Centre County truck stop one of first in Pennsylvania to open video gaming terminal

Centre County’s first truck stop video gaming terminal lounge is open for business, aiming to create a mini-casino for visitors.

After applying for a VGT license last year, Snow Shoe Travel Plaza, located at 529 E. Sycamore Road, is the third independently owned establishment in the state to go live with the game terminals — low stake slot machines — monitored by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. In addition to the VGTs, the facility, owned by Joe Grewal, houses a dining area, showers, laundry facilities and a Chester’s Chicken.

“There are a lot of people who are excited,” Grewal said. “Some (people) are coming on a daily basis, and the truckers, when they take a break, it’s entertainment for them.”

After the Expanded Gaming Act of 2017, local businesses were granted permission to participate in the gaming industry. Grewal said Commonwealth Gaming approached him with the idea of opening the lounge. The application process that followed was extensive, he and his daughter, Kiran Grewal, said.

To be approved for a VGT license, a business must be equipped with fueling stations, has sold or is projected to sell an average 50,000 gallons of diesel or biodiesel fuel each month for the previous year, offer at least 20 commercial vehicle parking spaces, operates as a convenience store, is a state lottery sales agent and sits on at least three acres of land, according to the Gaming Control Board.

“I think scanning all of our fuel invoices for a whole year was very annoying,” Kiran Grewal said, adding that she and her parents had to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks before receiving their VGT license.

Joe Grewal, manager and owner of the Snow Shoe Travel Plaza, in the plaza’s new video gaming terminal lounge on Thursday. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Operating like slot machines with a maximum payout of $1,000, the profits made from VGTs go to the state, but in the case of the PA Lottery program, those funds are distributed to senior programs and transportation initiatives.

Because the Snow Shoe terminal just opened this month, the Grewals said it is too early to predict how many people will use the machine on average. When customers stop to use the lounge, the Grewals hope they will purchase fuel, food and drink from the travel plaza because the slot machine funds do not go directly to the plaza.

Those who are VGT licensed are not permitted to play in the gaming terminals.

The Snow Shoe Travel Plaza has add a video gaming terminal lounge with five different machines offering a variety of games. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

“We’re not allowed to play ourselves,” Kiran Grewal said. “Let’s say I’m sitting and watching someone play, I don’t want to go and try to play after them.”

The Snow Shoe terminal is adjacent to the facility’s dining area. Cameras and a monitor alert employees when someone enters the lounge in order to keep the area secure and free of children who are not legally allowed to play on the machines.

Commonwealth Gaming representative Amy Christie said an official grand opening is being planned for the end of October. Kiran Grewal said she and her father hope the event will bring more customers to the plaza.

“We are very excited to see small business owners get to finally participate in the gaming industry of Pennsylvania,” Christie said in a statement.

Kiran Grewal said VGTs and the regulations surrounding the lounges are still new to state officials and local business owners. Although the Grewals said they are unsure how the local terminal will impact other businesses and attractions in the Snow Shoe area, Joe Grewal thinks expansion is likely.

“For now, any truck stop is only allowed five machines,” Joe Grewal said, predicting the number will grow to 10 machines. “When the state sees revenue coming in, I think they’re going to allow more.”

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.