenge.

Additionally, Virginia’s currently legal gambling operations likely would not be thrilled with the idea of widespread regulated skill games. Virginia is home to three brick-and-mortar casinos operating in Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. Another casino is expected to open in Norfolk in the coming years. 

Mobile sports betting is also available in Virginia, as are lottery games. Online casinos aren’t legal in the state. Legislators may question how legalization of skill games could impact the existing forms of gambling. 

Virginia’s legislative session runs through March 9. If the bill doesn’t generate much discussion this session, it could carry over to the 2025 session.


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