Virginia Skill Gaming Company Sued for Using Late Sen. Yvonne Miller’s Likeness

Virginia skill gaming manufacturer and distributor Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment is the subject of a lawsuit filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court. The litigation is brought by the estate of the late state Senator Yvonne Miller.

Virginia skill gaming lawsuit Yvonne Miller
Virginia skill gaming lawsuit Yvonne Miller
Queen of Virginia skill gaming machines inside a Virginia convenience store. A lawsuit filed by the estate of the late Virginia lawmaker Yvonne Miller has been filed against the skill gaming industry. (Image: WSLS)

Miller, who was the first Black woman to serve in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, died in 2012.

A pro-skill gaming flier circulated late last year used her likeness in campaign material urging state lawmakers to permanently legalize the controversial gaming terminals. Attorneys representing Miller’s estate argue that the late Democrat had nothing to do with the skill gaming debate.

After the divisive machines spread across the commonwealth in gas stations and convenience stores, restaurants and bars, and even fully dedicated skill gaming businesses in strip malls, the Virginia legislature decided to temporarily legalize the devices amid the pandemic. The one-year authorization was to provide new revenue to the small businesses to help offset some of their losses caused by COVID-19.

The authorization period expired on June 30, 2021. But a Greensville Court soon after the expiration issued an injunction that allows the games to continue operating through at least May 18, 2022.

Odd Campaign

The lawsuit brought by Miller’s estate alleges that Queen of Virginia, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Pace-O-Matic, the leading skill gaming manufacturer in the country, wrongly used the late lawmaker’s likeness.

The flier sought to win over elected officials in Richmond to pass legislation to keep skill gaming legal. The handout touted the educational benefits skill gaming tax revenue could provide.

The defendants jointly published Sen. Miller’s name, photograph, and likeness on the flyer in order to demonstrate and bolster their political credibility in order to obtain support from the Virginia legislature and to entice the public at large to purchase their gambling services,” said attorney David Bond.

Bond contends that the flier has “caused damage to the reputation, memory, and legacy of Sen. Miller and has caused anger, humiliation, and embarrassment among her heirs and family members.” The lawsuit is seeking $1.35 million in damages.

The flier never resulted in legislative action. Who financed its publication also remains a mystery. Queen of Virginia has denied involvement with the circular.

Judicial Decision Coming

An appeal regarding Virginia temporarily allowing skill games and then deeming them illegal has been brought by former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler. His family business — Sadler Brothers Oil — has skill gaming terminals inside most of its gas stations.

Sadler and others argue that the skill component of the gaming machines exempts the terminals from anti-gambling laws. Unlike a traditional slot machine that automatically reveals whether a spin won or lost, a skill gaming machine requires the player to identify a winning payline.

During their temporary one-year authorization, businesses were required to pay the state a flat $1,200 per month fee per skill gaming machine. Virginia collected $136.3 million from the terminals during the 12-month period.

Backers of allowing the machines to continue operating permanently say such authorization could benefit up to 10,000 more community college students in Virginia each year through the formation of the Yvonne B. Miller/Ben Chafin College Scholarship Fund.

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