The Virginia skill gaming legal dilemma will not be resolved for at least another six months after a state judge extended an injunction on the controversial machines until November 2, 2022.
Skill gaming machines closely resemble outdated slot machines. After a player makes a bet, colorful reels spin and classic Las Vegas-style slot sounds play as the outcome is revealed.
But unlike a slot machine, a skill gaming terminal requires that the player identify a winning payline. If they do not within the allocated time — usually five to 10 seconds –the win is canceled. A slot machine in a regulated casino automatically informs the gambler if they won or lost with no further action.
The “skill” component, which is essentially just tapping one’s finger on the winning symbols, is why backers of the devices say they do not constitute gambling and are therefore not subjected to gambling laws. Casino interests and those opposed to the machines’ proliferation across the commonwealth in restaurants and bars, convenience and grocery stores, and even fully dedicated strip mall establishments where the business is built entirely around the terminals, argue the games constitute illegal, unregulated gambling.
Amid the pandemic, Virginia lawmakers in early 2020 opted to legalize the devices for a one-year period. The temporary authorization, which expired June 30, 2021, was to help such small businesses offset some of their revenue losses caused by COVID-19.
Despite Virginia’s skill gaming law expiring nearly a year ago, a lawsuit brought by former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler has put enforcement on hold. His family owns Sadler Brothers Oil gas stations and offers skill gaming machines at 13 company gas/diesel stations.
Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), an attorney by trade, is supporting the Sadler lawsuit against the state. They argue that the state legalizing something and then making it illegal goes against First Amendment protections.
Greensville County Judge Louis Lerner ruled last December that the case has merit, and issued a temporary injunction on law enforcement cracking down on skill gaming machines. The injunction is to only cover skill games that were registered and taxed under the state’s one-year legal authorization.
Greensville County is where Stanley filed the lawsuit on behalf of Sadler against the state.
To Be Continued
Lerner’s injunction was to expire this Wednesday, May 18, in conjunction with a scheduled hearing. The Greensville judge was to issue a ruling on the case this week.
However, Stanley successfully requested a six-month extension of the injunction on grounds that he needs more time to ready his case. The Senator said being an elected state official while simultaneously suing the state has made the process of bringing his case to court more complicated.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares agreed with Stanley and urged the Greensville court to postpone the hearing. According to state records, the skill gaming case will now be considered on November 2, 2022. The injunction has subsequently been delayed until that date, too.
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