Virginia Skill Games Bill Running Out of Time

A bill aiming to legalize slots-like skill games across Virginia is currently awaiting action from Governor Glenn Youngkin, following bipartisan support from the state's General Assembly. With the governor's deadline for action set for Monday, April 8, the fate of the legislation hangs in the balance.

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If Governor Youngkin chooses not to act by the deadline, the bill will automatically become law without his signature. That's a scenario occasionally witnessed with contentious gambling bills in other states.

Although Governor Youngkin has previously expressed support for Virginia skill games, recent indications suggest a potential shift in his stance, particularly as small businesses advocate for regulation. His reluctance comes amidst a series of vetoes issued after the legislature failed to endorse his proposal for a proposed $2 billion taxpayer-funded arena in Alexandria.

Reports from The Washington Post suggest that Governor Youngkin hinted at a possible veto of the skill game legislation due to its association with Senator L. Louise Lucas, a key opponent of the proposed arena. Additionally, in a mid-March audio statement, Governor Youngkin linked skill machines with a Democratic vision for Virginia that contrasts with his own agenda.

Aside from vetoing the bill outright, Governor Youngkin could opt to amend its text and return it to the Assembly for further consideration.

Interestingly, the skill game bills introduced in Virginia's House and Senate initially shared similarities but diverged significantly after Delegate Mark D. Sickles successfully petitioned for a rewrite of the House version. Despite these efforts, the current legislation reflects compromises that deviate from Sickles' original revisions.

Delegate Sickles expressed hope that Governor Youngkin might introduce amendments aligning the bill more closely with his initial substitute, offering a potential path forward.

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Governor Youngkin Changes Position

Despite expressing strong support for skill games during his campaign in 2021, Governor Youngkin now appears more cautious. A statement from his spokesperson, Christian Martinez, indicates that the bipartisan effort still faces significant hurdles, including concerns about regulatory structure, tax rates, machine numbers, impact on the Virginia Lottery and broader public safety implications.

Small business owners and supporters of regulated skill game machines in Virginia are urging Governor Youngkin to fulfill his campaign promises by signing the legislation. They argue that skill game revenue is crucial for small business survival, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

As the debate surrounding the regulation of skill games continues, many hope that Governor Youngkin will uphold his campaign commitments. However, if the governor takes no action by Monday's deadline, skill games will automatically become legal in Virginia, underscoring the significance of his impending decision.


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