Governor Youngkin’s Veto Sparks Debate Over Skill Games Legislation

On Friday, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin rejected 48 bills, one of which was a big one that would have legalized skill games. The creation of a regulatory framework for these electronic gadgets was put on hold by this well-known veto. Youngkin did, however, express his readiness to collaborate with legislators to develop a more all-encompassing approach.

Youngkin signed a bipartisan budget for the fiscal years 2024–2026 before the veto. With the General Assembly adjourning its regular session in early March without a budget deal, a protracted impasse with Democrats erupted, which was finally resolved by this budget resolution. Despite significant demand from stakeholders, skill game provisions were not included in the completed budget, necessitating a special session.

At the budget-signing ceremony, Youngkin expressed openness to a new skill games proposal. He emphasized the need for comprehensive safeguards in gaming legislation. “When it comes to additional gaming options, such as games of skill, we must proceed with a robust set of safeguards,” Youngkin stated. He committed to collaborating with lawmakers to ensure responsible implementation that prioritizes player protection.

Opposition and Future Prospects

Grassroots organization Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines remains a vocal opponent of electronic betting machines. A recent poll commissioned by the group found that 56% of Virginians opposed legalizing skill games, while 36% supported it. Although Virginia banned these devices in 2023, illegal operators continue to pose challenges.

Senate Bill 212, sponsored by Senators Aaron Rouse and Timmy French, aimed to legalize skill games by establishing a regulatory framework and tax structure. The bill passed the Senate with a 32-8 vote and the House with a 51-45 vote. It projected $200 million in tax revenue. Despite the veto, some lawmakers and small business owners remain cautiously optimistic about reaching a compromise. Proponents argue that legalizing skill games is crucial for curbing illegal gambling and could provide additional funds for community investment.

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With a potential new proposal on the horizon, stakeholders across Virginia are closely watching for developments. Lawmakers must act before June 28 to bring a new bill forward. Governor Youngkin’s administration appears ready to engage in further discussions, aiming for a balanced solution that supports small businesses while addressing regulatory concerns.

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