Virginia Senate Rejects Governor’s Amendments to Skill Gaming Legislation

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In a swift sequence of events, the Virginia skill gaming legislation, approved by the General Assembly but returned by Governor Glenn Youngkin weighed down by multiple amendments, was decisively denied by the state Senate this Wednesday.

This happened in direct defiance to Governor Youngkin’s transformational amendments to the Assembly’s skill gaming regulation, the most significant being the imposition of substantial restrictions on the locations where the contentious slot-like gaming machines could function effectively. A landslide vote of 34-6 stood testament to the Senate’s refusal to back the governor’s tide-turning modifications.

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No sooner had this decision been taken than the Senate sent the statute bouncing back to Gov. Youngkin, who is likely to respond with his veto.

Sen. Aaron Rouse, the primary sponsor of the statute, expressed his determination to weather these uncertain times, siding with small businesses and urging Gov. Youngkin to approve the statute. He pointed to the potential benefits, particularly for small-scale establishments scattered across the commonwealth.

One of Youngkin’s notable changes involved outlining a 35-mile prohibition zone for casinos and pari-mutuel wagering sites and a 2,500-foot exclusion zone for schools, daycares, and places of worship. In addition, the governor sought more than a reasonable increase in state tax on gross skill gaming returns, proposing a 35% tax as opposed to the 25% proposed by the Assembly.

Gov. Youngkin, nonetheless, perceived fundamental flaws in the Assembly’s skill gaming bill, asserting a lack of sufficient safety measures. He argued that significant sections like the 35-mile regulation for casinos and similar establishments were mere borrowings from the earlier 2020 commercial gaming bill.

The governor’s amendments shook the regular and numerous supporters of skill gaming, small business owners who provided spaces for these machines in their convenience stores, restaurants, bars, and gas stations. They strongly contended that the amendments were tantamount to a skill gaming ban. Another amendment, enabling local municipalities to abstain from skill games, intensifies the stand-off. The governor seems inclined towards vetoing the return of these games, unless a viable skill gaming provision is incorporated in the upcoming budget bill.

In a tangential development in the gaming sphere, Virginia lawmakers gave their nod to Gov. Youngkin’s only amendment to a bill that enables Petersburg to consider housing a commercial casino resort. Premium establishments such as The Cordish Companies, Penn Entertainment, Rush Street Gaming, The Warrenton Group, and Bally’s have already displayed their interest in submitting proposals.

Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham recognized the potential of this move to be the much-awaited game-changer for his city, while propelling forward the state’s efforts to boost the casino industry in alignment with the 2020 gaming law.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.