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Lobbyists load Va. lawmakers onto private jet to kick off push to loosen slots laws

Queen of Virginia skill machines at New York Deli in Carytown. (Photo by Benjamin West)
Queen of Virginia skill machines at New York Deli in Carytown. (Photo by Benjamin West)((Source: Capital News Service))
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 9:17 AM EDT
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A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push this week with a private flight for four lawmakers to Chicago.

While the plush jet raised some eyebrows — Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell — organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.

“It was a fact-finding mission,” said Dylan Bishop, the lobbyist who organized the trip on behalf of the new Va. Video Gaming Terminal Coalition, which represents five gambling operators that have collectively given nearly a quarter-million dollars to Virginia politicians in recent years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

In a letter to other gaming lobbyists last week, Bishop framed video slots and poker as the industry’s best shot at restoring gambling terminals to businesses that were recently forced to shut down so-called skill games after they were banned by the General Assembly.

“Video Gaming Terminals or ‘VGTs’ are Class III slot machines, just like the ones on a casino floor, but they can be installed in the same locations skill games have operated,” Bishop wrote. “VGTs offer better games, more robust regulation and, most importantly, more revenue.”

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