Supporters of skill games hope for another reprieve

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 7:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Early on a Monday morning, the tables are empty at Wolf’s Den Billiards on Hollins Road, but after a challenging year customers are returning.

And the owners say without the skill games in the corner, this popular business probably wouldn’t be here.

“When these machines were put in originally, of course we were all skeptical,” said owner Trena Wolford. “We didn’t know how they would work, but they have been nothing but a godsend to us smaller places.”

Wolford and the owners of other small businesses say they were disappointed when Governor Ralph Northam proposed an amendment that would ban the machines on July first, especially when skill games are providing over $140 million in state revenues for a COVID relief fund.

Atul Patel owns ten One Stop Markets in the Roanoke Valley.

“And now they want to stop it, and we don’t understand as retail business owners why,” Patel told WDBJ7.

“Nobody seems to have any problem with any of the gambling except when it comes to the skill games,” added State Amusement Company’s Dan Switzer.

A spokesperson for Governor Northam said he first proposed robust regulation of skill games in 2020, but the industry opposed a 35% tax rate. The General Assembly killed that bill and ultimately voted to ban the games.

Alena Yarmosky said the governor has been consistent in his expectation that the machines would be phased out, after he proposed a one-year delay.

But supporters of the game are hoping lawmakers will reject the governor’s amendment.

“This is what we have to have to survive,” said Kory Wolford, owner of the restaurant Papa D’s.

Lawmakers will take up the issue on Wednesday, but with long odds for another last-minute reprieve.

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