RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Over a year and a half after a judge ruled Virginia’s ban on skill games couldn’t go into effect, the debate over whether to make the machines legal rages on, and now a new group has joined the effort.

Small business owners have joined forces to create the Virginia Merchants and Amusements Coalition (VA MAC).

“Our purpose is really simple,” VA MAC President Rich Kelly said. “The small business owners who have skill games want to say, we would like to keep them.

Virginia defines skill games as “an electronic, computerized, or mechanical contrivance, terminal, machine, or other device that requires the insertion of a coin, currency, ticket, token, or similar object to operate, activate, or play a game, the outcome of which is determined by any element of skill of the player and that may deliver or entitle the person playing or operating the device to receive cash; cash equivalents, gift cards, vouchers, billets, tickets, tokens, or electronic credits to be exchanged for cash; merchandise; or anything of value whether the payoff is made automatically from the device or manually.”

Skill games are often found at gas stations and convenience stores.

Lawmakers made them illegal starting July 1, 2021, but a court stopped the law from going into effect until a lawsuit challenging the ban’s legality was settled. At the time, some lawmakers expressed concern skill games could hurt casino profits.

“Casinos are totally different from a couple of skill games that are located in the 7-Eleven or the few skill games that are located in the back of a restaurant,” Kelly said. “Those are local things that are played by local players.”

Kelly says regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, lawmakers must take action to regulate the games, so the state can bring in tax revenue.

“The state gets to decide where the money goes to, and the politicians are good enough to come up with a good positive thing to use the money for,” Kelly said. “Schools, education, law enforcement.”

The three-day trial is set to start on Dec. 18 in Greensville County Circuit Court.