EMPORIA, Va. (WRIC) — The Greensville Circuit Court ruled that the injunction currently in place for the General Assembly’s “skill game ban” would be upheld until the results of a final trial between Hermie Sadler and the Commonwealth of Virginia are held in 2023.
In June 2021, Sadler — a former NASCAR driver and Emporia native — filed a lawsuit against Virginia ABC, then-governor, Ralph Northam, and former Attorney General, Mark Herring.
Sadler and his attorney, Virginia Senator Bill Stanley, argued that a law passed by the general assembly banning skill games was unconstitutional and violated the rights of a number of small business owners — including Sadler, who owned and operated a number of truck stops, convenience stores and restaurants, where skill games are often found.
Skill games are arcade gambling machines, sometimes referred to as “gray machines” because, for years, they operated in a gray area of state law, dodging taxation and regulation.
The General Assembly originally voted to prohibit skill games in 2020, arguing that they were taking business away from the Virginia Lottery and would pose a threat to the emerging casino industry.
Ultimately, the ban was put on hold in favor of a temporary tax to support schools and small business grants during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, an amendment proposed by Northam was eventually scheduled to take effect in earnest on July 1, 2021.
Small business owners, along with Sadler, claimed that a ban on skill games would significantly affect their income and would infringe on their constitutional rights.
The ban took effect on July 1, 2021, and in the months that followed, a manufacturer of skill games claimed that illegal gambling had surged as a result. However, in December 2021, the Greensville Circuit Court ruled that the ban be temporarily lifted as part of a preliminary injunction to Sadler’s lawsuit.
In response, budget writers for the Virginia General Assembly inserted language into the Commonwealth’s 2022 budget that would uphold the ban using different wording.
Sadler’s legal team amended their complaint and petition for injunction to include the language used in the state’s budget. On Monday, Dec. 5, the court ruled again in favor of Sadler’s previous injunction, upholding the temporarily lifted ban.