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“Skill game” machines have appeared rapidly at convenience stores and game rooms across Pittsylvania County over the past several months, but the machines fall under the definition of illegal gambling devices under Virginia State Code. All known skill game operators in Pittsylvania County are being notified of this fact, and those that don’t cease operating the machines within 15 days may be subject to civil and criminal charges for illegal gambling.
Those that continue to conduct, finance, manage, supervise, or direct the use of the “skill game” machines may be subject to a class 6 felony, which is punishable by between 1-10 years of jail time and up to a $20,000 fine. They may also be subject to a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each gambling device.
An opinion letter from Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Haskins is being distributed to any establishment that is known to operate “skill game” machines. Due to the rapid proliferation of these machines and the fact that Pittsylvania County does not require business licenses, every location in the County that offers “skill games” is not known at this time.
During a 2020 special session dealing with the COVID emergency and its impact on the budget, the General Assembly allowed a limited number of “skill games” to continue operating for one year while paying a $1,200 per month per machine tax. These machines were approved and regulated by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and they were allowed between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. On July 1, 2021, all “skill game” machines became illegal.
In December of 2021, a temporary injunction was enacted in Greensville County Circuit, banning the enforcement of the ban on “skill game” machines until May 18, 2022. However, this injunction does not apply to all skill game operations, but only to those that were already in legal compliance with the ABC. In Pittsylvania County, 16 convenience stores have “skill game” machines that can be legally operated. Unless further action is taken by the Court, the legal standing of those machines will automatically expire on May 18, 2022 when the injunction expires.
In the meantime, any other establishment that operates “skill game” machines is doing so illegally.
In addition to the charges for machine operators, property owners who allow illegal gambling to continue on their property are subject to a class 1 misdemeanor. Since it is considered illegal gambling, users of "skill game" machines could also be subject to a class 3 misdemeanor.
In addition to the legality of the machines themselves, there are a variety of regulations that any establishment operating “skill game” machines would need to adhere to. These include Building Code, Fire Code, and the County Zoning Ordinance, which stipulates that a business must have a special use permit to operate skill game machines. All of the establishments that have been located so far have been in non-compliance with the Zoning Ordinance, and others have also been found in violation of the Building and Fire Code.