Minority Businesses Decry Northam Gaming Restriction

by James A. Bacon

Minority small business owners operating under the name “Virginia Small Businesses for Skill Games” are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to amend legislation to keep the game terminals in bars, restaurants and convenience stores. Casinos, which are years away from opening in the four localities where they have been approved, have lobbied to eliminate the slot machine-like terminals which would compete with their franchises.

Legislators had planned to prohibit the skill games this year, but Northam and legislators postponed the ban to prevent additional business losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and boost education funding; $95 million in taxes generated by the machines were used to offset pandemic-related losses. The vague language in the new legislation might have inadvertently allowed the games to continue operating another year. Northam’s amendment eliminated any uncertainty.

“It is ridiculous to put these stores out of business and rob Virginians of an activity they enjoy to protect a competing form of entertainment,” said Randy Wright, a former Norfolk city councilman who is leading the 11th hour push to save the games. “I stand with these courageous small business owners and call on the Governor to do the right thing and not allow these Virginians, particularly in the middle of a pandemic that has crippled their revenue, to suffer even more because of clearly discriminatory actions taken by their own elected officials.”

“We need the small businesses. They need the skill machines.  Don’t take away the people’s enjoyment,” said Patricia Turner, a Norfolk civil rights leader who was one of the first 17 students to integrate Norfolk schools in 1959, during a Monday rally in Norfolk.

“Our model as Asian American businesses is we work hard, we don’t ask much from the government,” said Bobi Patel, representing the Virginia Asian American Stores Association.  “It looks like our Governor is discriminating against us, so I ask you Governor, why are you allowing this to happen? You are allowing the big casinos and sports betting to exist but you’re trying to take the skill games from our businesses that will close a lot of small stores.”

The small business owners are asking the state to use the nearly $150-million in state taxes the skill games are generating to fund scholarships to enable every Virginian living under the poverty line to attend college for free, according to a press release issued by Virginia Small Businesses for Skill Games.

“With these resources, we can remove that stigma and those barricades to people of color getting education which is the true ‘hand up’ that the Governor promised when he said he would bring about reform,” said community activist Michael Muhammad. “We would have rather watched you moonwalk than to watch you backslide on the promises that you made to the African American community.”

“Governor Northam if you’re listening, I’m going to say it loud,” added Tommy Polisero, who owns Mona Lisa restaurant in Norfolk and depends on skill game revenue to pay his taxes, employees and other expenses. “We need your support.  We pay our taxes on these machines. We’re giving back. You need to give back to us.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Northam needs to reverse his racist decision to shut down so-called “games of skill” July 1. I use the word “racist” because his amendment to a bill enacted by the General Assembly at the behest of the gambling industry will have a disproportionate impact on restaurants and convenience stores owned by minority proprietors. Northam’s intent may not have been racist, but intent is irrelevant. What matters are outcomes. I’m just applying the logic that Northam has deployed to fight racism in Virginia schools, colleges, universities, environmental policy, state hiring practices, and more.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.


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23 responses to “Minority Businesses Decry Northam Gaming Restriction”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    Good Grief. What we give the Native Americans, we take from the Asians!

    Holy Moly!

    1. We?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Yep.. the same Govt you had a role in electing, no?

  2. “The small business owners are asking the state to use the nearly $150-million in state taxes the skill games are generating to fund scholarships to enable every Virginian living under the poverty line to attend college for free, according to a press release issued by Virginia Small Businesses for Skill Games.”

    That is awesome. If the democrats say no, they come across as a bunch of elite racists. On the other hand, they can’t say yes because they have been bought by the casino interests and laws they passed at their masters’ bidding are going to make the tax money in question disappear.

    1. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      I think the skill game revenue is used in that manner in Georgia. However, I don’t think poverty plays a roll in it.

  3. Clearly, the casino lobby gave more money to Virginia democrats than did the “Skill Games” lobby.

    By the way, what is a “Skill Game”?

    1. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      The ones where you are given the perception that you have input in the outcome.

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    These activities are also seen as competition for the Virginia Lottery, which being a state agency does all its lobbying with money provided by taxpayers and its suckers (too harsh? Sure…its players.)

    1. PassTheBuckBureaucrat Avatar
      PassTheBuckBureaucrat

      aka, the Stupidity Tax

    2. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      What about the individuals who out of sheer morbid curiosity drop 3 bucks on a single ticket when the pots $1 billion dollars? ahha

    3. LarrytheG Avatar
      LarrytheG

      so much for the idea that people know better what to do with their own money than the government………. 😉

      1. PassTheBuckBureaucrat Avatar
        PassTheBuckBureaucrat

        Whats the difference between pulling the voting lever and pulling the one-armed bandit?

        1. LarrytheG Avatar
          LarrytheG

          the difference? The ones that pull the one-armed bandit get old and can’t afford a place to live or medical care and other taxpayers have to.

          How many retired people could afford Medical care if it were not for taxpayer-subsidized Medicare?

          Wanna take a vote to get rid of it?

        2. WayneS Avatar

          “What’s the difference between pulling the voting lever and pulling the one-armed bandit?”

          Every once in a while, you can win something from the one-armed bandit…

  5. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    “Racism” is the ultimate political sledgehammer to wield against Wypipo…. and these politicans deserve it.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar
      LarrytheG

      there is no “racism” on the games of skill.. that’s pure partisan blather from the culture war folks.

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Come on, Jim. This is not racist. I would bet that the majority of those businesses that have games of skill and would be affected by this legislation and the Governor’s action are not owned by minorities. This is a continuation of the fight that began last year over “gray” machines. The administration and General Assembly agreed last fall to allow them to operate one more year. There was a bill (HB 1880) in the past session to provide another one-year extension, but it did not even get a vote in committee. The games of skill folks lost.

    Make no mistake: This is a fight among big corporations on both sides, each with a team of lobbyists.

    I understand and sympathize (to a degree) with the small business owners. The gray machines are a nice source of revenue for them and they do not want to lose it. The group making all the noise now is just playing the race card in a bid to get sympathy. But all owners of truck stops, convenience stores, restaurants, etc, be they Black, white, Hispanic, or Asian, stand to lose.

    1. I hope I made it clear in the post that Northam’s action is “racist” only if one uses Northam’s criteria for establishing racism, which is disparate impact.

      Let me add that you made an error in logic. It may be true that “the majority of businesses that have games of skill … are not owned by minorities.” But that’s not the point. Of those businesses that minorities do own, one can argue, a disproportionate share is impacted.

      You see, one of the tricks of social justice activists is to shift the frame of reference until you find one that fits your narrative.

      As for your observation that “the group making all the noise now is just playing the race card in a bid to get sympathy”…. I totally agree.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        re: ” Of those businesses that minorities do own, one can argue, a disproportionate share is impacted.”

        using that logic, almost any government action or regulation could be claimed to do the same. no?

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Where is the disparate impact? All will be affected; all will lose their gray machines. How is that disparate impact?

        1. WayneS Avatar

          It could be a function of the percentage of the businesses’ profits which are derived from the machines. I’m not saying that is the case, just that it is one way in which there could be a disparate impact.

    2. “But all owners of truck stops, convenience stores, restaurants, etc, be they Black, white, Hispanic, or Asian, stand to lose.”

      But won’t women and minorities be hardest hit? They usually are. 😉

      …and in defense of Jim B., he did not say he, personally, thinks it is racist. As he said, he used Ralph Northam’s definitions and thought processes to reach that conclusion.

      And it is minority business owners who are asking the governor to amend the legislation, so they must think it’s going to affect them.

  7. DJRippert Avatar
    DJRippert

    Meanwhile, sports betting apps became legal in Virginia and FanDuel launched its Virginia-based app last January 22. So, big casinos, the state government, online horse racing operations and big corporations like FanDuel can take bets in Virginia but not Mom & Pop operations? All of the state government apologists on this blog can say what they want but … as always, it comes down to who can tithe to the General Assembly and who can’t.

    As far as racism – why wouldn’t it apply here? How many small shops are owned by people of color compared to FanDuel (owned by British company Flutter Entertainment)?

    https://www.nbc12.com/2021/01/23/online-sports-betting-begins-virginia/

    And why, for goodness sake, should it be legal to bet on sports or blackjack or horses but not these gray games?

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