In an attempt to legalize skill games in Virginia, Virginia Merchants and Amusement Coalition and their industry partners continue to peddle inaccuracies and false claims. You may have seen the below claims in their advertisements or heard them in their press conference earlier this week. It’s time we set the record straight when it comes to these predatory slot machines.

CLAIM: There are no huge corporations hosting these games and they are critical to supporting first generation and minority.

FACT: The reality is these games line the pockets of huge corporations and are exploitative and predatory to vulnerable community members. In Illinois, where these games are legal, as the average income level of a municipality decreased, the average number of machines in that area increased. They were also found to heavily target minority communities:

  • Gambling machines were found in Berwyn, IL., which has a population made up of about 70 percent Black and Hispanic residents. But there were no machines in Oak Park, IL., which has a population that is roughly 68 percent white.
  • Machines were placed in Waukegan, IL., where just over 70 percent of the population are people of color. No machines are found in Lake Forest, IL., which is nearly 88 percent white.
  • Video gaming terminals were found in Harvey, IL., where the population of black residents is over 75 percent. And, you guessed it, no machines in Palos Park, IL. — almost 93 percent white.

CLAIM: Hundreds of small businesses are at risk of shutting down unless skill games are reinstated.

FACT: Across the country, only a handful of states allow these machines. That means that convenience stores and small businesses in most states can thrive without them. Even if regulated, these machines present soft targets for criminals and crimes such as assault and robbery have increased at businesses with them. Increased crime poses a much greater risk to our small business community than removing these machines.

CLAIM: Underage individuals accessing these games are not an issue because they cannot cash out their receipts without showing a valid ID.

FACT:  Problem gambling is on the rise nationwide and the proliferation of skill games in easy-to-access locations contributes to this. Additionally, employees that work in establishments that host these games are unable to monitor them. Research shows that children introduced to “harmless betting” at a young age are four times more likely to engage in problem gambling later. A “win” on a skill machine today can quickly turn to negative side effects of gambling addiction later – regardless of whether they receive earnings or not.

CLAIM: Regulating this industry will bring $200 million in tax revenue and allow for safe operation.

FACT: Any effort to regulate these machines will erode the fabric of our communities by turning every main street in Virginia into a legalized gambling corridor bringing with it crime and unpleasant activities. While residents have the option to approve casinos and pari-mutuel wagering via a referendum, they have no say when it comes to these games.

Additionally, machine operators’ estimate of $200 million in tax revenue are unfounded and it would be unwise to trust this number. Since they have historically operated with zero oversight, there is no way to know how much money they take in or how many exist.

Trading away the safety and well-being of our communities for deceptive slot machines should never be on the table.