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Update on Virginia's new ban on 'skill game' gambling

Posted at 12:54 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 14:46:01-04

EMPORIA, Va. -- A Circuit Court judge in Emporia has denied a motion to move a lawsuit against the Commonwealth over a ban of skill games.

The suit, brought by former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler, argued legislation signed into law earlier this year banning skill games in truck stops and restaurants in Virginia was unconstitutional.

Sadler owns multiple truck stops and convenience stores throughout southside Virginia.

The Commonwealth had sought to move the trial to Richmond, and filed several motions to stay discovery, which were denied.

"There's been no good cause shown for me to stay discovery in this matter and your motion to stay discovery is denied" Judge Louis Lerner ruled.

After Monday's hour-long hearing, the court ruled the case would remain in Emporia. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat running for re-election, and others named in the suit have 21 days to respond to discovery requests.

Sadler previously said his businesses have operated these games for the better part of the last 20 years, but have now been outlawed by casino interests moving into Virginia.

“Skill games” are defined as currency-operated video games in which the player solves puzzles or plays video games to maximize his or her score or credits. Players use strategy or knowledge to potentially win free replays or other prizes based on how skillfully they play the game.

Sadler is represented by Bill Stanley, a Republican state senator who represents several Southside Virginia counties, and Ryan McDougle, a Republican state senator who represents parts of Hanover and counties northeast of Richmond.

"Despite his continuous attempts to delay and avoid the truth, the Attorney General cannot stop Hermie Sadler’s fight for justice to protect the fundamental rights of small businesses against the unconstitutional overreach by the state government," Sadler's lawyer said in a statement.

"The last few months have been challenging for small business operators and this unlawful action by Virginia to ban skill games in local convenience stores like mine has galvanized all store owners as a group to now fight for what is right," Sadler added.

Over 50 small business and convenience store owners were in court Monday supporting Sadler.

"Sen. Stanley clearly believes that this law he and his colleagues in the General Assembly passed is bad policy, but his remedy should be to convince his colleagues to change the law," a spokesperson for Attorney General Herring said when asked to comment about the latest development in the case.

When asked to comment on the recent ruling, a spokesperson for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said the governor would not comment on the pending litigation.

“The legislature made it quite clear they wanted games of skill to stop in Virginia," Northam said after the lawsuit was initially filed in June."I was part of that agreement and I’ve kept my word on that. That’s up to the legislature and I don’t anticipate (games of skill) moving forward after this year."

The parties will be back before Judge Lerner on October 12.