Judge dismisses skill games lawsuit

Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 7:40 PM EST
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EMPORIA, Va. (WDBJ) - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on skill games.

Judge Louis Lerner granted the state’s motion for summary judgement Monday morning during a hearing in Greensville County Circuit Court.

“The Supreme Court has ruled to the satisfaction of the court, and to proceed to a trial would be inappropriate,” Lerner said.

Former NASCAR driver and truck stop owner Hermie Sadler brought the lawsuit over two years ago.

Monday, owners of convenience stores and other small businesses that host the machines came from across the Commonwealth in a show of support.

“This is not gambling. These are skill games. And you are not a criminal. You are the backbone of Virginia,” Sen. Bill Stanley said to the crowd assembled outside the courthouse.

Stanley and Sadler’s other attorneys maintained that playing a skill game is not the same as gambling. And the state’s ban, they argued, is unconstitutional. But an attorney representing the state said Virginia isn’t outlawing the machines, it’s prohibiting the conduct of wagering on the outcome of a game.

Judge Lerner had issued a temporary injunction allowing the machines to continue operating while the case was pending, but last month a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court overturned the injunction.

During Monday’s hearing, Lerner cited the Supreme Court decision as he granted the state’s motion for summary judgement. Skill games supporters said they were disappointed with the ruling but determined to fight on.

Teju Patadia’s family owns about 10 stores in western Virginia.

“We want to be regulated and taxed. We don’t want illegal games. We don’t want anything that’s going to hurt the communities. We want something that’s going to support the communities, that’s going to help the small businesses to stay open,” he said.

Shiv Patel was representing the Virginia Asian American Store Owners Association.

“We’re very disappointed in the results of the case today, and I expect we’ll see a lot of our members have to close their doors, upwards of 10% to 15% of our members just can’t continue to operate,” he said.

The Office of Attorney General Jason Miyares released the following statement: “We are pleased with today’s ruling,” Miyares said.

Sadler’s case was set for trial right before Christmas. That hearing will now be canceled. And the next stop for supporters of skill games could be the Virginia General Assembly early next year.

“The next couple of months are going to be very interesting as we get towards the General Assembly session,” Sadler told the crowd after the hearing, “to see really truly who is on our side,”