Not everyone in Pennsylvania is getting behind Video Game Terminals (VGTs) at truck stops or the so-called “Skill Game” electronic gaming machines that have popped up all over the state in recent months.
In fact, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill last week to allow municipalities in Lancaster County to completely opt-out of allowing what would otherwise be legal VGTs at truck stops that meet the statutory eligibility criteria established via a separate bill signed into law last year.
These truck stops became known as “mini-casinos” to some in the state, but the difference in local control between where these types of establishments could pop up versus where the ten newly state-licensed satellite casinos could was substantial.
For the latter, local constituents could bar the casinos from municipalities via vote, something that was especially important to people in places such as Lancaster County, who, for the most part, weren’t too thrilled about having any type of gambling within its borders.
Previously, the only way for locals to have a say if they didn’t want truck stop VGTs in their community was if they already hosted a casino.
That’s changed now, at least for the residents of Lancaster County, a jurisdiction where all 60 municipalities voted to keep casinos out of their community only to see truck stop VGTs slide right in without any kind of local say.
There are at least 12,000 “skill games” located across Pennsylvania in businesses such as convenient stores, membership-based social clubs and taverns, and government officials, as well as some local resident groups, are still trying to decide what to do with them.
Some people, including the Editorial Board over at Lancaster.com, consider these types of machines to basically be unregulated and unwanted slot machines that siphon money away from the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Others, such as Meile Amusements, one of the main producers of such machines in Pennsylvania, are lobbying for oversight and regulation of the industry, which currently doesn’t really exist, but remains firm in the belief that their machines are not gambling devices because they are not fixed chance games.
From that perspective, proponents of “skill games” say these types of machines shouldn’t be taxed and regulated the same as the slot machines and other gambling devices found in Pennsylvania casinos, and so far the courts have agreed.
In fact, according to a court in Beaver County, these types of games require a level of skill which current gambling regulations do not include.
Regardless, local lawmakers and powerful Pennsylvania media groups such as Lancaster.com aren’t looking at “skill games” by happenstance. In fact, the Pennsylvania Lottery contends it's being cheated out of millions of dollars in the current “skill games” environment that’s running rampant throughout the state.
The lottery is on track to collect a record $1.2 billion in revenue for the fiscal year, but joined the Pennsylvania State Police, a state senator, and some senior advocacy groups last month at a news conference to call for a crackdown on the unregulated electronic “skill games.”
They contend these games have stolen business from them that would otherwise have given the lottery even more of a massive revenue haul. Since its inception in 1972, the Pennsylvania Lottery has reportedly brought in $29 billion to benefit the state’s senior citizens.
While the lottery hasn’t yet provided compelling data to support their claim of “skill games” siphoning that much money away from lottery coffers, it does stand to reason that at least some of the people who play such devices might have played the lottery instead if such games did not exist or were suddenly taken away.