Luzerne County Council members have until Dec. 30 to act if they do not want slot machines in truck stops, the administration said.
State lawmakers approved gambling expansion legislation in October, allowing up to five video gaming terminals at truck stops in counties that currently have casinos. Luzerne County is in the mix, with the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Plains Township.
The legislation gave impacted counties a say in whether expansion to truck stops was allowed within their jurisdictions, establishing a Dec. 30 deadline to decide, county Manager C. David Pedri recently told council members.
Based on a cursory review of county mapping data, Pedri estimated approximately four truck stops may be eligible for slot machines if they are interested.
Under the legislation, truck stops must be on at least 3 acres with a convenience store, at least 20 parking spots for commercial trucks and diesel fuel areas. The establishments also must sell an average 50,000 gallons of diesel or biodiesel fuel per month for a year and can’t be located on any property owned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Legislators have estimated 150 truck stops would be eligible statewide.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Board has no list of which establishments may be eligible because proof that all requirements are met would be submitted in applications, a board representative said.
Two Pilot Travel Centers — one in Sugarloaf Township and the other in Pittston Township — may meet eligibility requirements. It’s unclear if they are interested in offering machines because local workers declined comment, referring inquiries to corporate officials who could not be immediately reached Wednesday.
Luzerne County is among 12 counties with casinos, according to the state Gaming Board. To date, three decided to reject slot machines at truck stops — Monroe, Northampton and Washington counties, the board said.
County council members here may vote on the matter Dec. 12.
At least two representatives of video gaming terminals said they plan to attend next week’s meeting urging council members to allow the machines at truck stops.
Chris Vecchione, of Universal Gaming Group of PA, said Wednesday that gaming is “sweeping the country” as a revenue generator to reduce reliance on taxes. He said he will be at next week’s meeting to ensure council members understand all sides of the issue.
Some casinos oppose expansion by other entities, maintaining they will suffer — an argument that has not held true in other states, Vecchione said.
His company operates video gaming terminals in Illinois and has been meeting with Pennsylvania establishments in anticipation of expansion.
“This is not going to hurt casinos,” said Vecchione.
It’s unclear if Mohegan Sun Pocono will publicly take a stance on the matter. A casino spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Rob Miller, head of Commonwealth Gaming LLC in Harrisburg, also plans to attend next week’s meeting, possibly accompanied by representatives of local truck stops interested in slot machines.
If four truck stops are permitted to have five machines each, the total would be 20, Miller said.
“It will have zero impact on Mohegan Sun but can have some really nice impact on businesses that operate those machines,” said Miller.
In other states, he said Commonwealth Gaming found truckers like the slot machines and will bypass truck stops that don’t offer them.
During a brief county council discussion about the matter last month, Pedri said the addition of slot machines at truck stops could increase revenue available for local gaming grants. According to the state, 10 percent of revenue from the machines would be earmarked for local funding.
Truck stops, meanwhile, would get to keep 15 percent of the gross revenue.
According to the state, counties that prohibit slot machines can later reverse their decision and allow them. However, counties that rescind prior prohibitions cannot subsequently ban machines again.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.