Long Live The Queen: Skill Games Company Drops Suit After VA Lawmakers Deliver 1-Year Reprieve

Written By Martin Harris on July 23, 2020

A Virginia-based gaming company has dismissed its lawsuit against a Charlottesville attorney who had tried to ban real-money skill games.

The Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment (QVS) offers its slot machine-like games in Charlottesville and throughout the state. Not only that, but it is doing so with the permission of a new state law until July 1, 2021.

As has been the case with many other industry stories this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary reason for these plot twists.

Lawsuit in response to attorney’s ban

Last year, QVS sued attorney Joe Platania after he chose to ban the company from operating its gaming machines within the city.

Platania, the attorney for the Charlottesville commonwealth, determined the games violated Virginia’s anti-gambling law. However, QVS maintained its offerings are “games of skill” and not chance-based, which prevents the company from running afoul of the law.

What are skill-based games?

The “skill” element in such games can often be quite minimal.

For example, upon completing a session, a player may see two or three boxes on the screen. A prompt will ask the player to select the largest box. Correctly performing the simple task enables the winning player to cash out for the full amount. The task also technically adds the “skill” requirement to an otherwise chance-based game.

QVS operates an estimated 7,500 slot-like gaming machines in convenience stores, restaurants and other locations, including gaming emporiums in Virginia. The company partners with the provider Pace-O-Matic, a Georgia-based game manufacturer.

Following Platania’s ban, the company removed the games from Charlottesville while continuing to offer them elsewhere in Virginia. It then filed its lawsuit, claiming Platania had violated its constitutional rights while negatively affecting its standing in Virginia.

Governor OKs skill games for COVID-19 relief

The company originally filed the lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court. In November, the suit moved to US District Court.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch explained, the fight was also taken up in the General Assembly. VA lawmakers discussed the skill-based games alongside debates over whether to legalize casinos and sports betting.

Ultimately, VA legislators legalized casinos and sports betting, approving casinos in five VA cities. Sports betting became legal in Virginia this month, with regulations to come and sportsbooks perhaps to open later this year.

The residents will vote on whether to allow them by referendums this November.

Much to QVS’s dismay, however, while expanding other forms of gambling lawmakers voted to ban the company’s skill games — not just in Charlottesville, but statewide — starting on July 1.

Gov. Ralph Northam then proposed a one-year moratorium on the skills game ban. Lawmakers approved the proposal on April 22.

Northam had a particular reason for proposing the ban to not start for another year.

The new law allows Virginia to impose a $1,200 tax per gaming device. The funds will go toward the COVID-19 Relief Fund. The new law also charges the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to oversee the skill games.

New law precludes need for lawsuit

Given that the lifted ban allows games to operate through July 1, 2021, QVS elected to dismiss its lawsuit.

In a statement, QVS expressed satisfaction “that this case could be resolved outside of the courtroom.”

The company also stated that “a portion of the revenue will go to municipalities where our games are located.” That revenue will help “the commonwealth, local governments and small businesses during this time of great need.”

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.

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