The Lead

York County lawmaker says he will propose truck stop video gambling expansion

By: - July 5, 2022 5:16 pm

Amid budget negotiations dragging five days past the June 30 deadline, a York County lawmaker on Tuesday announced he would introduce a bill that would expand the number of truck stops eligible for video gaming licenses.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said he would soon introduce a bill to end the requirement that a video gaming terminal licensee sells at least 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel each month on average.

“Simply, linking a licensee to a commodity makes no sense. Think of it this way, would the commonwealth link a tavern license to how many wings a tavern sells per month?” Grove wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors for his proposal. 

A person familiar with the proposal said it has been one of the major bargaining chips in budget negotiations and would benefit smaller fuel sellers such as the York County-based Rutter’s gas and convenience store chain. Rutter’s already operates 18 video gaming parlors.

Others in the Pennsylvania gaming industry, which generated a record $4.7 billion in revenue and $1.9 billion in taxes last year, say they’re opposed to the way in which the VGT expansion is being approached. 

“To try and change the language like this in a sprint to get a budget done is wrong,” said Peter Shelly, spokesperson for Pennsylvanians Against Gaming Expansion, a project of the state’s casino owners.

Shelly also said it’s unclear how many additional terminals would be permitted without the diesel sales requirement. 

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the 65 video gaming terminal sites around the state generated an average of $3.46 million in monthly revenue resulting in an average of $1.45 million in monthly tax revenue during the 2021/22 fiscal year.

Mike Barley, communications director for skill games developer and distributor Pace-O-Matic, said the proposal should be discussed with other gaming legislation. Barley cited proposals by Rep. James Wheeland, R-Lycoming, and Sen. Gene Yaw,  to further tax and regulate skill games. 

House Bill 2133 and Senate Bill 950 would require skill games to be connected to a collection and control system to allow the state to monitor revenue and ensure taxes are paid. With names including “Amigos Locos” and “Lady Periwinkle,” the games require players to use a skill such as timing to win a payout, unlike slot machines and video poker games.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, acknowledged last week that gaming expansion was in the mix. But his spokesperson said Tuesday that he would not comment on a co-sponsorship memo. 

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.