Possible skilled gaming ban could hurt restaurants, owner says

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Posted at 3:05 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 18:24:48-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - At Mel's Place, skilled gaming machines have brought new life to the restaurant.

"I've been here 21 years, and the last ten years I've struggled quite a bit until these machines came in. I don't struggle anymore," said Melody Weekly, the restaurant's owner.

Lawmakers in Richmond are considering banning the gaming machines. Last week, the House of Delegates voted in favor of banning them. The Senate is still debating and is expected to take the legislation up this week.

"Please tax and regulate. Don't ban them. Don't take them away from us. The small businesses in the area really need them," said Weekly.

Across the state, there are more than 7,000 Queen of Virginia Skill and Entertainment machines. They're similar to video slot machines, but require skill. So far, they've been allowed to operate, but it's considered a gray area. Some lawmakers say the machines are cutting into the Virginia Lottery and are upset the machines started popping up before lawmakers approved them.

"I was just really shocked at the revenue they brought into the business," said Weekly. "They helped me do a lot of needed upgrades around here."

Related: Investigators raid three Northeastern North Carolina businesses during illegal gambling investigation

Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed taxing them, but on Monday told News 3 he wants lawmakers to work out their legislation. "We'll let them vet that and then I'll see what gets to my desk," he said. "Then, I'll deal with it appropriately and do what's in the best interest of Virginia."