Skill games in Virginia remain closed as two lawsuits fighting to allow the slot-like electronic games despite a recent law banning them. On Friday, Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Junius Fulton III denied a request for an emergency injunction in one of the lawsuits that would have temporarily allowed the games to reopen while the lawsuit proceeds, according to Courthouse News.
Fulton agreed with lawyers for the Commonwealth of Virginia who argued that the plaintiffs had not met the requirements for an emergency injunction before the lawsuit had been heard.
The lawsuit was filed by a legal team including Delegate Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth) on behalf of several Norfolk- and Virginia Beach-area business owners.
In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly outlawed skill games, according to facts in the court’s opinion. However, Governor Ralph Northam and the legislature amended the ban to allow the state to tax the games to provide revenue for the COVID Relief fund, with the ban postponed until July 1, 2021.
But the plaintiffs argue that skill games helped their businesses stay open during the pandemic and its economic effects, and that the ban could force their businesses to close. They also argue that the ban is racially motivated against minorities, citing Senator Thomas Norment’s (R-James City) comments comparing them to the story of Ali Baba.
According to Wavy.com, Norfolk bar owner Tommy Posilero said, “With the pandemic going on, without these machines I probably would have closed down.”
The lawsuit is the second lawsuit filed over the ban; Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) is representing Hermie Sadler, who owns ten convenience store gas stations, in a separate lawsuit. That lawsuit suggests that big gaming interests are trying to eliminate small-business gambling options.
“Skill games have now recently drawn the ire of the historical horse racing, casino, and sports betting special interests because skill games were a popular form of entertainment in local neighborhood convenience stores, bars, restaurants, and truck stops that kept the revenues in the local communities and threatened to undercut the revenue potential of the out-of-state gaming businesses that the legislature has now invited into the Commonwealth,” Sadler’s lawsuit states.
The ban comes as Virginia expands gambling with newly-legalized casinos and online sports betting.
After the Norfolk judge denied the emergency injunction, former Norfolk Councilman Randy Wright said in a statement obtained by Wavy, “We will not give up, we’re exploring our options. Those options will not exclude further legal possibilities.”
Wright said, “We cannot allow bigotry and discrimination to our Asian Americans. We will fight for their rights and protect against slanderous statements from anybody!”
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