VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Before Virginia had permanent casinos like the Rivers Casino in Portsmouth, it had skill games that brought in wins for some customers and income for operators.
As of Wednesday, under court order, police can charge skill games customers with a misdemeanor and operators with a felony. This means operators such as Boyd Melchor of Kelly’s Tavern could get hit with a $25-thousand fine for each skill game machine.
“We’re [the state] going to hurt too many mom-and-pop operators in Virginia,” Melchor said as he was surrounded by Queen game machines at his Hilltop area location.
Queen, says Melchor, wants the machines unplugged as of Wednesday.
“Today is November the 15th. I’m not sure about the other counties, but in Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, (Colin) Stolle, gave us until November the 26th before they start enforcing the law,” said Melchor.
In Hampton, Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell offered a statement to 10 On Your Side as the state faces a patchwork of enforcement plans.
“I feel for the store owners, however, we took a duty to enforce the law, and our hands are tied, Bell said.
Melchor and other operators are using skills of the negotiating variety to convince the 2024 General Assembly, where both houses will be controlled by Democrats, to create a regulated skill games industry in a state with a growing number of casinos.
Regina Mobley: So you’re saying both can exist peacefully?
Boyd Melchor: We are co-existing right now, and have been. Casinos are making money beyond their wildest dreams. (The) lottery is doing better than ever. All the other gambling is doing great. We’re not hurting a soul.