Former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler is suing Ralph Northam, the governor of his native Virginia, over the state’s impending ban on skill games.
Sadler owns several truck stops and restaurants in and around his hometown of Emporia in southern Virginia, and is hopping mad over the ban, effective July 1.
He says it’s bad news for small business owners like him, who have relied on skill gaming revenue for the past 20 years. According to the Daily Progress, Sadler is set to lose $750,000 in annual net revenues because of the ban.
Skill Gaming Ban ‘Un-Virginian’
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, argues the ban is “unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.” It criticizes the Northam administration for legalizing casino gambling and sports betting while cracking down on the machines that have helped business owners cope with the financial pressures of coronavirus.
“What we did in the General Assembly is wrong,” said Sadler’s lawyer, Bill Stanley, at a press conference Wednesday. “We have eliminated skill games from the lexicon of what is legalized gambling in the Commonwealth of Virginia …
“Now they have chosen to pick on the small businesses because they’ve decided skill games are unseemly. They are not,” continued Stanley, who also happens to be a Republican state senator. “They are the backbone that have helped these businesses thrive in a pandemic. They have helped them hire and renovate and keep their employees working.
“If you’re going to legalize gambling in [Virginia] then you’ve got to rip the band aid off, You’ve got to legalize all gambling, and picking and choosing winners and losers is un-American and un-Virginian.”
Cutting It Fine
The slot-like machines have existed in convenience stores and truck stops in Virginia for years, but previously occupied a gray area of the law. Last year, Gov. Northam devised a plan to tax and regulate the terminals for one year only to help shore up finances for struggling businesses.
But that would be it. After 12 months, they would be made illegal.
With just two weeks to go until the ban comes into effect, the complaint asks for an injunction that would allow business owners to keep the games in operation pending resolution of the case.
“We should let the free-market system work,” Sadler said in a statement. “But they are cleaning us out to pave the way for the bright lights and upper-class gambling of the casinos…If Virginia is going to legalize gambling, as it has, then it should allow skill games to be a part of that equation, and not limit who can play based upon their zip code or station in life.”
In 2019, the Virginia legislature legalized casino gaming, approving five cities as locations to build resorts. The casinos aren’t expected to be licensed until April 2022 at the earliest, with a view to opening the following year.
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