The recent Senate bill, S1400, in Virginia has been passed by a very narrow majority in the Senate. The bill still has a ways to go, and may or may not pass through the House. The game of poker has now been classified as a game of skill by the Virginia Senate.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has no legalized gambling other than a lottery and pari-mutuel betting, and the potential for DFS (daily fantasy sports). The bill deals with legalizing land-based poker, making no mention of online poker at this time. The road towards legalized online poker in Virginia would be a long one, however, the path towards legal land-based poker has begun.
The Senate vote on the poker bill that was introduced by Senator Louise Lucas, was split at an even 19 – 19. The equal vote meant that the president of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, had to take a vote in order to break the tie. He voted for the bill, which will now progress to the Virginia House of Delegates. Lucas had appeared confident that the bill would pass through the Senate vote because he felt that the law in Virginia supports legalized poker. This is the third year in which Lucas had proposed the poker bill to the Senate committee.
While the bill is an important step forward, it does not mean that poker has been legalized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It does mean that the game has now been classified as a game of skill. This is a huge step forward in the process but in no way guarantees that the bill will pass through the House.
The classification of poker as a game of skill has changed the face of poker in Virginia, but it has not changed the face of the House of Delegates. The House is known to be strongly anti-gambling, and is far more conservative than the Senate. The Senate has only slightly more Republicans than Democrats, while the House consists of about two-thirds Republicans.
One of the strong arguments for legalizing poker in Virginia is that residents of the state tends to cross the borders and play poker and other forms of gambling in neighboring states. This means that the economy in the neighboring states is improved. If poker is legalized in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state would benefit from taxation and licensing revenues.