The first numbers are coming in on revenue from Pennsylvania’s new truck stop video gaming terminals, suggesting the potential for tens of millions of dollars in new gambling spending and tax proceeds from it in the state.
The VGTs, limited to five machines at mostly rural truck plazas meeting criteria of a 2017 gaming law, are still in their infancy under licensing by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Nonetheless, the board released figures from the first seven locations that opened in August and September.
Those seven, created by one of two VGT terminal operators — Marquee by Penn or Commonwealth Gaming — combined in August and September for $3,448,881 in wagers. That amounted to gross revenue of $324,710 and tax revenue of $168,849 through September.
It is uncertain just what that means in the long run for VGTs, as those seven truck stops are less than 10% of the number that have applied for licenses. More than 70 applications were submitted to the gaming board by mid-September, and there are some estimates the eventual number could go twice as high. To be eligible to install VGTs, the facilities must sell an average of at least 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel monthly and have truck parking and a convenience store, among their requirements.
The good news for players – if you could call a long-term losing proposition good news – is the VGT operators don’t appear to be trying to make any more profit off them than what would occur in casinos. The VGTs, which look and function similar to slots but with restrictions on maximum wagers and payouts, are paying back 90% overall, about the same as what patrons receive from Pennsylvania casino slots.
Maybe truck stop VGTs could generate $50mm plus in revenue. Maybe.
While there’s no agreed-upon estimate of what the new gaming will bring in the way of combined revenue for truck stops, the VGT operators and state (there’s a 52% tax bite from gross terminal revenue), some guesswork can be attempted, based on the first numbers.
Looking at figures for September, a York Rutter’s store location at the intersection of Interstate 83 and U.S. Route 30 took $957,829 in wagers and generated $99,193 in VGT revenue for the month. That was the highest of any VGT parlor.
The highway intersection probably makes that a premium location for a VGT establishment. The more rural Emlenton Truck Plaza at Exit 42 of I-80 in Venango County took wagers of just $351,846 and posted revenue of $29,183 in September.
A midway point between those two examples would yield potential revenue of $65,000 in a month, or $780,000 in a year. If that were multiplied by the 70 or so locations currently anticipating licenses, it could add up to more than $54 million in annual gross revenue and $28 million in tax receipts for the state.
Whether or not that happens is still anyone’s guess. Whatever the number, it’s a small fraction of the $3 billion-plus the state’s casinos are generating in annual gambling revenue, but it’s yet one more way Pennsylvania is carving out a niche as distinctive from other states in its approach to gaming – and in pursuing budget help.