Many skill games operators in Virginia had their hands on the power cord, ready to yank the machines out and throw them in the dumpster. Lawmakers approved a controversial measure that brought an end to the one-year trial of the slot machine cousins, but now lawyers are telling operators to hold on. Several legal battles have already emerged over the ban and they are now beginning to gain more force, leading to the possibility that the ban could be reversed. The lawmakers who supported the ban are being targeted for their “discriminatory” attitude toward skill games operators, and the case is far from over.
Virginia Lawmakers Show Prejudice Against Skill Games
Skill games are in the same family as slot machines, but offer variations that allow them to be put into a separate class. They began appearing in Virginia a number of years ago; however, quickly found resistance from legislators. They still continued to gain more attention, though, and the state allowed a one-year trial last year to see if they could be effectively managed. For business owners struggling to survive COVID-19, they proved to be the only income they saw.
That wasn’t enough to appease lawmakers, though, who approved a ban that was to take effect as of yesterday. Despite the state having collected $70 million for state-led community initiatives, lawmakers decided that skill games gambling wasn’t warranted. However, they didn’t mind approving legislation that paved the way for five casinos to be built in the state. Because skill games machines are mostly found at small, independent retailers such as convenience stores, bars and restaurants, operators and lawyers are now saying that the ban is “discriminatory” against minorities and wants the courts to take a closer look. If the discrimination argument is found to have merit, it would mean that the ban is a human rights violation.
The Skill Games Legal Fight Continues
Operators have fought efforts to have the skill games permanently banned for years, but the new resistance by certain lawmakers has increased the pressure. Six operators in Norfolk and Virginia Beach got together to challenge the ban and sought a temporary injunction to keep the machines live. This past Wednesday, one day before the ban was to begin, a courtroom hosted the operators and over 30 other supporters and legal teams, all looking to find a way to convince a judge to give them some reprieve.
Chief Judge Mary Jane Hall was presiding over the case, but not for long. She has now recused herself after it was revealed that she used to work in the same law firm as Tommy Norment, an attorney-turned-lawmaker who is now the Senate Minority Leader. That relationship, given Norment’s efforts to push the ban and an apparent support of large casinos, raised questions about Judge Hall’s ability to remain impartial. With her departure, the case is in limbo and skill games operators aren’t going to change their operations until the case has closure.