Virginia Lottery retailers resume selling tickets following talks with Governor about skill game ban

May 17, 2024, 10:19 am (Post a comment)

Virginia Lottery

Store owners hope for a quick resolution, but skill game critics say leave it alone

By Kate Northrop

Virginia Lottery retailers who participated in a boycott of lottery ticket sales over the weekend have begun selling tickets again, saying they are seeing progress being made in negotiations regarding the recent skill game ban.

Virginia Lottery retailers have paused their protest and have resumed selling lottery tickets again after hearing hopeful news from the Virginia Governor that a resolution for skill games will happen in the coming weeks.

In October 2023, Virginia legislators passed a bill that made amendments to the current laws regulating skill game machines located in many convenience stores across the state. With new geographical limitations placed on who would be able to operate them, these amendments essentially banned skill games entirely.

This did not sit well with convenience store owners, who say that they have lost a substantial portion of revenue and are at risk of shuttering their businesses as a result. Burley's Market owner Sapan Sachdeva told ABC 13 that he wants to avoid letting employees go. However, he fears that he may not have any other choice if skill games are not allowed in stores soon.

"It's very important for us to have skilled games back turned on, as soon as possible," Sachdeva said. "It's our livelihood, it's our employees, which we want to retain and keep them."

The lottery ticket sale boycott lasted from Thursday into Monday, and although the regular legislative session ended with Governor Glenn Youngkin signing off on a state budget that doesn't address the skill game issue, he promised that it's a topic they will continue to address.

"What we decided is that we would pick that up at another day and that's the commitment that we made," Youngkin reassured.

Youngkin mentioned possible compromises, such as which agency oversees the regulation of the skill game machines, as well as a referendum that would allow localities to decide whether they want to see them at stores in the first place.

"Giving citizens a voice to make sure that we were addressing some of the potential criminal aspects that might arise," Youngkin said on Monday.

Munir Rassiwala, who owns nine convenience stores in Central Virginia, said that it's a start, but given the strain the ban puts on store owners the longer it stays in effect, he is unsure if many convenience stores "can survive another winter without the games."

"We are hurting, of course we are hurting, and hopefully Governor Youngkin will take the decision and turn [the machines] on July 1st," Rassiwala said. "It's better for my customers, it's better for us, it's better for my employees, so the sooner the better."

Not everyone sympathizes with store owners such as Rassiwala. Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines (VANSM) released a statement in strong opposition against skill games, which argues that "the amount of oxygen being wasted on convenience store slot legislation is truly embarrassing for our Commonwealth."

"Consistent with their actions during legislative session, proponents of these machines are lashing out, now refusing to sell lottery tickets and threatening funding for Virginia public schools — once again placing their own self-interests above what is best for Virginians," VANSM said in another statement on Saturday during the lottery ticket sale boycott.

Store owners suffered losses during the lottery ticket sale boycott, but they said it was a necessary evil to get the attention of the government. While up to 500 stores took part in the protest from Thursday to Monday, a Virginia Lottery spokesperson told CBS 6 News that retail sales were up about 9.8% (about $2.9 million) during that time period compared with the same time last year.

"Virginia businesses that sell Lottery tickets, meaning they partner with the Lottery to help raise funds for K-12 public education, have a contract with the Lottery in which they agree to sell Lottery games and redeem winning tickets," a Lottery spokesperson said in a statement. "The Lottery works with each individual retailer as to what works best for them, and we make it a practice not to tell retailers how to run their business."

Following discussions with legislators who are in touch with the Governor, The Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition said they are expecting a resolution within the next three to four weeks.

Lottery Post Staff


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