Morrissey Says Skill Games Ban Is a Civil Rights Abuse, Calls on Attorney General Herring to Investigate


RICHMOND, Virginia – Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Virginia) is calling for Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate alleged civil rights violations associated with Virginia’s skill games ban that took effect in July.

“Last session, the General Assembly banned skill games while at the same time they authorized casinos to be built, they expanded historical horse betting, they authorized online sports betting. But the people who were left out are these small business operators that represent the fabric of Virginia,” Morrissey said in a press conference Monday morning.

In light of the pandemic, the skill games ban was delayed from 2020 until 2021 to avoid removing a source of income from struggling Virginia businesses, but it also passed a tax on the machines’ profits. Morrissey said over $100 million in taxes were collected for a COVID relief fund. The Office of the Attorney General is defending Virginia against two separate lawsuits to overturn the ban.

But Morrissey wants Herring to support the games and the business owners through the Office of Civil Rights.

“We’re standing here in front of the Office of the Attorney General to register our great dissatisfaction with Attorney General Mark Herring’s failure to investigate and verify the allegations of civil rights abuses,” Morrissey said.

He referred to Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) calling the games “sleazy,” and Senator Thomas Norment (R-James City) calling a pro-skill games bill “the Ali Baba bill.”

“It was a direct slap in the face to our minority business operators. It was not only racist, not only disrespectful, but it showed complete and utter disregard for these working men and women,” Morrissey said.

He said that legal skill games stopped operating, but other games have come in. “Illegal machines have come in. Virginia’s not taxing them. And Virginia and these individuals, these business owners, are the victims,” he said.

Yemeni American Association President Ezaddin Alasad told reporters, “Machines actually helped us through the pandemic.”

Ezaddin Alasad

He said that the machines brought in 25 to 30 percent of his business’ income. Many business owners have kept on extra employees hoping the General Assembly will legalize the machines, but he said business owners can’t keep that up for much longer.

“The machines actually helped us keep our workforce,” Alasad said.

Morrissey said that if Herring doesn’t join the small business owners in fighting the discrimination, voters will have the opportunity to remove him from office.

Morrissey is one of several legislators who joined lobbyists on a private flight to Illinois to evaluate video game terminals (VGT), another slots-like system that could be placed in Virginia businesses. He has said he wants both VGTs and skill games to be legalized in Virginia.

“In 2022 we will have a new General Assembly and I expect that you’ll have skill games and VGT laws passed,” he said at the press conference.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].




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