Governor Youngkin Vetoes Virginia Skill Games Bill

Virginia – Governor Glenn Youngkin has vetoed SB 212, otherwise known as the Skill Games Bill, effectively closing any discussions over it, at least for 2024.

Gov. Youngkin’s vetoing of SB 212 was a substantial one, since that could have carved out some space for skill games in the commonwealth’s legal gambling industry. That said,  given that skill games are still prevalent in the state, proponents are likely to mount a similar effort in 2025. Now, the question of enforcement is one that many parties in Virginia will have to determine and figure out.

A press release from the Office of Gov. Youngkin saw him include SB 212 as one of the bills he has vetoed as part of the conclusion of the regular legislative session for 2024. 

SB 212’s Story So Far

SB 212 represented a potential reversal of Virginia law on the issue of the legality of “skill games.” The original bill called the Virginia Skill Games Ban was initially passed back in 2020. But this ban wasn’t implemented until 2021, due to complications brought about by the pandemic, which resulted in a one-year grace period given for skill games operators by local legislators. 2021 came, and a lawsuit was filed that put into question the ban and its statutes which was contested until 2023. The hearing culminated with the Virginia Supreme Court upholding the ban.

Following this, SB 212 was created, and was immediately approved by the Virginia Assembly’s two chambers. From here, Gov. Youngkin wanted to amend some of the statutes in SB 212, which led to some backlash from Skill Games operators, particularly those small businesses that offer such machines for their patrons, majority of which protested the amendments.

This has led to the Virginia Senate to reject SB 212 in late April 2024, following a 34-6 vote.

What Does This Mean for SB 212?

Gov. Youngkin’s decision to veto SB 212 means that the 2023 Virginia Supreme Court ruling stands. This means Skill Games are technically banned in the Mother of States. It is up to the local law enforcement whether or not they will uphold the ban and start their crackdown on small businesses that operate Skill Games machines in their vicinity.

However, lawmakers keen to solidify parts of SB 212’s proponents can do so in 2025, since this bill is essential to legalize Skill Games in the state. Youngkin’s amendments to SB 212 show that he is amenable to some form of legal skill games in Virginia, along with the majority of the members of the Assembly.

Virginia legislators can choose to frame a bill that can be more to Youngkin’s interests. In the event that they manage to pass a bill that legalizes Skill Games, it will effectively nullify the current ban on the machines – however, they need to ensure that they also put in proponents that benefit business owners who operate such machines in their establishments.

When Will Online Casino Games Be Legal In Virginia?

As it stands, online casinos are still illegal in The Mother State. While its neighbor, West Virginia, has legalized online casinos, there are only seven states in the US so far that allow online casinos to operate within their respective jurisdictions.

With SB 212 being vetoed, the Virginia Skill Games Ban is still implemented. It is up to the local lawmakers to draft a spiritual successor to SB 212 that hopefully will have better statutes that can accommodate both big and small Skill Games operators as well as the governing body during the next legislative session.

In the event that such a bill becomes approved, it can be grounds for the development of further laws that will eventually legalize online casinos and online gambling within the state.

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