Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Applications to operate skill games in Louisa, Virginia, voted down

Two applications that would have brought skill games to the small town of Louisa, Va., were voted down on Tuesday during a joint meeting between the town’s planning commission and council.

The Sappington Revocable Living Trust and Central Virginia Property Holdings, LLC, submitted Special Use Permits (SUP) applications to operate skill games at their businesses in the town of 1,555 people. The Sappington Revocable Living Trust operates the Louisa BP gas station in town.

The machines, also known as gray machines, are like standard casino slot machines, but operate in a different way and are known as skill games. The machines have come under fire from the state as being a form of gambling since 2020. A judge in Greenville, Va., stopped the state’s attempt to ban them in July 2021. They still operate in the commonwealth today.

Applications fail

The Louisa BP gas station was already operating skill games. The station changed ownership twice in 2022, once in February, and then in September. Sumata Das, the current operator, had to submit a SUP application when it was discovered the gas station was already operating skill games.

“He was unaware a SUP was required,” one council member explained during the meeting Tuesday.

The second SUP submitted by Central Virginia Property Holdings LLC was for the Court Café and Pub building across from the Louisa post office.

Both SUP applications failed to pass during a joint vote before the Louisa planning commission and town council meeting.

The town is currently in a rebuilding effort to move forward as a vibrant community of small businesses.

“A lot of people enjoy these games,” said Melissa Chisholm with Central Virginia Property Holdings, LLC. “They do it for entertainment and they do it to relax and unwind after a day of work. I’ve had them in my business for three years down in Bumpass. We’re excited about coming to the Town of Louisa. We just didn’t know we had to go over this hurdle.”

Chisholm’s business partner, Mike Rasswallia, told the council, “People come and play $20. Nobody is losing their house. Nobody is losing rent money. It's more of a place where you come and enjoy and have a good time.”

Before voting on the applications, council members opened up the meeting for public comment.

“Once we open those doors, more is gonna happen. We’re just gonna bring in more gambling,” a resident said during public comments. “How do they know that no one has lost rent? Or money for food? Or for child support, or anything like that, by gambling with that $20, that turns into $30, $40, $50, etc…”

The games continue to operate in Virginia in a "gray area" throughout the Commonwealth. A legislative effort to regulate and tax the games failed earlier this month in the Virginia State Capitol.

Meanwhile, thieves have targeted the gaming machines in six 7-Eleven stores in Fairfax County during a four-week period in January. Surveillance cameras show thieves casually carrying the machines out of stores with ease.

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