Law enforcement reminds Virginia business owners to remove Skill Games or pay the price

Posted at 11:13 AM, Nov 10, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- They're a common sight to see when walking into convenience stores across Virginia. Skill Games, a combination of video games and gambling machines, are found often in Virginia gas stations, bars, and convenience stores. And now, they're illegal.

A ban on electronic skill games in Virginia went back into effect in October after the state Supreme Court vacated an injunction that allowed thousands of the betting machines to remain in operation. The injunction was issued by a lower court in an ongoing lawsuit that argues the ban is a violation of free speech. But a panel of three Supreme Court justices found that the suit is unlikely to succeed.

As such, multiple law enforcement agencies have issued warnings to business owners to remove the machines or face fines.

"All businesses with these games should immediately cease the operation and possession of these devices in Hanover County," the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an email this weekend. "[We] will conduct compliance checks starting January 1, 2024."

Games of Skill 02.png

Local News

Ban on electronic skill games in Virginia reinstated by state Supreme Court

The Associated Press
10:06 AM, Oct 14, 2023

A similar statement from law enforcement in Hopewell outlined potential punishments for business owners who fail to comply to the law.

Any person operating a Skill Game device or devices may be subject to a civil proceeding seeking:

  1. A civil penalty in the amount of $25,000 per gambling device
  2. An immediate injunction prohibiting the operation of the gambling devices
  3. Seizure the gambling devices
  4. Costs associated with investigating and bringing the lawsuit, including attorney fees

"Criminal charges under Virginia Code §18.2-331 for illegally possessing gambling devices and operating the devices for the advancement of unlawful gambling activity," the Hopewell statement continued. "The punishment for violating this statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which may result in confinement in jail for up to twelve months or a fine of up to $2,500, or both. Criminal charges under Virginia Code §18.2-328 for being an operator of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity, or operation. The punishment for violating this statute is a Class 6 felony, which may result in imprisonment for up to five years, confinement in jail for up to twelve months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. Playing these “Skill Games” could result in criminal charges of illegal gambling under Virginia Code §18.2-326. The punishment for violating this statute is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which may result in a fine of up to $500."

Terry Kilgore

Virginia Politics

Sponsor: Virginia bill to legalize, tax 'skill game' machines dead

SARAH RANKIN Associated Press
12:10 PM, Feb 02, 2023

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation outlawing skill games in 2020, but former Gov. Ralph Northam delayed it for a year to help the state raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. The ban then took effect in 2021, but a lawsuit resulted in an injunction that allowed games already registered with the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Authoirty to continue until the issue is resolved. The lawsuit is now set to go to trial in December.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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