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Slot machines hit jackpot in stores around Va.
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/12/2019, 6 a.m. | Updated on 7/12/2019, 7:37 p.m.
Dr. Joann Henry plays at a bank of slot machines at the Quick N Easy convenience store in the 4100 block of West Broad Street. Jerermy Lazarus/Richmond Free Press
Andrea R. Hill is a self-confessed “slot machine grinder,” but she still hasn’t visited the new Rosie’s Richmond Gaming Emporium in South Side to try her luck on the array of slot-style machines.
Instead, the Richmond resident prefers to get her daily “gambling fix” at a convenience store near her job, the Quick N Easy in the 4100 block of West Broad Street.
Inside, past the chips and snacks and close to the coolers of beer and sodas, Ms. Hill has her choice of seven cash-operated, computer-controlled machines that mimic the push-button slots of Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The symbols revolve on the screen like slot machines.
Every now and then when the symbols line up right, a player can hit for a jackpot of $2,000.
The store has an arrangement that allows players to get their winnings almost immediately from a clerk.
“It’s fun and I win occasionally. Just the other day, I got a $120 jackpot, but it looks like I’ll be giving that back to the store,” said the 39-year-old pharmacy technician.
“Virginia has come a long way. When I was younger, I used to have to drive out of state to play. Now, these machines are everywhere.”
The convenience store, near Thomas Jefferson High School, is just one of the locations in which these machines have popped up in the past two years. Across the Richmond area and around the state, more than 4,000 similar machines can be found in gas stations, bars and mostly locally owned convenience stores eager for a new stream of revenue.
In a state that has long frowned on gambling, the Virginia Is for Gamblers movement is clearly moving beyond the state-run lottery and parimutuel betting on horse races.
The movement got a big boost two years ago when the General Assembly, seeking to revive horseracing, cleared the way for a $1 billion-plus operation involving machines like the ones at Rosie’s. Instead of random numbers, equipment at Rosie’s with slot-machine faces rely on the results of old races to fuel their results instead of random numbers that typical slots use, according to the regulatory Virginia Racing Commission.
But even before that action, ambitious private companies began exploiting a loophole in the anti-gambling laws in various states, most notably Duluth, Ga.-based Pace-O-Matic and its Richmond-based subsidiary, Queen of Virginia Skill and Entertainment, and Coleman Music and Entertainment of Jacksonville, Fla.
Those companies have been closely reading state laws on gambling to find a way to bypass them. In Virginia, they noticed the law only bans slot machines with three factors — a wager, the offer of a prize or cash and a win based solely on chance. Knock out one, and a machine can be legal.
And that’s what these companies say they are doing — creating machines that require “skill.”
For example, many of these machines do not generate wins for the player simply by the press of the play button. Instead, when two symbols of the same kind are visible, the player must touch the screen over a third symbol, usually a “wild card,” to get the third symbol in line to create a win.
It’s pretty simple, said Ms. Hill, but that small action is enough to allow the manufacturers to claim that skill is involved. Players must recognize the situation and act within a short time, 10 seconds or so, to win.
Others require players to use memory. For example, in one game, circles light up in a pattern that the player has to mimic to have a chance to win.
Courts in Ohio and Pennsylvania have ruled in favor of the manufacturers, and in Virginia, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has cleared the Pace-O-Matic machines as meeting the “skill” test.
“A lot of times when people look at these machines, they say, ‘It looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, so it must be a duck.’ But that’s not always the case. And certainly not when it comes to this equipment,” said Brent Jackson, a Richmond attorney who represents Gracies Technologies, a New York-based company that also distributes machines in Virginia.
The Virginia ABC decision is the main reason virtually all the machines are located in restaurants and stores that have licenses to sell beer and/or wine on and off premises.
In Virginia’s January General Assembly session, the state Senate rejected a proposal that would have created a new regulatory division to monitor the machines in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Still, despite the ABC’s decision, the legality of the machines is questioned. To date, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring has not issued a legal opinion, and so far no charges have been brought against businesses that have allowed companies to place machines in their stores.
In Richmond, former Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring regularly received information from police and residents about these machines since they began appearing, but declined to take any action.
Assistant Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Joshua Boyles, whom Mr. Herring assigned to investigate, stated in response to a Free Press query that “our office hasn’t given a green light to any slot-style machines in the city,” except those now at Rosie’s.
However, he declined to suggest that any machines now operating in stores are illegal.
“Whether use of a given machine amounts to illegal gambling or a permissible game of chance is a very fact-specific inquiry,” he stated.
Mr. Boyles previously told the Virginia Mercury that the legal status of the machines “is uncharted territory.”
The first real test of that legality could come in Charlottesville, where Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania on June 7 deemed them illegal and ordered businesses in that city to remove them within 30 days or face criminal charges.
He has yet to follow through on charges for noncompliant businesses. Pace-O-Matic indicated to a Charlottesville newspaper that it believes its machines meet requirements of the law and that it stands ready to defend its interests.
Still, despite the spread of the machines, they have not generated the kind of buzz that Rosie’s sparked when it opened last week on Richmond’s Midlothian Turnpike. By contrast, empty chairs at the machines are a common sight in convenience stores and lines rarely, if ever, develop with players waiting to play.
The amount of money being wagered in stores also is a far cry from the Rosie’s gusher. With the opening of outlets in Richmond and Hampton, Rosie’s is on track to rake in from players $100 million or more per month before jackpot and tax outlays.
Pace-O-Matic and other companies are not required to report their earnings or the amount of wagering being done on their machines in Virginia.
Based on information Pace-O-Matic released on its website, the company’s machines in Virginia generated about $9 million between October 2018 and June 2019, before the payout of jackpots and taxes.
The split from machine’s revenues is advantageous to stores. Queen of Virginia reports its games return about 92 percent to players in terms of jackpots, which is typical for a slots operation. The remaining 8 percent of the revenue is split three ways: 40 percent to the location and the remainder evenly split between Queen and its parent, Pace-O-Matic.
Introduction to West Virginia Slot Machine Casino Gambling in 2020
West Virginia slot machine casino gambling consists of five casinos including one casino resort and four racetracks with slot machines. Many retailers have a few video lottery terminals.
The West Virginia state legislature has two sets of minimum and maximum theoretical payout limits depending upon the location of the gaming machine. Limited return statistics are available annually.
This post continues my weekly State-By-State Slot Machine Casino Gambling Series, an online resource dedicated to guiding slot machine casino gambler to success. Now in its third year, each weekly post reviews slots gambling in a single U.S. state, territory, or federal district.
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Relevant Legal Statutes on Gambling in West Virginia*
The minimum legal gambling age in West Virginia depends upon the gambling activity:
- Land-Based Casinos: 21
- Poker Rooms: 21
- Bingo: 18
- Lottery: 18
- Pari-Mutuel Wagering: 21
In 1994, West Virginia legalized video lottery terminals at their thoroughbred and greyhound racetracks. In 1999, West Virginia began allowing physical reel slot machines at licensed racetracks.
Machine restrictions at these pari-mutuel wagering facilities include approval by the local county and having only:
- Many versions of poker
In 2001, West Virginia passed the Limited Video Lottery Act allowing bars and restaurants to have up to five video lottery terminals (VLTs) and fraternal organizations to have up to ten VLTs. The Act also restricted the state to a total of 9,000 VLTs.
*The purpose of this section is to inform the public of state gambling laws and how the laws might apply to various forms of gaming. It is not legal advice.
Slot Machine Private Ownership in West Virginia
It is legal to own a slot machine privately in West Virginia.
Gaming Control Board in West Virginia
The West Virginia Lottery Commission controls VLT gaming regulations. This lottery was created in 1984 by amending the Constitution of West Virginia with Article VI, Section 36.
Afterward, West Virginia legalized VLTs with subsequent amendments, acts, rules, and statutes. Each statute is available in the West Virginia Lottery’s Rules and Regulations.
Casinos in West Virginia
There are four pari-mutuel racetracks and one casino resort in West Virginia, where their slot machines have 18 different games. In 2019, 1,303 commercial retailers each had between five and ten VLTs, offering eleven games.
The largest casino in West Virginia is Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races with 2,500 slot machines.
The second-largest casino is Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort with 1,525 slot machines.
Commercial Casinos in West Virginia
The four pari-mutuel racetracks with slot machines in West Virginia are:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, 320 miles northeast of Charleston.
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes, 10 miles northwest of Charleston.
- Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in New Cumberland, 35 miles north of Wheeling.
- Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack in Wheeling.
The single casino resort in West Virginia is:
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, 120 miles southeast of Charleston
Tribal Casinos in West Virginia
West Virginia has no federally-recognized tribes and, therefore, no tribal casinos.
Other Gambling Establishments
As an alternative to enjoying West Virginia slot machine casino gambling, consider exploring casino options in a nearby state. Bordering West Virginia is:
- North: Maryland Slots and Pennsylvania Slots
- East and South: Virginia Slots
- West: Kentucky Slots and Ohio Slots
Each of the links above will take you to my blog for that neighboring U.S. state to West Virginia.
Our West Virginia Slots Facebook Group
Are you interested in sharing and learning with other slots enthusiasts in West Virginia? If so, join our West Virginia slots community on Facebook. All you’ll need is a Facebook profile to join this closed Facebook Group freely.
There, you’ll be able to privately share your slots experiences as well as chat with players about slots gambling in West Virginia. Join us!
Payout Returns in West Virginia
West Virginia has two sets of theoretical payout limits including:
Slot Machines Princeton West Va Homes For Sale
- Racetracks and casino resort: 80% and 99.9%
- Commercial retailers: 80% and 92% (or 95%, if approved)
Retailers must obtain individual permissions to have a greater than 92% payout. These high payout terminals must obtain Commission approval twice, including:
Written consent prior to manufacturing
Approval before applying for testing
From its 2019 Annual Report, the Commission reported the annual return statistics in West Virginia to be:
- Casino resort: 92.5%
- Racetracks: 89.6%
- Commercial Retailers: 92.1%
Summary of West Virginia Slot Machine Casino Gambling in 2020
West Virginia slot machine casino gambling consists of one casino resort, four racetracks, and 1,303 retailers with VLT-style gaming machines. Retailers may have up to five VLTs if a bar or tavern, and up to ten VLTs if a fraternal organization. Up to 18 different games are available on these VLTs, including slot machine game themes.
Slot Machines Princeton West Va Zip
The minimum theoretical payout is 80% for all VLTs. The maximum theoretical payout is 99.9% for casinos, but 92% for retailers. With permissions, retailers can obtain a 95% maximum theoretical payout for specific VLT machines.
Annual Progress in West Virginia Slot Machine Casino Gambling
Over the last year, there has been no change in the West Virginia gaming industry.
Other State-By-State Articles from Professor Slots
- Previous: Washington Slot Machine Casino Gambling
- Next: Wisconsin Slot Machine Casino Gambling
Have fun, be safe, and make good choices!
By Jon H. Friedl, Jr. Ph.D., President
Jon Friedl, LLC