An AAPI business owners association filed a complaint against the Virginia government for racial discrimination in its ban on electronic skill games on Saturday.
The Asian American Business Owners Association (AABOA), based in Roanoke, Virginia, alleges that the state General Assembly unfairly targets Asians and other minorities in its crackdown on gambling machines in places such as convenience stores and gas stations. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the General Assembly voted in 2020 to allow casino gambling but ban skill machines in the state.
According to the article, the most impacted Asian American group are Indian Americans.
“What we are looking for is a level playing field,” said Dharmendra Patel, president of the Association.
State Sen. Joe Morrissey opposed the ban on the grounds that the machines were often run by Black and Asian businesses that depended on their revenues.
“Do I think there is some discrimination going on?” Morrissey told the Times-Dispatch. “Yeah, I do.”
The Central Virginian reports the games generate $130 million in tax revenue every year. The money goes towards public school funding.
“The plaintiffs’ businesses and their continuing business interests are substantially dependent upon the additional revenue derived from the operation of skill games upon their premises to remain financially viable,” the lawsuit states.
The AABOA complaint specifically cites comments from state Sens. Tommy Norment and Janet Howell that christened legislation to stop the gaming as the “Ali Baba Bill” and labeled the games as “sleazy,” respectively. In response, the two senators protested the implication that their words were bigoted.
“Give me a break!” Norment said in a text message to the Times-Dispatch.
Norment claimed that he was referring to a folk story named Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Meanwhile, Howell said she was describing the corporations that transport the gaming machines into the state rather than the small businesses.
Regardless of their intent, the business owners association also condemned the inconsistent treatment of gaming in the state.
“In recent years, gaming has been embraced by the commonwealth when it is enjoyed by the privileged in fancy casinos or by children in ‘family entertainment centers’,” the complaint read. “But that very same activity is not acceptable when offered by Asian American owned convenience stores or enjoyed by minority or marginalized populations.”
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story or making a contribution.