© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State lawmakers to take another look at "skill games" next month

A gambler rings up a win on a slot machine at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 8, 2022.
Wayne Parry
Skill games are similar to slots, but get their name because proponents say they require at least some element of skill.

Gambling will be one of the many topics of conversation when members of the General Assembly return to Richmond next month. That includes machines you might have seen at your local convenience store.

They used to be called gray machines because they were in a gray area of the law. But the courts have declared them illegal. So, now they're known as skill machines because the person playing the game is supposed to be using some kind of skill as opposed to dumb luck.

"I think we've gone far enough on gaming," says Senator Adam Ebbin, who will be chairman of the Senate committee that will consider the future of skill machines. He says Virginia already has casinos and a lottery and even historic horse racing.

"It's time to take a pause and evaluate before we go into every neighborhood convenience store in the state."

Republican Senator Bryce Reeves points out that former Governor Ralph Northam kept these machines up and running during the pandemic.

"Do they have a place in the marketplace? Absolutely. Did they help keep small business owners afloat during COVID? 100%," Reeves says. "Do most of those small businesses already have a gambling institution in their facilities? They sure do; it's called the lottery. But, people don't equate the lottery to gambling but that's what it is."

Lawmakers also expect to consider a bill to create a new state agency to regulate gambling, which is currently spread out across everything from the Lottery and the Racing Commission to the Department of Agriculture.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.