Some VA business owners fight ban on ‘skill games’ – FOX 5 DC

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Some VA business owners fight ban on ‘skill games’ – FOX 5 DC

Some VA businesses request investigation into ban on 'skill games' A group of minority-owned small businesses are asking Virginia Attorney Genera

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Some VA businesses request investigation into ban on ‘skill games’

A group of minority-owned small businesses are asking Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate whether the ban on skills games that went into effect on July 1 violates Virginia’s human rights laws.

VIRGINIA (FOX 5 DC)A group of minority-owned small businesses are asking Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate whether the ban on skills games that went into effect on July 1 violates Virginia’s human rights laws.

The so-called skill game looks like your everyday slot machine and functions almost just like it, but instead of winning on sheer dumb luck, it requires the user to engage some level of skill to play the game and win.

These machines have been operating in small businesses across the commonwealth for a few years, largely without regulation, but no longer. Lawmakers were concerned the skill games were not regulated, referring to them as “grey machines,” and that they were siphoning off money from lottery revenues.

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Skill games were supposed to get banned last year, but as soon as COVID hit, Gov. Ralph Northam allowed them to stay to generate tax revenue for the COVID relief fund. It turns out they generated over $100 million for the state, but at the start of this month, they were banned. Local business owners are saying it’s hurting them.

“It definitely has an immediate negative impact on our bottom line for sure,” said Jimmy Madden, a partner at Crystal City Sports Pub. “We can definitely feel that. Some of the customers really enjoy playing them. There’s food and beverage that come off of those playing other games as well. They’re not just in here playing the games only.”

Former NASCAR racer and business owner Hermie Sadler filed a lawsuit, arguing the ban violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional.

“The director of the lottery went to the different committees and said, ‘you know, these grey machines are hurting us bad,’” said Randy Wright, the spokesperson for Virginia Small Businesses for Skill Games. “Because it was taking away money from the children–that’s what they claim. Ok, they were taking money away from, and in fact it was $606 million, that went to the General Assembly from the lottery.”

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Now, a group of Asian American business owners are also saying that’s not fair because the state still allows gambling at casinos and in slot machines at horse racing venues. They filed a complaint with AG Herring asking him to investigate whether the ban may violate the Virginian Human Rights Act because a disproportionate amount of businesses who have these skill games are owned by minorities.

“There’s a large Yemenese community, Asian community, and Indian community that has these convenience stores that has these machines,” Senator Joe Morrissey said. “Why they are being singled out as being as one senator said what was it ‘sleazy’. I think it unfair and disrespectful.”

The attorney for the business owners told FOX 5 the AG’s office has 180 days to respond to the request to investigate, but Senator Morrissey’s office says the AG is fighting the investigation in court so it is not looking promising.

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