Pennsylvania Lawmaker Wants to Qualify More Truck Stops for Video Gaming Terminals

Posted on: October 6, 2022, 09:43h. 

Last updated on: October 6, 2022, 10:13h.

Pennsylvania Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) serves the county that the dairy and convenience store company Rutter’s calls home. The state lawmaker is seeking to amend the commonwealth’s 2017 gaming expansion bill to reduce qualifying criteria for truck stops to house video gaming terminals (VGTs).

Pennsylvania VGT video gaming casino Rutter's diesel
Gas stations and truck stops litter the Breezewood exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to permit video gaming terminals at truck stops that sell less than 50K gallons of diesel fuel a month. (Image: AP)

Introduced in July, House Bill 2743 would remove the requirement that diesel truck stops must sell an average of 50K gallons of diesel or biodiesel each month to qualify for housing up to five VGT machines on the property.

Grove says the legislative requirement, which was designed to limit how many of the slot-like cabinets are allowed in the state, is instead prohibiting the commonwealth from reaping the full tax benefit of authorizing such gaming.

During recent testimony before the Gaming Oversight Committee, Rutter’s attorney Chris Reed agreed. Reed suggested that between seven to nine additional Rutter’s locations would qualify for VGTs if the state dropped or significantly reduced the diesel sales requirement.

Grove added that the diesel minimum is preventing truck stops from applying for VGTs.

The reality for a lot of these establishments is they are worried they would not hit the benchmark and be able to continue their license,” Grove testified.

By law, gross gaming revenue from VGTs is subject to an effective 52% tax. VGT taxes support the state’s General Fund and county grants administered by the Commonwealth Finance Agency.

Qualification Requirements

For a truck stop to qualify for consideration of VGTs, the business must be equipped with diesel islands used for fueling commercial motor vehicles.

The stop must have at least 20 dedicated commercial vehicle parking spaces, a convenience store, be a registered Pennsylvania Lottery sales agent, and be situated on no less than three acres of land. Finally, there’s the 50K gallons a month of diesel fuel sales stipulation.

“Rutter’s had to withdrawal seven applications in 2018 because of the diesel requirements,” Reed testified. “These Rutter’s locations cannot meet the diesel requirement, though they meet all of the other criteria.”

VGTs won $39.8 million off of players in 2021 — up 140% from 2020, when the truck stop gaming machines raked in $16.6 million.

Marquee by Penn, a joint entity from Rutter’s and Penn Entertainment (formerly Penn National Gaming), is dominating the VGT industry in Pennsylvania. Marquee terminals accounted for nearly $27.7 million of the 2021 income.

Committee Pushback

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) isn’t sold that more VGTs are needed. Mehaffie voted against the 2017 gaming expansion, which in addition to truck stop VGTs, authorized mini-casinos, online gambling, sports betting, fantasy sports, and airport gaming lounges.

Mehaffie questioned why Rutter’s didn’t speak up in 2017 about the diesel requirement. Reed said he wasn’t employed by the company at the time. The state rep countered by explaining that the diesel threshold was designed to make sure that every convenience store on every corner didn’t qualify to place gambling machines inside their premises.

“We’ve identified what a truck stop is, and part of that is selling diesel fuel,” Mehaffie said. “Is the next thing you’re going to come back and ask us to drop the acreage?

I think we’re starting a precedence here that if we start dropping this and dropping that, then we’re going to eventually open this up to every convenience store that sells gasoline across the state,” Mehaffie concluded.

HB 2743 remains with Gaming Oversight, as the committee has yet to vote on the measure.