February 3, 2023 3 min read


Virginia Lawmakers Determined to Ban Skill Game Machines

Skill game machines in Virginia are spreading, but the efforts to ban them are not, despite a new attempt to restrict them this week failing

The latest effort to do away with the machines, which have been branded as illegal by many, and a necessary evil by business owners, was spearheaded by House majority leader Terry Kilgore who spoke to the Associated Press in an exclusive interview and detailed what the current status quo with those gambling devices in the state was.

Kilgore confirmed that the latest attempt to push through with a bill had come a cropper and failed to get a hearing, adding that the measure is unlikely to make any tangible progress this legislative session.

Skill gaming machines are often dubbed “gray machines” as they look and play like slots, but there is no actual legislation that allows them to operate. The manufacturers of such products, and venues that host them, though, claim that these devices are hardly like slots, and rather rely on a “skill” element that exempts them from current gambling laws.

The matter has been raging on since at least 2020 when the General Assembly took a hard look at the sector and tried to suspend it altogether, with businesses pushing back that for many bars and gas stations, these machines made all the difference, especially through the pandemic.

While a ban was briefly entertained, a state judge put an injunction on the prohibition, effectively restoring the operation of regulated machines. Understandably, manufacturers have been equally vocal about their right to produce and deploy such machines, insisting that they did not break any laws.

The Associated Press reached out to Pace-O-Matic chief public affairs officer, Mike Barley, who said that his company was all for the regulation and taxation of skill games and remained further committed to help fight illegal gambling.

Understandably, not everyone is as happy with the machines as the company that make them. Casinos in Virginia have been particularly miffed at the proliferation of these devices, arguing that they were bad for business and the state by not contributing nearly enough tax if anything.

Worse, they were associated with problematic gambling behavior and failed to put the same safeguards in place as did regulate gambling properties. But this view has naturally been assailed by businesses that rely on these gambling machines.

Republican Sen. Bill Stanley said that the casinos simply wanted a monopoly on gambling activities. Kilgore has been the voice of reason in the matter. The lawmaker acknowledged how important skill games machines have become for the state’s small venues, but has insisted in his now-defeated measure that “mini-casinos” and “skill game rooms” should be dealt away.

Effectively, Kilgore’s bill was the most reasonable piece of legislation pitched to date in Virginia, promising to solve the conflict by protecting the interests of small business owners, but also maximizing the benefits the state gets from gambling machines – skill-based or otherwise. The matter may be moot for another year now.


Although Fiona doesn't have a long-spanning background within the gambling industry, she is an incredibly skilled journalist who has built a strong interest in the constantly growing iGaming network. The team at GamblingNews.com is glad to have her on our roster to help deliver the best stories as soon as they hit. Aside from writing, she loves to dabble in online casino games such as slots and roulette, both for her own enjoyment and also as research to better improve her understanding of the industry.

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