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Lawmakers Want to Ban 'Games of Skill' - Not Chuck E. Cheese

Legislators sitting in session, aerial view
The House of Delegates in session. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM)

‘Games of skill,’ known to critics as ‘grey gaming,’ could become illegal if Virginia lawmakers get their way. A ban has already passed the General Assembly. But not everything is set in stone just yet. 

While there seems to be a consensus among lawmakers to outlaw these games, there are a couple of exemptions. More specifically: family entertainment centers and coin-operated amusement games. 

“You’re not exactly betting, you’re basically paying for that stuffed animal,” said Del. David Bulova (D- Fairfax). “It's the casino-style games, where you go ahead and put in money and you've got a chance to get a big payout, that we're very concerned about.”

This week, Bulova says, lawmakers will be working behind the scenes to tighten up language about how family entertainment centers are defined in state code. 

“What we don't want to do inadvertently is to hurt the Chuck E. Cheeses of the world,” Bulova said. “But we also want to make sure that it [language] is tight enough not to provide another loophole for those ‘games of skill’ to be able to continue to operate in Virginia.”

Bulova says language defining ‘skill’ and ‘games of skill’ was based off of language in Pennsylvania, where legal battles about the use of the games are ongoing. 

Mike Barley, a representative for Queens of Virginia Skill and Entertainment, said he’s not thinking about a legal battle in Virginia just yet. Instead, Barley says the company hasn’t given up hope of industry regulation instead of a ban.

“We are still actively engaged with the Governor’s office and the legislature asking them to support small Virginia businesses by regulating and taxing skill games,” Barley said. “The tax revenue produced can go to help Virginia schools and not out-of-state wealthy casino owners.”

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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