Virginia Convenience Stores Halt Lottery Sales over Skill Games Dispute

In a bold move that underscores the ongoing tension between small businesses and regulatory changes, hundreds of Virginia convenience stores ceased Virginia Lottery sales this week. This collective action was a protest against the proposed legalization and subsequent limitations on skill games, a contentious issue that has seen years of debate within the state.

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The crux of the protest lies in Governor Youngkin's amendments to proposed legislation to prohibit skill games within a 35-mile radius of existing casinos and horse racing facilities. The regulation has been met with frustration by many store owners, who believe this will unfairly target their livelihoods.

The skill games, often resembling slot machines, have been a source of additional revenue for these small businesses. The proposed restrictions threaten to sever this supplementary income stream.

The governor's amendments, which also include a significant tax increase on the machines' revenue, have been met with staunch opposition from store owners. They argue that such measures would not only harm their businesses but also reduce the state's lottery sales. Shutting down their lottery equipment this week was meant to drive that point home.

The Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition, representing the interests of these businesses, has been vocal in its criticism, asserting that the amendments would effectively result in a ban on skill games in most parts of the state. It argues that the skill games have been a financial lifeline, especially during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the proposed measures are overly restrictive and disregard the survival of small businesses.

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Debate Heads to the General Assembly

As the General Assembly prepares to reconvene to discuss Governor Youngkin's amendments on Wednesday, the issue is set to be a focal point of discussion. Lawmakers are tasked with navigating the complex interplay of economic interests, regulatory concerns and the implications for state revenue.

The outcome of this legislative session will have far-reaching consequences for the numerous stakeholders involved, from the small business owners who rely on the income from skill games to the patrons who enjoy them, and the state agencies that benefit from the tax revenue they generate.

The protest by the convenience stores isn't just about the skill games themselves. It's also emblematic of a larger struggle faced by small businesses in the face of regulatory changes that they perceive as detrimental to their operations.

Many of the business owners have already indicated that they are willing to shut down lottery sales again if they don't receive a satisfactory response. In 2023, Virginia's lottery sales reached a record $4.6 billion, contributing a substantial $867 million to education. While online sales are permitted, retail sales constitute a major portion of the revenue.


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