Virginia skill game ban to come into effect next month

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Small businesses in Virginia that currently have electronic skill game machines have less than a month to remove them and stop offering such activities as the moratorium comes into effect. 

The state Supreme Court revoked an injunction on the ban of skill game machines earlier this month and the court has notified stakeholders that from November 26, the skill game machine ban will be enforced

The Supreme Court overturned a 2021 decision in a lower court in Virginia which claimed that a ban on skill games would be an infringement against freedom of speech laws, meaning operators could continue to offer their products and games in venues across the state. 

The court filing read: “Although at times it is difficult to determine where a particular activity falls on the speech/conduct continuum, no such difficulty is present when the activity being regulated is gambling.

“We long have viewed gambling as conduct that may be heavily regulated and even banned by the Commonwealth as an exercise of its police powers.”

Following the ruling, the Virginia Beach Police Department as well as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will be expected to enforce the ban in under one month. 

The ban hasn’t come without a certain level of controversy after the original bill was passed in 2020. Then Governor Ralph Northam delayed the ban at the time, allowing the state to raise funds throughout the Covid crisis which hampered local businesses across the state. 

The ban was enacted during 2021 for a short spell before the lower court deemed that any ban would be illegal under Virginia state law, citing freedom of speech infringements. 

Yet the highest court in the state has overruled this and after November 26, any business or person operating such electronic skill game machines will be liable to a $25,000 penalty per device, and could potentially result in a class 6 felony if authorities deem a person to be running an illegal gambling operation. 

Anyone found playing a skill game would be liable to a class 3 misdemeanor with a $500 fine.