The ABC’s of Gambling

Many of Virginia ABC’s clients are following the stories regarding gambling vs. gaming, specifically because of an electronic game: “Queen of Virginia.” This game has been a point of contention because the game (created by Pace-O-Matic Company) requires a level of skill, not just chance – therefore, Virginia Depart. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority issued their opinion: the game did not meet the Virginia’s definition of gambling and is, in fact, a game of skill.

Queen of Virginia Skill Game - Gambling (ABC Consulting)

This is from Pace-O-Matic Company (the manufacturer):

  • QVS has been certified by a Virginia Recognized Testing Lab.
  • The Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment game terminals use Pace-o-Matic® skill game software.
  • QVS is the only game in Virginia using Pace-o-Matic® software.
  • No Internet Connection is needed.
  • Players can WIN every time–based on skill & not chance.
  • The software which QVS utilizes has been adjudicated in a court of law, as a skill predominate game.
  • A typical profit margin: five percent is taken off the top and goes back to the community. The other 95 percent is divided between the owner/operator and the manufacturer (30 percent).

One interview with patron Roger Houston, at Mike’s Break Room, said that each game selected requires a “skill,” (hand-eye coordination or memory) and if he wins, he gets back 104 percent of what he put in (between $0.40 and $4.00). Playing “Queen of Virginia,” is not gambling, he says.  One game that Roger Houston was playing is called “Follow Me,” and is a memory game. Rows of circles appear on the screen. They light up one by one, and then Roger has to mimic that pattern. Skill! Not chance.

Virginia has three catchall factors that form the standards of what is defined as gambling. Chance, Prize and Consideration and if one of those elements is missing, the activity isn’t an illegal activity:

  • An individual must place a bet or wager (Consideration)
  • There must be an opportunity to win a prize (Prize)
  • Chance must be a predominant factor (Chance, NOT skill)

This game was categorized by the VA Office of Attorney General as a game of skill as opposed to a game of chance, thus making it a legal game for VA Alcohol businesses to put in their licensed locations. Furthermore, the VA ABC pledged to not initiate administrative charges against any licensee that uses the machines on their premises in light of this decision.

Although many businesses have added “Queen of Virginia” to their alcohol businesses, the VA. Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority isn’t issuing any more “letters of approval.” There is a lot of confusion among licensees and the agents – as well as the general public. Ask agents in different parts of the state and you’ll likely get two different answers. Why? Because it is as clear as mud!  The bottom line? The Virginia Depart. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority is not bringing administrative charges against businesses with skilled gaming machines. Any locality can conduct their own investigation and create their own opinion resulting in a machine being deemed a gambling machine. If such locality deems the machine to be gambling, then VA ABC will file charges against the licensee.  So, what should your business do, regarding this gaming machine? Reach out to an ABC Consultant, an attorney, a local commonwealth attorney, or their assigned ABC Special Agent. Ask a lot of questions, make a lot of notes on the advice provided and make an educated decision.

For additional information, contact the below resources available to assist VA alcohol licensees:

ABC Consulting 800-785-0161

Brent A. Jackson & Associates P.C., specializing in Legal  Virginia Gaming Services 804-726-6605

Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority 757-825-7830 (Hampton Regional Office)

*Disclaimer: This article and its contents represent the opinions of the author only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. ABC Consulting is a private consulting firm, in way do we represent the VA Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. You should not act upon any such information without seeking qualified professional advice based upon your situation.

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