October 16, 2023 3 min read


Slots-Like Skill Games Once Again Banned in Virginia

The ban should remain in place for the foreseeable future as further lawsuits are unlikely to change the current situation

In an unexpected ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed a lower court decision and reinstated the state’s prohibition on slots-like skill machines. The Supreme Court issued this ruling during a review of the legality of a longstanding injunction issued by a lower court that had prevented the state from enforcing the ban on these machines.

Enforcement Efforts May Prove Challenging

In its decision, the Supreme Court stated that the lower court had abused its discretion by ruling that the skill game industry is likely to succeed in its claims that its games are protected forms of free speech. An order from Justices Stephen R. McCullough, Teresa M. Chafin, and Wesley G. Russell Jr. specified that while determining the boundaries of free speech could be challenging, gambling remained distinct.

We long have viewed gambling as conduct that may be heavily regulated and even banned by the Commonwealth.

Supreme Court of Virginia statement

The lawsuit against the ban was filed by Southside Virginia truck stop owner Hermie Sadler in collaboration with major skill-game company Pace-O-Matic. The trial for this case should start in December in Greensville. However, these legal proceedings have caused frustration among state and local officials, as these games, which resemble slots but involve a degree of skill, have been challenging to classify under the state’s gambling regulations.

Since the lower court’s injunction in late 2021, these machines, commonly found in convenience stores and sports bars, have operated without regulatory oversight, causing significant issues for local authorities. There have been multiple recorded incidents where venue owners refuse to pay out winnings to customers. With no legal framework to protect victims, they have little recourse.

Pace-O-Matic’s Business Takes a Substantial Blow

While the Supreme Court’s decision lifts the injunction and reinstates the state’s ban on slots-like skill machines, enforcement will remain challenging until the pending lawsuit concludes. Despite these short-term setbacks, the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares, which had requested the Supreme Court’s review, remains optimistic, praising the order.

Virginia has regulated gambling for centuries, and the skill games law (will) protect the public from dangerous gambling devices.

Victoria LaCivita, Attorney General Jason Miyares’s office spokesperson

The Supreme Court justices clarified that the state’s objective was not to restrict the visuals or messages of the games but the promise and execution of a payout if the game ends in a particular fashion. The ruling underscores the state’s authority to regulate and prohibit certain forms of gambling in the interest of public protection.

This newest ruling makes Virginia an outlier in the rising move to curb unregulated skill games. A Pace-O-Matic representative noted that the company’s attorneys were already reviewing their options. Pace-O-Matic recently suffered another significant setback in Kentucky, significantly impacting its business. With two states firmly against skill games, other jurisdictions may also take note.

Deyan is an experienced writer, analyst, and seeker of forbidden lore. He has approximate knowledge about many things, which he is always willing to apply when researching and preparing his articles. With a degree in Copy-editing and Proofreading, Deyan is able to ensure that his work writing for GamblingNews is always up to scratch.

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