Truck Stop Definition is Latest Battleground in Pennsylvania Gaming Expansion
When Penn National Gaming signed a deal last month to bring video gaming terminals (VGTs) to the Rutter’s convenience store chain in Pennsylvania, the agreement was designed to work under rules that allow VGTs at truck stops in the state. But some convenience stores are now questioning the current definition of a truck stop in the hopes of allowing these terminals to be placed in a wider range of locations.
Under Pennsylvania law, a truck stop that wants to host up to five VGTs must be a gas station with a separate island for diesel fuel, must sell an average of 50,000 gallons of diesel per month, and must have at least 20 parking spaces for commercial vehicles. These rules are similar to those used in Illinois, and are even stricter in terms of diesel sales.
A Truck Stop by Any Other Name
But while those terms are somewhat restrictive, gaming-expansion advocates were able to eliminate a requirement that a venue needed to have showering facilities on site – something that is common in traditional truck stops, but wouldn’t normally be found in a convenience store or standard gas station.
That opened the door for chains like Rutter’s. While most of its locations wouldn’t qualify, 20 that were near highways and were designed to serve commercial trucks seemed to fit the bill.
“They’re completely different than the Rutter’s down at the corner,” Rutter’s spokesperson Pam Baldwin told PennLive.com. “We don’t call them truck stops…but that’s what they are designed to be.”
Stores Haggle Over Commercial Vehicle Definition
Whether or not these stores strictly meet the definition is another question. PennLive.com reported that one store in York County appeared to only have about 12 spots for tractor-trailers, for instance.
But some convenience store operators are arguing that the current rules should be amended to allow smaller vehicles – like dump trucks and delivery trucks – to count as commercial vehicles. Just how fast and loose the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is willing to play with those regulations could determine whether larger convenience store chains like Turkey Hill, Sheetz, or Wawa could try to add VGTs to some of their locations.
Some Communities Want VGT Ban
Some local officials are trying to stop VGTs from flourishing in their jurisdictions, regardless of how the state sets the truck stop definition. State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster County) want municipal officials to have the chance to ban VGTs entirely if their communities want to opt out of gambling expansion.
To me, it’s just not right in seeing how this is playing out,” Martin told PennLive.com. “[Local residents] deserve to have their voices heard in this process.”
Some locations have already had the opportunity to do this. Northampton County opted out of allowing VGTs at truck stops, but was allowed to do so specifically because the county already hosted the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Martin is proposing that a 90-day window be established during which all municipal officials would have the same opportunity to put VGT bans in place.
So far, interest in truck stop gambling has been mild in Pennsylvania. Only 63 applications have been received by state gaming regulators so far, with 23 of those being granted conditional approval. The applications for the Rutter’s locations are among those still pending on-site inspections to ensure they meet the PGCB requirements.
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