Virginia Lottery retailers refuse to sell tickets to draw attention to skill games amendment

Home » Virginia Lottery retailers refuse to sell tickets to draw attention to skill games amendment

Amendment would effectively prohibit most small businesses from having skill games in stores

Includes video report

By Kate Northrop

Hundreds of Virginia Lottery retailers across the state participated in a boycott of ticket sales on Monday to protest an amendment to a bill that regulates skill games.

Virginia lottery players may have had difficulty buying tickets Monday, since hundreds of licensed Virginia Lottery retailers halted ticket sales to voice their frustrations with the government’s increased regulations on skill games in the state.

For many convenience stores, inflation, rising costs, and competition from nearby small businesses and big chain stores alike mean that lottery ticket sales are crucial to keep bringing customers in. However, several store owners said earlier this week, skill games make up a decent chunk of revenue and help keep their doors open.

Now, with amendments to Senate Bill 212 that further regulate the sale of skill games, retailers are coming together to voice their frustrations that make it nearly impossible to house skill game machines in-store and therefore take away a substantial source of income.

The Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition (VA MAC) called on “Governor Youngkin and members of the General Assembly to reverse the Governor’s amendments and keep the original version of SB 212, the skill game regulation bill, in place.”

Amendments to the bill, which were issued in a notice from the Office of Attorney General on Oct. 13, 2023, include a 35% tax rate for businesses that operate skill games. It also bans skill games within a half-mile of a casino or other gaming establishment, as well as gaming machines within a half-mile of any daycare, school, and place of worship. Cities and counties can also individually vote to ban the machines.

“This additional revenue is very helpful for small businesses like mine,” Krunel Patel, the owner of a convenience store in Varina, told WTVR CBS 6. “It’s going to hurt a lot of stores. It is going to take away a chunk of stores — literally, like, a majority of the stores in the state of Virginia — and they won’t be able to compete and survive.”

By shutting off the lottery terminals, retailers participating in the boycott are hoping to demonstrate “the economic impact that the closing of convenience stores will have on the Virginia Lottery and the tax revenue they generate.”

“We want to show how it could impact them if we are not in business,” Patel continued. “I might have to cut back on staff if these machines are not back on. I don’t know what I would do, but I will have to survive somehow. It’s going to be tough, but we will have to fight.”

A spokesperson for Governor Youngkin issued a statement that reads, “The Governor supports small business owners having access to skill games and his proposed legislative amendments, stemming from discussions with a bipartisan group of members and dozens of outside stakeholders, would establish an important regulatory framework, enhance consumer and public safety protections, and grant localities and Virginians a voice.”

However, some customers are voicing their support for skill games and are anxiously awaiting their return, Teresa Lambert, a convenience store cashier, told WSLS 10 News.

“Sales are down, [customers] see that,” Lambert explained. “We have a lot of regulars around here, and they’re anxious for the skill games to come back.”

To her surprise, she did not see any pushback from customers in response to the boycott of ticket sales on Monday.

Not only did stores halt ticket sales on Monday, but some retailers participated in a complete store closure on Tuesday between 3:50 and 4:50 pm, too.

Zahid Hussain, a father of four, owns three gas station convenience stores in the Richmond area. The hour-long store closure that took place on Tuesday is more “symbolic” than anything and is another way to demonstrate the potential for retailers shutting down for good if skill games do not make a return.

While he felt bad for turning lottery players away, he said it’s nothing personal against the Virginia Lottery — he’s merely looking to grab the government’s attention, which owns and operates the Lottery.

“We knocked the door off the Governor’s,” Hussein told WWBT 12 On Your Side. “We request him. We beg him. He didn’t listen.”

Dharmendra Patel, who owns nine convenience stores, stressed to WSLS 10 News that all he wishes for is for the regulations to be reversed and the skill games bill to revert to its original standing.

“At least give us a fair opportunity,” Patel said. “We are not asking to open a mini-casino or game room or anything like that. It came down to a slap on our face with all these amendments that made it impossible to have skill games really anywhere in Virginia.”

VIDEO: Watch the report

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