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The General Assembly is debating proposals on the new, so-called skill games that have cropped up in convenience stores throughout the state.

You may have seen them popping up at convenience stores throughout the Commonwealth– the so-called digital “skill games” that, at a passing glance, could easily be mistaken for slot machines. Their popularity has increased in the past three years, with over a quarter of the state’s retailers that sell lottery tickets also offering the machines. 

While they are popular, they also remain unregulated. So far, the games have managed to operate outside of state policy by arguing the games require skill to win. And Virginia state law only bans games of “pure chance,” thus exempting the machines from the state’s laws.

That may be coming to an end soon, as several pieces of legislation have been filed to either regulate or ban the games outright. Last week a House of Delegates subcommittee voted to ban the machines altogether. The following day, a Senate committee first voted to ban the machines, before ultimately leaving open a possibility that they could instead be regulated and taxed by the state. The decision now heads to another Senate committee, which will decide the games’ fate. 

Another option was floated to the General Assembly last week: simply ending the ban on games of chance, too. A lobbyist representing video gaming companies urged lawmakers to do away with that ban, allowing slot machines to also enter stores, and Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William) introduced legislation to do just that.

The decision has serious consequences for the state, as the games’ success has hurt Virginia’s bottom line. As the “skill games” have risen in popularity, the state’s lottery profits, which help pay for the Virginia’s education system, have steadily dropped. Virginia Lottery Director Kevin Hall reported that his agency expects to lose $40 million in annual profit as a result of the machine’s popularity.