HomeGambling RoundupPennsylvania Governor Signs VGT Opt-Out Bill into Law

Pennsylvania Governor Signs VGT Opt-Out Bill into Law

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (l.) has signed a bill into law that gives Lancaster County municipalities 60 days in which to opt out of the video gaming terminal program, banning VGTs in their jurisdictions.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf last week signed a bill into law that gives municipalities in any county in the state to opt out of the video gaming terminal program created by the 2017 gaming expansion law, which allows qualifying truck stops to each add up to five VGTs.

The new law benefits one county specifically—rural Lancaster County, the conservative home of the state’s Amish communities. Twelve counties that would be affected by the law already are precluded from VGTs because they host casinos.

Lancaster County municipalities have until the end of August to vote resolutions to ban truck-stop VGTs. However, some of the county’s 60 municipalities wasted no time. West Hempfield Township, which has been a hotbed of litigation over the VGT issue, had a resolution banning VGTs at the ready, having drafted it just after the bill passed the state house.

The new opt-out law essentially nullifies a lawsuit against West Hempfield brought by the Rutters convenience store chain, which had won preliminary state approval to add VGTs to its qualifying truck stop in Strasburg. Township officials used zoning laws to deny a permit for the VGTs at the Strasburg location, and the lawsuit claims they improperly manipulated the zoning after the fact to ban the machines.

The new law gives West Hempfield another avenue to ban the VGTs, which renders the lawsuit moot.

Strasburg Mayor Bruce Ryder, a VGT opponent, said he was relieved the new law was enacted. “This gives us a way to finish this issue,” he said, according to the LNP Lancaster Online news site, “close it out, and presumably no longer have our zoning hearing board’s decision in the courts.”

“In my personal opinion, an opt-out provision should have been in the original legislation,” West Hempfield Board of Supervisors Chairman Dave Dunmeyer told LNP.

“I couldn’t be more pleased that the governor signed this, state Senator Scott Martin added. “Local control was inserted back into this process.”

While the 2017 gaming expansion law included an opt-out provision for municipalities in the case of satellite “mini-casinos,” no such provision was applied for truck-stop VGTs. The new law both allows for municipalities to opt out and to opt back in later with a new vote.

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