In the latest move in a long-running legal battle over the operation of skills games in hundreds of small businesses in Virginia, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to hear an appeal, apparently allowing the games to remain in place.
According to a lengthy statement from the Stanley Law Group, which represents Virginia business owner and NASCAR legend Hermie Sadler, outgoing Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring had filed an appeal of a preliminary injunction issued in December by the Greensville Circuit Court. That injunction restored the ability of businesses to operate skills games.
Bill Stanley, Anthony F. "Tony" Troy, Dean Rod Smolla, Ryan T. McDougle and Jason Hicks, attorneys for Sadler, said the Supreme Court of Virginia also received amicus, or “friend of the court” briefs filed by Colonial Downs Group/Rosie's Gaming Emporium on behalf of what they said were “large out-of-state casinos and gaming interests,” as well as an amicus brief filed by Virginia “Charitable” gambling in support of Herring’s effort to reinstitute the skills game ban.
In addition, State Sens. Janet Howell and Thomas K. Norment, co-authors of Senate Bill 971, the legislation that the Greensville Circuit Court enjoined from further enforcement against the ban of skill games, also filed an amicus brief in support of Attorney General Herring’s appeal of the trial court’s ruling.
“We are gratified to have the Supreme Court of Virginia validate what we knew to be true, that the Greensville County Circuit Court got it right when it entered an injunction restoring the operation of skill games in small businesses,” Bill Stanley of The Stanley Law Group, said in a statement on behalf of the legal team for Sadler. “Hermie Sadler clearly demonstrated at trial that he is likely to win his lawsuit against the illegal and unconstitutional ban on skill games instituted by SB 971. Despite the big, out-of-state casinos’ continuing efforts to eliminate small Virginia business owners’ participation in the new Virginia gaming industry, they cannot overcome the Virginia Constitution’s protection of its citizens.”
According to Stanley, the “right of free speech of these Virginia small businesses when they conduct their business cannot and will not be abridged by the casinos, no matter how hard they try to manipulate public policy decisions in the halls of Virginia’s capitol.”
Stanley noted two courts have ruled in favor of Virginia small businesses and against what he characterized as an “unconstitutional piece of legislation designed to benefit these out-of-state, mega-gaming companies over the small business owner.”
“I am hopeful that when the Virginia General Assembly convenes its Regular Session this coming Wednesday, it will find a solution that will recognize skill games’ place in the new Virginia gaming industry, and that it will now make as its priority the rights of Virginia small business owners over the needs of out-of-state gambling interests,” Stanley concluded.
Former Virginia Attorney General Anthony F. "Tony" Troy thanked the consortium of small businesses in Virginia that filed an amicus brief in the Virginia Supreme Court in support of Sadler and against the government's position.
Said Troy: “This group of small businesses understood the discriminatory impact of this legislation that not only denied them their First Amendment rights, but also was so vague that it could not be fully understood in the first place. Small businesses have had a big win today here in Virginia.”
Hermie Sadler, the successful plaintiff in his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, added: “I want to thank the Virginia Supreme Court for its decision today upholding the trial court’s correct ruling halting the unconstitutional ban on skill games that operate in small businesses such as mine. Convenience stores, truck stops and restaurants throughout Virginia can now breathe a sigh of relief that they will not be deprived of an important source of revenue for their small businesses during these trying economic times. I will continue to fight for their right to be a part of the new gaming industry in Virginia, and I call upon the Virginia legislature to do the same as they consider this issue in the next two months.”
Stanley and his law partner Troy thanked the trial team that successfully argued the Petition for Preliminary Injunction and appeal before the Supreme Court of Virginia. The team includes Ryan T. McDougle, Esq., Jason Hicks, Esq. of Womble Bond Dickinson, and constitutional legal scholar and lawyer Rodney Smolla, Esq.