Bipartisan group of Virginia legislators push to legalize and regulate skill games
The shiny skill game machines that dotted Virginia's convenience stores were shut down by Virginia’s Supreme Court last fall. But now a bipartisan coalition of elected officials is hoping to change that.
“This is a small business issue that impacts many first-generation Americans trying to achieve the American dream,” said Virginia Beach area Senator Aaron Rouse at a news conference Tuesday morning announcing a new effort to legalize, regulate and tax electronic skill games.
Rouse said his effort would establish Virginia ABC as the regulatory authority and limit the number of machines in each location. It would also collect a 15% tax, generating an estimated $200 million in revenue for public education, school construction and local governments. Funds would also go to combat illegal and problem gambling.
Senate President Louise Lucas said she’d heard from hundreds of small businesses around the state asking for this bill.
‘For many locations, shutting all skill games means they are now having to make difficult decisions such as less hours, laying off team members or worse, shutting their doors,” Lucas said.
And as chair of the Senate finance committee, Lucas also said she was more than capable of putting that $200 million to work.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore said he and Republican freshmen Senator Timmy French, both from rural parts of the state, saw a need for these new rules.
“A lot of times it's miles and miles to the main store, so that’s why it is so important that we support our small business," Kilgore, the former House Majority Leader, said.
"And giving our chair lady 200 million dollars isn’t a bad way either,” he added to a round of cheers from the crowd.
Also there to show support for the effort was Kunal Kumar with the Virginia Asian American Store Owners Association. He said he represented over 1500 businesses which came to rely on skill game income during the pandemic.
“This legislation is not just a legislation, it's a lifeline, it's a beacon of hope for a lot of small businesses out there,” Kumar said.
The Senate bill will head to a subcommittee after the 2024 legislative session kicks off Wednesday.