Common Sense from Young Delegate Earley

Del. Mark Earley Jr.

by Gordon C. Morse

Occasionally, a member of the House of Delegates will stand up, speak to a matter of public interest and do so coherently. 

Del. Mark L. Earley Jr., R-Chesterfield, achieved this feat on Friday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2024, when he offered his thoughts on state Sen. Bill 212 — legislation that would sanction skill games, described by the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “electronic slot machine-like devices the General Assembly tried to ban in 2020.” 

While the measure cleared the House of Delegates on a 57-38 vote, Del. Earley spoke to a broader concern:  

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House, I don’t want to take a lot of your time today. I know it’s Friday. But I just feel compelled to comment on this briefly. 

As we all know, in the last few years, really about a five-year time frame, we’ve have had a serious expansion, in a very short amount of time, in gaming and gambling here in Virginia. At this point, we got the lottery, we got casinos, we got sports betting, we got all sorts of things.

And now we have these gray games, skill games, whatever you want to call them, that have really sort of come here imposed upon us in a certain way, and now we’re dealing with it. 

Now,  don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand the arguments about how small business can potentially benefit from this, and I appreciate that. I am very sympathetic to it. 

But I do think that we have a different obligation, and perhaps a higher obligation, to consider what this means for our neighborhoods and our families. 

I’m concerned about turning every neighborhood store and every gas station into a mini casino. 

I’m concerned about our inability to keep kids off of these machines. 

I’m concerned about the crime that very often follows these around. 

I’m concerned, maybe most, about the desensitizing effect that these have on all of our families and kids, as we see it day in and day out. 

And I’m concerned about vulnerable people being hooked and harmed on these things because, Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the house always wins. And I think the people that are very often harmed by these and lose money and these things are the people that can often at least afford to. 

So, Mr. Speaker, I understand the arguments on this on both sides of this issue and I think there’s well-reasoned arguments, but I just want to note my concern. 

I think one of the jobs of us and one of the jobs of the law generally is to make it easier for people to find the path of virtue and make it more difficult to get caught in vice. 

And that can be hard sometimes. Those discernments can be very difficult. 

But I think it’s part of our job. So I think it would be wise to pump the brakes on this and think long and hard about whether we want to go down this road. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

Gordon C. Morse is a writer who served in the administration of Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles.