[toc]Pennsylvania truckers and legislators alike sit on both sides of the aisle when it comes to legislating video gaming terminals (VGTs) and allowing them to operate at truck stops.
The gambling expansion bill passed the Senate and the House within the month. With the bill, Pennsylvania is the fourth state in the nation to legalize internet-based games, aside from the truck-stop installation.
State Gov. Tom Wolf signed the gambling law on Monday, which included the authorization of 10 mini-casinos, online gambling, fantasy sports betting, and VGTs at truck stops.
VGTs will be a revenue generator
According to the Citizen Tribune, VGTs would generate revenue for a couple different entities:
- The state
- License holders
- Terminal operators
- Host counties and municipalities
These revenues come from license fees, including application and renewals, according to McCall.
- Manufacturer/Supplier: $10,000
- Terminal Operator: $5,000
- Establishment: $250 per VGT
- Key Employee/Procurement Agent/Principal: $500
- Any other permit: Up to $100
Requirements to operate VGTs
Already, up to 40,000 VGTs exist in Pennsylvania and operate of in bars, restaurants, and social clubs. These establishments maintained VGTs prior to legalization.
Even with legalization, truck stops must meet the following standards to qualify:
- Truck stops must be equipped with diesel islands
- Sell an average of 50,000 gallons of diesel each month for the last year
- Have at least 20 parking spaces for trucks
- Have a convenience store
- Maintain at least a 3-acre parcel of land not owned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike
- Truck stop must be licensed as a lottery sales agent
Lancaster among communities trying to avoid VGTs
Some legislators fear that existing truck stops will adjust to meet these standards; others hope that this won’t change much for their communities.
“With requirements such as this, I believe the amount of truck stops that will qualify will be few in number – if any at all,” said State Sen. Scott Martin to the Citizen Tribune.
The Lancaster mayor is one trying to avoid turning the county into an assortment of gambling venues, he told the Courier Express.
Already, the county looks to exempt itself from a mini-casino. The county would need to file by Dec. 31.
While the law will fill some of the budget gaps by adding at least $200 million in revenue from taxes, fees, state Rep. Michael Sturla said that the legislation created just as many problems as it solved.
“There is some revenue, though I think this bill was written of the casinos, by the casinos, and for the casinos,” Sturla said to the Courier Express.
The big picture of the gambling expansion
Pennsylvania joins Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in allowing online gambling once this law goes into effect. That’s in both the commercial casinos and the state lottery.
Of the 12 existing casinos, 10 can bid on a license for a smaller casino with slot machines. The largest casinos can currently operate up to 5,000 slot machines.
With this legislation, bidding would start at $7.5 million. Table game certificates would add on $2.5 million for a casino with 750 slots and 30 table games.
Truck stops can offer five slot machine terminals. Casinos can offer interactive gambling in eight airports in the state.
Perspectives from the truckers playing these machines
Barb McDonald, a truck driver from Hereford Township, witnessed the truck stop mini casinos in action in Nevada, where they operate with 80 slots.
“I think it’s great…that way, the drivers – they can sit, they can gamble when they have their breaks,” McDonald said to McCall.
Randy Snyder, an employee at the fuel island stop at Flying J Restaurant, said to the Daily Item that these terminals would give truck drivers something to do.
“Truck drivers now are mandated to spend hours resting and they need something to do. They get bored. I’ve seen some people play these non-lottery games for hours. I believe they’d welcome another diversion. It would be a good way to pass the time.”
Seven other states already offer retail gambling, including truck stops, said Joseph S. Weinert, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group, to McCall. These states include:
- West Virginia
- South Dakota
In Illinois, the VGTs in truck stops, bars, and restaurants decreased casino gambling revenues in the state by 1.7 percent. However, the state’s total gaming revenue increased.
“I’d be shocked if Pennsylvania limits this to truck stops for too long,” Weinert said. “This is a gateway move.”