Video gaming terminals (VGTs) were on the ropes several times over the past two years of failed legislation among Pennsylvania lawmakers.
VGT’s, however, roared back from many legislative deaths and found its own nook among the state’s gambling expansion bill. The legislation allows the terminals to operate in truck stops that meet certain sales and size requirements. And, this past week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced that applications are available for download on the PGCB site.
According to a press release, applicants will have to fill out the necessary paperwork, provide fingerprints, and fix any errors. From there, the PGCB will conduct a background check. Applications will be accepted starting May 7.
VGT history and current regulations
VGT’s have long been the bane of casinos because these gaming terminals represent a competitor that can show up in just about any truck stop that meets the requirements the PGCB lists:
- Has diesel islands for commercial vehicles
- Sells 50K gallons of diesel or biodiesel fuel in past 12 months or is projected to do so in the next 12 months
- At least 20 parking spots for big rigs
- Has a convenience store that sells PA lottery games
- Property is at least 3 acres
In other words, the state wants VGT’s to appear in legitimate trucks stops with steady sales, trucker traffic, and an existing relationship with the PA Lottery. The new law was not intended to put VGT’s in 7-11’s and mom-and-pop gas stations across the state.
What is perhaps most interesting about the new legislation is that it allows for up to five terminals to be placed in a truck stop. There was no explanation from lawmakers as to why such a small number of terminals will be allowed.
Possible theories include an anticipation that hundreds of truck stops would participate and thus five terminals per station was enough or that five terminals are all anti-VGT lawmakers would accept.
All 10 opt-out counties have casinos
The law also gave counties an opt-out clause, which means they can decide if they want VGT’s within their borders. The deadline for those opt-outs was Dec. 29. The PGCB’s most recent list shows that 10 counties opted out, all 10 of which are home to casinos:
- Bucks County: Parx Casino
- Dauphin County: Penn National
- Delaware County: Harrah’s
- Erie County: Presque Isle
- Luzerne County: Mohegan Sun
- Monroe County: Mount Airy
- Montgomery County: Valley Forge
- Northampton County: Sands
- Philadelphia City/County: SugarHouse
- Washington County: The Meadows
Additional VGT facts, trucker reactions
As for the actual VGT terminals, what we know so far is that they will be cash-only. Credit and debit cards can’t be used. Max bets on these machines will be $5 and the max payouts will be $1,000. According to the PGCB’s FAQ sheet about VGT’s, payout percentages will be around 85 percent, just like they are in the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos.
Reactions from truckers about VGT’s has been mixed. Some have said they welcome the machines because it gives them something interesting to do during their mandated rest periods. Others, however, say that the terminals pose a safety risk because they will keep truckers awake when they should be sleeping.