Electronic Skill Games Banned in Virginia
A ban on electronic skill games in Virginia has gone back into effect after the state Supreme Court vacated an injunction that had allowed thousands of the betting machines to remain in operation. The ban on skill games, which combine video games and gambling, was reinstated in October, with law enforcement agencies warning business owners to remove the machines or face fines. The injunction had been issued by a lower court in response to an ongoing lawsuit that argues the ban is a violation of free speech. However, a panel of three Supreme Court justices found that the suit is unlikely to succeed.
The Hanover County Sheriff’s Office sent out an email over the weekend instructing all businesses with these games to immediately cease operation and possession of the devices. Compliance checks are set to begin on January 1, 2024. Law enforcement in Hopewell also outlined potential punishments for business owners who fail to comply with the law.
According to the statement from Hopewell, any person operating a skill game device may be subject to a civil penalty of $25,000 per gambling device, an immediate injunction prohibiting the operation of the devices, seizure of the devices, and other costs associated with investigating and bringing the lawsuit, including attorney fees.
Additionally, criminal charges under Virginia law may result in confinement in jail for up to twelve months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both, for violations related to illegal possession of gambling devices and operating the devices for the advancement of unlawful gambling activity. Playing these “skill games” could result in criminal charges of illegal gambling under Virginia law, which may result in a fine of up to $500.
The ban on skill games was initially passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 but was delayed by former Gov. Ralph Northam to help the state raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. The ban then took effect in 2021, but the lawsuit resulted in an injunction that allowed registered games to continue until the issue is resolved. The lawsuit is now set to go to trial in December.
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