Senator Bell Debates the Ban of VGT While Its Opponents Want Virginia to Concentrate on Casinos

The skill gaming machines in Virginia became illegal on July 1, 2021. Previously, the state allowed gaming machines in brick-and-mortar businesses such as truck stops, convenience stores, bars, and restaurants to offset revenue losses following the spread of the coronavirus. The gaming devices were to operate for one year, and the period was increased to a little more than a year before they became illegal in July 2021.

One brick-and-mortar business owner reported that the closure of the gaming terminals had led to reduced revenue. Keyur Patel, who owns the Virginia Food Mart in Richmond, confirmed the severe reduction in revenue collection at his store. Patel said that most customers who went to the store for skills gaming bought foodstuff from the store.

Patel insists that his shop’s income has plunged by 25 -30 percent since skill gaming devices were banned a few weeks ago. But, one senator believes the solution to this is to return skill gaming outside casinos.

Senator’s Proposal

Just like slot machines, video gaming terminals are highly regulated and taxed. Today, seven states, including Louisiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Georgia, Oregon, and Illinois, have video gaming machines outside casinos. The senator of D-Prince William County in Virginia wants the state to allow these video machines outside casinos.

Senator John Bell is proposing small businesses have a small section in their premises hosting video machines. The senator did some homework before suggesting the proposal.

He visited Illinois and met with several business owners operating video machines. John also met with gambling regulators and Illinois officials. He reported his findings to Virginia’s Senate Committee on Laws and Technology.

John explained that video gaming is different from divisive skill gaming. The senator also reported that video games are games of chance played by people above 21 years in Illinois. He added that the gaming terminals were highly regulated and placed in a separate area from the other part of the business.

In Virginia, these gaming machines were accessible to people 18 years or older and were untaxed before the 2020 law. They were taxed from April 2020 through June 2021 for $1200 per terminal. The remaining profit went to game manufacturers, distributors, and business owners.

Bell opened small businesses to get back the permit to run skill games machines. He even had a legal proposal that was not far in the 2021 legislative session.

Not Everyone Is Welcoming Bell’s Proposal

Everyone is not on board with Bell’s proposal. Some are suggesting that the state should first focus on four commercial brick-and-mortar casinos recently approved. The fifth may come forth at Richmond.

The video gaming adversaries may have a point. According to the American Gaming Association, video gaming might inhibit gaming revenue at casinos. The association explained that casino gaming revenue had decreased since video gaming terminals were introduced in convenience stores, truck stops, and bars in Illinois.

The AGA also said that video gaming terminals quickly bounced back to normal operations compared to casinos. While revenue in casinos was plunging in 2020, video gaming terminals recorded better revenue collection once most businesses reopened in Illinois. Although his proposal did not see the light of the day in the 2021 legislative session, Bell plans to reintroduce it in 2022.

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