Last year, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature gave final approval to a bill that allowed the expansion of casino gambling across the state. The move came as part of the government’s plan to put an end to the stubborn budget impasse and plug holes in the state’s tattered budget. Among all other things, video gaming terminals at bars have emerged as a potential remedy to the state’s growing financial hole. The proposal triggered heated and lengthy debates, but the lawmakers eventually achieved a consensus and allowed truck stops to host video gaming terminals (VGTs).
Under the new gambling law, the truck stops should meet certain requirements in order to have up to five VGTs installed. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board made it clear that to qualify for a license to operate VGTs, the truck stop should have sold an average of 50,000 gallons of fuel each month of the previous year. In addition to that, the truck stop owners should have a convenience store and sell Pennsylvania Lottery tickets. The board also notes that the truck stops should be situated on at least 3 acres of land and have at least 20 parking spaces for commercial vehicles.
To apply for a license, the truck owners should pay a $10,000 fee. The application fee for an establishment costs is estimated to be $1,000. The truck stop owners should also pay a $250 licensing fee for each VGT, while the state tax on VGTs is 42% of the gross revenue.
Pennsylvania’s lawmakers hope that the extensive gambling expansion is to help the state’s ailing budget and help it climb out of the hole. The projected revenue from the newly legalized forms of gambling, including mini-casinos, Internet gambling at casinos, airport tablet games, fantasy sports betting and truck stop VGTs amount to $200 million.
The Board Sets Realistic Expectations
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will start to accept license applications from 7th May this year. According to the House Appropriations Committee, the license and application fees are to bring approximately $1 million to the state’s economy. The state’s lawmakers set their expectations regarding the revenues from truck stops VGTs low. According to VGT advocates, it is unclear how many truck stop owners will apply for a license.
On Wednesday this week, gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach said that the board received many questions regarding the market, which is a sure indicator of interest in the market. However, the board officials explained that it is yet too early to make any prognosis. In fact, Pennsylvania saw a similar scenario in 2013, when it legalized raffle games, pull tabs and drawings for taverns. The state lawmakers believed that the new gaming options could contribute up to $150 million in revenues. To their disappointment, the gaming expansion could not meet the lawmakers’ revenue projections.