The General Assembly on Wednesday gave a one-year reprieve for the operation of thousands of electronic skill games operating in business in Virginia, but only after Governor Ralph Northam promised to veto future legislation to extend industrial life longer.
On the same day that legislators also paved the way for casino gambling and sports betting, the legislators agreed to postpone the ban on skill games they agreed to earlier this year in return for a new source of tax revenue that the country desperately needed to overcome the economic crisis triggered. by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The world has changed,” said Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who led the push for a machine ban to protect the Virginia Lottery and the profits it generates for public education.
Howell assured the skeptical senator that Northam had made a written promise to veto future laws to delay the ban beyond 30 June 2021, and asked the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to adopt regulations to regulate the industry.
The governor’s pledge – made by Chief of Staff Clark Mercer via email to legislative leaders – defused another enemy, Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, who likened the skill play industry to “Ali Baba and Forty Thieves.”
“I really regret these machines,” Norment said before the Senate voted 32-8 to delay the ban.
The House of Delegates also voted 77-17, with one abstention, to approve an amendment proposed by the governor, who will tax $ 1,200 every month for each machine to generate $ 150 million over the next year for COVID-19 grants to help small businesses. and the others survived the economic closure due to a pandemic.
“I do not like this amendment, but I understand why the governor proposed it,” Del said. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, who led Parliament’s efforts to ban unregulated and unaxed machines.
During the assembly session, Northam supported the arrangement and tax of the machine. He justified delaying the ban needed to help thousands of restaurants, convenience stores and truck stops that depend on heavy equipment to earn income even when the country’s economy is good.
Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Pace-O-Matic, estimates that it alone operates 7,500 machines in 2,500 businesses.
“On behalf of the thousands of small businesses we serve and who rely on income from skill games to meet their needs, Pace-O-Matic of Virginia expressed his appreciation to Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia General Assembly for voting for legislation supporting Brazilian hard workers and the benefits a number of residents were affected by the ongoing pandemic, “the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are pleased that the system for regulation and taxation of skill games has been put in place,” the company added. “This is something our company has long advocated that the Commonwealth do.”
Some legislators questioned the opposition of the assembly against the skill-playing industry at the same time he adopted amendments to the law authorizing casino gambling in Richmond and four other cities, as well as allowing bets on professional sports and colleges, except those involving Virginia colleges and universities.
“These machines are bad because they are at Quik Mart and the grocery store, but are they good if they are at the casino?” Senator Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, asked.
“It’s a bad idea for Virginia to sell our souls to gamble dollars for whatever it is,” Peake said.
Senator Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, said he supported the postponement of the ban on skill games for the same reason that he supported Northam’s amendments to casino legislation to dedicate state game revenues to the modernization and construction of schools.
“We have to use the available money,” Stanley said.
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