The largest distributor of skill game machines is facing a deadline to leave Virginia by the end of the month to comply with new laws that will shut down its business operations on July 1.
The gaming machines, operated by Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment (QVS), provided $74 million to Virginia’s Covid-19 Relief Fund in the last year, as the commonwealth struggled through the pandemic.
Skill game machines look and feel similar to a standard slot machine where a player can wager money with each spin of the reels. They are also referred to as "gray machines.”
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For the month of December 2020, there were approximately 9,038 reported skill games in Virginia. Skill game distributors, like QVS, reported there was $175 million wagered on skill games and $136 million in prize winnings paid out, according to published reports. These skill games are often found in bars, convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants across the state.
“We want to thank the state for working together with us to successfully run a regulated skill game industry for the past year,” Jeanna Bouzek, QVS general manager, said in a news release announcing the departure from Virginia.
Skill games have had a profound impact on the state's financial well-being, she added. Many small businesses have counted on skill games money to hire staff, pay for repairs and keep up with their bills.
“Our small business partners frequently tell us they depend on this skill game revenue to survive,” Bouzek said.
A Limited Reprieve for Skill Games
The Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) provided the controversial gaming machines with a temporary legal footing in April 2020. The law passed in April 2020 legalized the skill games through June 30, 2021. After that, the games would be banned.
QVS, an operating arm of Atlanta-based game manufacturer Pace-O-Matic, manages more than 5,000 skill game machines across 1,600 locations in Virginia, which is about 54% of the number in the state.
All totaled, QVS and other regulated skill game businesses will have contributed $130 million to the state in revenue during the fiscal year that ends on June 30, according to a QVS news release.
During the pandemic, QVS also worked with its business partners to hand out thousands of free meals across the commonwealth in support of people in need.
“Our financial support and charitable giving helped small businesses and residents during a critical time last year,” Bouzek said. “We are happy to play a major part of the recovery efforts in the state.”
In the meantime, Virginia legalized sports betting and currently has seven mobile sportsbooks live in the state, five Rosie's Gaming Emporiums with the possibility of adding three more locations, and casinos planned in Richmond, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Danville and Bristol that could begin to open in 2023.