Summary: Truck stops may not be able to operate video gambling terminals if a new bill banning the option is approved.
In Pennsylvania, a gaming reform package was passed into law in late 2017. The package allowed for several expansions within the state’s existing gambling industry, including video gambling terminals at truck stops that met certain criteria. Now, a lawmaker has decided that VGTs do not need to be allowed and has introduced legislation to try and stop the games from being placed in the local truck stops.
Bill Would Stop VGTs
Senator Scott Martin introduced a bill in January that would give the local communities of the state more control over VGT placement. The bill has five cosponsors already and has sat within a Senate committee for some time.
If the bill is able to move forward, a municipality would be able to decide if they do not want to allow the video gambling terminals in their community. The area would have to alert the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board of their decision.
If a municipality decides to void VGT options, they can reverse their decision in the future. A new resolution would need to be sent to the Gaming Control Board to reverse the decision. If a license has been provided in a region for VGTs at a truck stop and a municipality decides to void the option, then the Board will have to provide a refund to the license holder.
Gambling at truck stops has already been in operation since the decision was made in 2017 to allow VGTs. Senator Martin has not been a fan of how the gaming option has progressed. In speaking with Transport Topics, Martin stated that the applications for VGTs are propping up everywhere.
Facilities such as rest stops are making requests to change their property in order to meet criteria to offer the gaming option. According to the Senator, the local governments and citizens are not happy that the applications of VGTs continue to pop up.
Pushing for Support
Since last year, Martin has been pushing for support of his measure. he sent a letter to lawmakers in December 2018 that cited the gaming reform package allowed local governments to choose to opt out of category four gaming, the satellite casino portion of the bill. He felt that the same should be allowed for the VGTs as well.
An opt-out was provided for VGT gaming but it was only offered to counties where there was already a casino of a category 1, 2 or 3 variety. A total of 10 counties out of 12 decided to opt out.
According to Martin, municipalities that do not wish to have such gaming expansions in their community should have the option to say no if they so choose. The senator feels that the people of the state should have the ability to maintain their individual culture as well as protect their community.
The bill now sits within the Community, Economic and Recreational Development committee in the senate. As of yet, the committee does not have any meetings scheduled to review the bill.
It would seem the lawmakers will not really be on board for banning the VGTs when they were already agreeable to the 2017 gaming package. However, if Martin can garner enough support, the bill may push forward. We may see the state fall back when it comes to gaming expansions, despite the fact that they were able to move forward in several areas when the gaming package was first approved.
Only time will tell what will happen with VGTs in Pennsylvania. It may be weeks or even months before we see any movement with the bill sponsored by Martin.