Former NASCAR Driver Forces Virginia Skills Game Ban to Make a Pit Stop

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Hermie Sadler, a former NASCAR driver, hasn’t won the legal checkered flag, but he could be close. He has been granted a temporary injunction by a Virginia court to stop the state from enforcing its skill-game ban.

Sadler Takes on Virginia and Wins

Sadler filed suit to contest the ban, which took effect in June. He argued that it was “unconstitutional” and therefore unenforceable. He claims the ban unfairly penalized small businesses in the locality at a moment when Virginia licensed and legalized casino gaming and sports betting. This was largely to the advantage of large out-of-state gambling companies.

Greensville Circuit Court judge placed the ban on hold Monday pending resolution of the lawsuit. A trial is set for May.

While they look similar to slot machines, skill games use certain skills elements. The player must make the “optimal decision” to identify their winning payline. A bonus game can be offered to players where they are required to memorize and then repeat a sequence flashing colors just like in “Simon,” the popular 1980s electronic children’s game.

For the past two decades, slot-like machines have been found in convenience stores and truck stops throughout Virginia. They have been allowed to operate in a grey area of law and are sometimes even called “gray machines.”

A Small Victory for Small Businesses

Sadler has several truck stops and restaurants around Emporia, Virginia. Court documents show that the ban will result in $750,000 in net revenue loss for the ex-racing driver.

He said he doesn’t have a problem with Virginia casino gaming. He said that it shouldn’t be at the expense of small businesses.

The General Assembly rejected a bill that would have legalized and taxed skill games. The segment was penalized with a 35% tax.

The legislature voted in 2020 to ban all machines. However, Governor Ralph Northam asked legislators to delay for one year. To help struggling businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic, he devised a plan that would tax and regulate these machines for 12 months.

Northam stated that this would be the end of it. The ban went into effect in July.

Sadler stated in October that he will not yield to government interference and overreach until his Constitutional Rights, as well as the rights of small business owners, are restored by the court. He told reporters Monday that he simply wanted to be treated fairly. He concluded, “Tonight’s ruling gives us a feeling that we’re going to get that.”

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