Convenience Stores Will Continue to Flourish Without Skill Games

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In today’s Roanoke Times, Thomas Jefferson Institute President Derrick Max rebutted the false claim that convenience stores will have to close if Governor Youngkin doesn’t approve the expansion of skill games into convenience stores across the Commonwealth.

Max wrote (links added below are not in printed version): While all retail outlets experienced a decline during COVID-19, unlike other outlets, convenience stores have rebounded well. The total number of convenience stores has increased by 1.5 percent in each of the last two years, while grocery stores have experienced a 0.7 percent decline. 

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), only seven states experienced a decline in the number of convenience stores last year, Virginia was not one of them. Convenience stores experienced record sales in 2023. Average spending per visit increased 3.7 percent.  

…even accounting for inflation, increased wages, and shrinkage, in-store convenience store sales still showed real growth. Convenience stores are healthy and will thrive with or without the added revenue of skill games. 

Max went on to highlight the predatory nature of these games: The reality of the link between gaming and the poor is well known to, and even exploited by the skill games industry. 

A recent ProPublica report on gaming machines in Illinois found that as the average income of a locality decreased, the average number of machines in that area increased. 

For example, video game terminals were plentiful in the low-income African American community of Harvey, yet in the wealthier and whiter nearby Palos Park, no machines were found. This is the definition of predatory.

Philadelphia is banning these games because of their negative impact on the poor, and Illinois is learning that the promised boost in state revenue is mostly offset by decreases in tax revenue from casinos and the sale of lottery tickets and scratch-offs. If one accounted for the increases in welfare and housing support, skill game revenue would decline even further.

Governor Youngkin was right to significantly amend the skill game legislation, but members of the General Assembly weren’t willing to compromise. Governor Youngkin should now veto this bill outright. Skill games are bad for the community, are predatory on the poor, and are not essential to the survival of the healthy convenience store market.

Read Derrick Max’s timely and insightful commentary in the Roanoke Times by clicking here. Because this is behind a paywall, please email [email protected] if you want a copy sent to you separately.

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