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Silvia Pavlof February 2, 2024 3 min read
Virginia Legislators Ponder Major Expansion of Gambling Industry
Competing legislative proposals aim to introduce skill games machines into various establishments throughout Virginia, spanning from truck stops to convenience stores
Virginia lawmakers find themselves at the center of a heated debate surrounding the potential legalization of what are known as “gray machines” – arcade-style games that bear a striking resemblance to traditional slot machines but incorporate an element of skill.
Virginia Lawmakers Clash Over Introduction of Slot-Like Machines into Local Businesses
Endorsed by various gambling companies, competing legislative proposals seek to introduce these machines into a myriad of establishments, ranging from truck stops to convenience stores, across the Commonwealth, reported the Associated Press.
The discussion has intensified as stakeholders grapple with the regulatory framework for these devices, which have proliferated in recent years despite being prohibited under a ban enacted in 2020.
Manufacturers argue that these games, while resembling slots, require a degree of skill from players. However, their operation exists in a legal grey area, prompting debates on oversight and taxation.
One proposal, championed by Sen. Aaron Rouse and co-sponsored by Sen. L. Louise Lucas, aims to establish a regulatory structure overseen by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. Under this plan, establishments with ABC licenses could host a limited number of terminals, with revenue taxed at 15%.
Proponents argue that such a move would not only generate significant revenue for the state but also benefit small businesses, particularly those owned by first-generation Americans.
McPike’s Proposal Takes a Different Path for Slot-Like Gaming Regulation in Virginia
Conversely, another bill put forth by Democratic Sen. Jeremy McPike offers a different approach. This proposal seeks to regulate both skill games and slot-like video terminals under the regulation of the Virginia Lottery Board, with a higher tax rate of 34%. McPike’s bill affords local governments the discretion to prohibit these machines if desired and mandates player identification requirements.
Amidst these legislative maneuvers, concerns have been raised by opponents, including casino interests, regarding the potential societal impacts of expanded gambling. Critics fear a surge in gambling addiction and associated social problems, citing reports of crime linked to similar devices in other jurisdictions.
Additionally, questions linger about the adequacy of oversight mechanisms, with some advocating for stricter monitoring and reporting standards to prevent potential abuse.
Notably, in October the Supreme Court of Virginia reinstated the state’s ban on slots-like skill machines, reversing a lower court decision and signaling ongoing enforcement efforts despite pending lawsuits. The decision underscored the state’s authority to regulate gambling and protect the public, while also highlighting challenges faced by skilled game operators like Pace-O-Matic in Virginia and beyond.