Virginia businesses starting to feel effects of skill game ban

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Businesses across Virginia are already feeling the impact of a skill games ban, even though the law has only been actively enforced for a few days.

A judge tossed out a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on electronic skill games a month after the state’s Supreme Court revived the ban.

An injunction blocked enforcement of the statewide ban months after it went into effect in July 2021, but an Oct. 13 ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia lifted the injunction after the high court found the case was likely to fail on its argument that the ban violated free speech protections. A judge in Greensville County ultimately agreed and dismissed the case.

Now, the inside of Sportsman Restaurant and Lounge in the Montrose area of Henrico County looks a little different as a result of the ruling. Chairs are empty and the skill games that once lined the walls are gone. Only one remains, with two notes taped to the front telling customers it’s no longer in service. This is something that breaks the heart of business owner, Susan Matthews.

“Our food [prices have] gone up, inflation has gone up, everything,” said Matthews. “But the skill games have helped us get through that.”

Matthews said the costumers who would normally come in to play the games would also buy food and drinks. But now, that’s no longer the case.

“I had retired people that come in and, just for entertainment purposes, would come in and play two or three times a day,” Matthews said. “We would always sell something to go along with it, or they eat. And now, there’s no one here.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares recommended local prosecutors begin enforcement of the ban on Nov. 15. Matthews has complied with the law since but said she wishes things could be different.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen with them, if they’re gonna bring them back or not? We’re not sure,” Matthews said. “We want to do our part to whatever it takes to get them back.”

Hundreds of business owners have sent a letter to Virginia’s General Assembly, urging them to reconsider the ban in the upcoming session. The Sportsman Restaurant and Lounge was on that list.

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