Video gaming terminals (VGTs) have a new benchmark in Pennsylvania.
Twenty truck stops outfitted with 100 terminals were in place in PA by the end of 2019. By the start of 2020, VGTs had generated more than $1.2 million in taxes, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
Marquee by Penn LLC runs 15 locations. Commonwealth Gaming LLC operates the remaining five truck stop locations. Each site holds a maximum of five VGTs.
An additional five locations have licenses but have yet to open while another 29 sites have conditional approvals.
Video gaming terminals come onto the rural scene
The first VGT location opened on Aug. 16, 2019. While they resemble slot machines, they are just different enough to merit their own designation.
Unlike casino slots, they have a cap of $5 per spin, and $1,000 is the highest single payout possible.
Many of the sites are on rural blue highways, distant from the state’s casinos. But the machines are barred in Lancaster County.
Still, the often isolated truck stops took $24.4 million in wagers last year, retaining $2.3 million.
Six are in York County, and there are two each in Clinton and Venango counties. The following each counties house one VGT location: Adams, Berks, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Columbia, Cumberland, Franklin, Jefferson and Juniata.
Still, the number of locations should double in 2020.
A byproduct of the expansion law
VGTs were add-ons to the October 2017 gambling expansion law. That law also permitted sports betting, mini-casinos, plus mobile wagering in the forms of online casinos and online sportsbooks.
To be eligible for a VGT license, facilities have to meet the following conditions:
- Sell an average of 50,000 gallons or more of diesel fuel monthly.
- Have at least 20 truck parking spaces and sit on a parcel of at least three acres.
- House a convenience store.
- Be a PA Lottery sales agent.
Additionally, VGTs are required to be in a separate area at truck stops under monitoring by cameras or staff. Those younger than 21 are barred access.
The PGCB conducts onsite inspections and testing before licensing. The state monitors VGTs at the PA Department of Revenue’s Central Control Computer System.
VGT revenues in 2019 for truck stops and the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth collects a total of 52% of gross VGT revenue in taxes. That includes 42% deposited into Pennsylvania’s General Fund.
The other 10% of gross revenue is used for grants made by the Commonwealth Finance Agency.
Since the first VGTs launched in August, revenues through Dec. 31, 2019, across all locations are as follows:
- Gross revenue: $2,329,540
- Tax revenue: $1,211,361
So far, VGTs have allowed more remote areas to participate in the state’s gaming expansion on a small, but meaningful scale. A full year of revenues plus the rapid proliferation of VGT facilities and machines in 2020 should paint an even more robust picture in gains for many PA truck stops, and the state.