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There are strong opinions on both sides of the skill games debate

A gambler touches the screen of a slot machine at Harrah's casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Sept. 29, 2023.
Wayne Parry
A gambler touches the screen of a slot machine at Harrah's casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Sept. 29, 2023.

Lawmakers in Richmond are debating if convenience stores and truck stops should have machines that allow customers to play video games that pay money when the person wins. The opposition to the machines is growing louder.

Most people call them skill games. Some people call them electronic gambling machines. Todd Gathje at the Family Foundation calls them neighborhood slot machines.

"This year, lawmakers and gambling lobbyists are pushing small business economic development," Gathje says. "Which is nothing more than an addiction-for-profit business model."

Byron Foxx is an evangelist with the Faith Wins Coalition, which is opposing legislation that would allow the machines at convenience stores and truck stops.

"We’re in communication with our beloved governor – Glenn Youngkin – and we have expressed to him our grave concerns and our righteous indignation against these skill machines," says Foxx.

Rich Goszka at the Police Benevolent Association says the machines pose a public safety risk.

"These machines will place an undue burden on our law enforcement officers by bringing more crime to our communities," Goszka says.

Supporters of skill games also have a huge coalition of store owners who support the legislation and say it’ll help small businesses survive in a difficult economic environment. And, while the legislation to allow them is still alive in the General Assembly, a spokesman for Governor Glenn Youngkin recently told the Virginia Mercury the governor has "serious concerns."

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.