Since launching in July 2019, the Pennsylvania online gambling industry has seen significant growth. The industry seems to reach new heights each month, earning more revenues and adding new online gaming sites. But, as the industry has picked up momentum, the number of online gamblers addicted to gaming seems to have increased as well.
The Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA Inc. reports that telephone calls for help with online gambling addiction are on the rise. According to Josh Ercole, the Chief Operating Officer for the Council, the past year has been remarkable considering the number of people reaching out for help.
In early 2020, the number of calls connected to online gambling addiction was at 5%. However, by the end of the year, the percentage was much higher. By December 2020, the Council reported players made at least 50% of the calls regarding sports betting or online services.
The spike is alarming, as calls related to online gambling have surged from 1-in-20 to 1-in-2 according to the Council.
A Surging Market and a Pandemic
As the months go by, the online gaming market in Pennsylvania only continues to grow. New operators are launching services, which means more options for players and more revenues earned via platforms. In January, the state reached over $80 million in revenues from online gambling, an all-time monthly record.
For the Council, Ercole stated that years ago, the calls coming in revolved around slot gaming. With the launch of the online industry, there has been a huge shift in player gaming. Individuals in the state are logging online more than ever before, and the main areas of concern are now online-based instead of land-based.
The factors contributing to the rise in revenue are two-fold:
- The increase in online gambling options.
- COVID-19 shuttering land-based casino opportunities and pushing land-based gamblers online.
How a return to normal will impact the changing dynamics of problem gambling calls is unclear. What is clear, is the problem is going to require a team effort to counteract.
March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is doing its part to help. The PGCB just launched an initiative that includes promoting resources that players can use to detect, limit, and cure problem gambling.
A digital talk is planned with the state Lottery, Council on Compulsive Gambling, and the Department of Drug and Alcohol to discuss how to make the best tools available to individuals in the state regarding gambling addiction.
PlayPause by Conscious Gaming
In December 2020, Pennsylvania became the first state to launch PlayPause, a new responsible gaming tool created by Conscious gaming, a non-profit organization. The tool includes GeoComply technology to allow players to choose to self-exclude in one action but across multiple areas.
Basically, any state that is connected to PlayPause is included in the exclusion. This allows players who choose to self-exclude to travel from state to state without having access to online gambling options.
PlayPause is just one of many tools entering the online gambling landscape to assist in problem gambling needs. As the industry grows more within the US, even more tools and resources are expected to emerge, like Conscious Gaming’s Bettor Safe initiative.