Lancaster County Municipalities May Opt Out of Video Gaming Terminals
Last week, a new law was passed that allows municipalities to prohibit Video Gaming Terminals (VGT) in truck stops. If a municipality wants to opt out of allowing VGTs, it must pass a Resolution that prohibits VGTs before September 1, 2019. This new law reverses the 2017 gaming law that forced many municipalities to permit VGTs, provided certain conditions were met. This bill was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Senators from Lancaster County, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument.
In 2017, Pennsylvania amended its gaming laws to permit “mini casinos” and VGT arcades. The law gave different rights to counties depending on whether a casino was located in the county. If the county had a casino, the municipalities in that county could prohibit VGTs. If the county did not have a casino already, the municipalities could opt out of mini casinos, but were not allowed to prohibit VGT arcades in “truck stops.” A truck stop was given a very broad definition in this new gaming law. Practically, many convenience stores could be built or converted to meet this definition.
The new law, Act 63 of 2019, allows municipalities to prohibit VGTs, regardless of whether a casino is located in the county or not. (Actually, this only applies to third class counties with populations of over 500,000. Lancaster County is the only county that fits this criteria right now.)
The most significant part of this new law is it applies retroactively. The prohibition on VGTs applies even if the “truck stop” has already received its license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Just to make sure there is no doubt about the intention of the law, it also provides that a VGT arcade “may not be located in a municipality which has exercised its option under this subsection.” Sometimes we need to try hard to determine the real intent of a piece of legislation. This one is absolutely, completely clear.
All 60 municipalities in Lancaster County opted out of mini casinos in 2017. All of these municipalities have the option to prohibit VGTs, so long as they act before September 1. If they do so, it will completely stop VGTs in that municipality. This is true even if the VGT operation is being heard by a Zoning Hearing Board, Board of Supervisors or Borough Council. As Senator Martin said, the new law has put the decision about VGTs into the hands of the people who are most affected – – the ones that live in the municipality.