Philadelphia May Love Casinos, But It Doesn’t Like VGTs

Posted on December 12, 2017

[toc]It looks like the City of Philadelphia is out. At least when it comes to hosting a satellite casino or video gaming terminals (VGTs) at any of its local gas stations.

State lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill in October. The new law authorizes the construction of up to ten satellite casinos across the state. It also includes authorization for the installation of up to five VGT machines in each approved truck stops.

The truck stops would have to have diesel islands and have sold 50,000 gallons of diesel or bio-diesel every month for the past 12. Plus, they must be built on at least three acres of land, have a convenience store, and parking for 20 commercial vehicles.

No VGTs in Philly

City officials say there isn’t a truck stop that fits those parameters within Philadelphia city limits.

The satellite casinos could host anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and 30 table games. However, the new laws authorizing these mini casinos dictates none can be built within a 25-mile radius of one of the state’s 12 existing casinos.

Philadelphia is already home to SugarHouse Casino, built along the Delaware River in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood.

A lengthy legal battle has held things up. However, it appears construction of a second casino will soon go ahead near the sports stadiums in South Philadelphia.

Plus, Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Parx Casino in Bensalem, and Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia are close enough to make it difficult to find a home for a satellite casino inside the city not within 25 miles of one of these properties.

Philadelphia City Council opting out

Municipalities have the ability to opt out of satellite casinos before the end of the year. It appears the City of Philadelphia wants to do just that.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that last week that eight City Council members have already supported measures to prohibit both a satellite casino and truck stop VGTs inside Philadelphia’s borders. The entire City Council will vote on the issue this week. However, a Philadelphia opt-out seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Those supporting a ban on satellite casinos and VGTs in Philadelphia include Mayor Jim Kenney. Plus, City Council members:

  • Bobby Henon
  • Darrell L. Clarke
  • Helen Gym
  • Kenyatta Johnson
  • Mark Squilla
  • Brian O’Neill
  • Cherelle Parker
  • Al Taubenberger

The concentration of casinos already surrounding the city seem to be one of council’s concerns. Its concerns also include the idea that VGTs at truck stops could soon lead to the same at local bars or stop-and-go liquor stores.

The negative social impacts of more gambling in a city that already has 26 percent of people living at the poverty level or below is also a concern.

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Marty Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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