Ban on electronic skill games in Virginia reinstated by state Supreme Court

Law Firm News

A ban on electronic skill games in Virgnia went back into effect Friday after the state Supreme Court vacated an injunction that allowed thousands of the betting machines to remain in gas stations, bars and conveniece stores.

The injunction was issued by a lower court in an ongoing lawsuit that argues the ban is a violation of free speech. But a panel of three Supreme Court justices found that the suit is unlikely to succeed.

“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,” the panel wrote in its order.

The games look and play like slot machines, though manufacturers say there is an element of skill involved.

The General Assembly passed legislation outlawing skill games in 2020, but former Gov. Ralph Northam delayed it for a year 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 games already registered with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authoirty to continue until the issue is resolved.

The lawsuit is now set to go to trial in December.

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