NORFOLK. – A Norfolk Circuit Judge denied on Jun. 6 a lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction to reverse Virginia’s skill game ban, which went into effect July 1.
The lawsuit, filed by Virginia Beach attorney Mike Joynes and Del. Steve Heretick, D-79, claimed that racial remarks made during the lawmaking process violated Virginia’s Human Rights Act.
During the 2020 General Assembly session, Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, called efforts to keep skill games in place “the Ali Baba bill.” Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, called the campaign “sleazy,” according to Courthouse News.
Judge Junius Fulton III stated that the state’s nondiscrimination law does not offer a right of action against the state because the state is not a “person;” a clause listed by the statute. It was also Fulton’s belief that harm would be done to the state if skill games remained in operation.
Despite the Jun. 6 ruling, a separate suit filed by Emporia native and business owner Hermie Sadler and his attorney Sen. Bill Stanley, R-20, is moving full steam ahead.
“We’re not deterred in any way on that decision out of Norfolk,” Sadler told one outlet. “We’re certainly moving forward 100% with our lawsuit.”
“Our case is a full-fledged case based on issues related to the Constitution that we feel like are being violated,” he added.
Stanley filed and announced the lawsuit on Jun. 21, claiming that the skill game ban violates the free speech of Virginia small business owners.
“Personally and politically, I’ve never been for gambling,” Stanley said, “but I believe Virginia has made the decision to legalize casino gambling – sports betting, slot machines, horse racing – and now they have chosen to pick on the small businessmen because they have decided that skill games are unseemly, and they’re not. They are the backbone of what has allowed these small businesses to thrive in the pandemic.”
When Gov. Ralph Northam signed SB 971 in 2020, he gave business owners one year to phase-out of operating skill games on their premises. The law imposed a $1,200 per month per machine tax on owners, generating almost $130 million in revenue for the state. That money was placed into a COVID-19 relief fund, which Sadler now claims Virginia is using for their first legal casinos.