Pennsylvania Bill That Would Allow Counties to Prohibit Truck Stop Gambling Advances

Posted on: May 10, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: May 9, 2019, 02:30h.

A Pennsylvania bill that would allow counties to opt out of allowing video gaming terminals (VGT) at truck stops located within their jurisdictions has advanced through a Senate committee.

Pennsylvania casino truck stop gaming
Pennsylvania video gaming terminals are coming to diesel centers such as Rutter’s. Not everyone is thrilled. (Image: Blaine Shahan/Lancaster Online)

Senate Bill 87 – introduced by Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster County) in January – would give counties the right to decide whether VGT machines can be placed inside certain truck stops. In the fall of 2017, Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed legislation passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly that authorized satellite casinos, online gambling, sports betting, airport gaming lounges, and gambling terminals at truck stops that meet a host of criteria.

While the massive gambling expansion package – passed in part of an effort to bridge a state funding gap – gave counties the right to opt out of allowing the mini-casinos from coming to their towns, the legislation didn’t afford such immunity privileges for the truck stop VGT component.

The Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee backed SB 87 this week. A Senate vote could come as early as next month.

VGTs are similar to slot machines. Pennsylvania code defines the devices as terminals that are “available to play or operate one or more gambling games, the play of which utilizes a random number generator.” The machines have a maximum payout of $1,000.

Bill Trucking Along

Truck stops across the state are submitting plans to alter their facilities in order to meet the requirements to house the gaming machines.

To qualify, the convenience centers must sell at least 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel each month, have at least 20 parking spaces for commercial vehicles, be a Pennsylvania Lottery retailer, and be situated on a property measuring at least three acres. Each approved location can house up to five terminals.

The vague language, however, has complicated the process. For instance, owners have questioned what specifically entails a commercial parking space.

Penn National Gaming has partnered with the Rutter’s convenience store chain to operate VGTs. The state gaming control board has already approved the gaming devices for 20 Rutter’s locations. Four Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores have also been approved.

Local Decision

Martin believes Pennsylvania counties and municipalities should have the right to decide if gambling is part of their community.

To me, it’s just not right in seeing how this is playing out,” Martin told in February. “Local residents deserve to have their voices heard in this process.”

Martin’s Lancaster County is famed for its Amish population, which generates much tourism for the region. All 60 of Lancaster’s municipalities opted out of the satellite casino pool.

Counties that do allow VGTs at truck stops don’t stand to reap much of a financial reward. The expansion law says 42 percent of the gross gaming revenue generated by the devices will go to the Pennsylvania General Fund. An additional 10 percent will be directed to the Commonwealth Finance Agency, which in turn will be used to fund grants to any county in the state.