Soon, “skill machines” will no longer be legal in Charlottesville, following a letter from the city’s commonwealth’s attorney.
The machines look similar to slot machines, which are against the law in Virginia, but are called “skill machines” on grounds that they’re not based on chance entirely. The legality of the machines has been dubious, with some game manufacturers referring to them as “gray market” machines.
In a letter Friday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said the machines violate the Code of Virginia, specifically pointing to a section that bans “illegal gambling.”
One of the included code sections defines gambling as “... the making, placing or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.”
Establishments with the machines will be allowed 30 days to remove them from the premises. If the machines remain after 30 days, then the owner will be subject to prosecution for possession of a gambling device, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, has not issued an opinion about the machines. His office previously has said that because illegal gambling is a criminal violation, it is up to a commonwealth’s attorney to determine whether an activity or machine constitutes illegal gambling.
Charlottesville may be the first locality in the state to claim the machines constitute gambling, Michael Kelly, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Friday, adding that because commonwealth’s attorneys operate independently, he could not be certain.