How PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Fulfill Problem Gambling Needs

Written By Corey Sharp on November 14, 2022 - Last Updated on March 7, 2023
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The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) is instrumental in preventing and treating problem gambling.

DDAP is funded by Pennsylvania’s gambling industry and allocates the money for different resources to combat these issues. It addresses both the prevention and treatment side of problem gambling, free of charge to all.

DDAP is also in charge of how and where gamblers reach out for help, which has expanded over the years.

As the gambling industry continues to grow, DDAP receives more money to be able to help gamblers. What does DDAP provide, how much money do they get and where does it go?

How to contact Pennsylvania DDAP

DDAP cannot help those suffering from gambling problems if they don’t have a quick and easy way to reach out for help. That’s why one of DDAP’s most important responsibilities is to fund, advertise and make the 1-800-Gambler hotline accessible.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania is contracted through DDAP to run the helpline. Gamblers can also contact DDAP directly at 717-783-8200.

Similar to self-exclusion numbers, the helpline has seen an increase in volume over the years as the chart displays.

YearIntake Calls
FY 2017/20181,069
FY 2018/20191,099
FY 2019/20201,040
FY 2020/20211,644
FY 2021/2022*2,401

*The FY 2021/2022 report isn’t out yet, but DDAP shared the numbers with PlayPennsylvania.

Through Aug. 2022, DDAP has recorded 1,706 calls and is on pace to field 2,559 calls by the end of the calendar year. It will be the most of any 12-month period.

Pennsylvania has grown rapidly since 2019 when online sports betting and casinos launched. Now the state has 14 PA online sports betting apps and 18 PA online casinos. The COVID-19 pandemic also closed PA’s land-based casinos for a period of time and online gambling options became more popular.

Online casino customers only accounted for no more than 3% of problem gambling calls stretching from late 2018 to early 2020. In FY 2020/2021, iGaming increased to 20% of problem gambling calls, which became the No. 1 reason in front of unspecified casinos calls (19%) and slots (16%).

Individuals who call are placed into treatment programs operated and funded by DDAP.

Types of services DDAP provides

While DDAP is focused on all aspects of problem gambling, a lot of time and resources are dedicated to treatment.

Gamblers who develop a gambling disorder and want to receive help are placed primarily in outpatient counseling programs. DDAP is contracted with 62 counselors in the state, across 31 counties. Here is the increase in counselors since 2018:

  • 2018: 23
  • 2019: 36
  • 2020: 58
  • 2021: 54
  • 2022: 62

When gamblers enter the DDAP program, counselors conduct an assessment to determine the frequency and duration the patient needs for treatment.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, DDAP has been offering telehealth sessions to patients, which wasn’t an option previously. DDAP has continued to provide telehealth sessions as COVID restrictions have been lifted.

Jennifer Smith, Secretary of DDAP, said telehealth options have been a welcome addition to DDAP and its patients. It helps single parents, those without reliable transportation and especially those with disabilities.

“You’ve opened doors for them now to be able to stay engaged consistently in their treatment by taking away some of those barriers that have previously presented themselves,” Smith said.

Where does DDAP funding come from?

There are numerous acts in place that allow DDAP to receive funding from the state’s gambling industry. From DDAP’s FY 2020-2021 Problem Gambling Annual Report, it reads:

“Act 71 of 2004, The Pennsylvania Racehorse Development and Gaming Act, establishes the Compulsive and Problem Gambling Treatment Fund (CPGT) as a mandated annual transfer of dollars from the State Gaming Fund to DDAP. Act 1 of 2010 specifies that the amount transferred annually be $2,000,000 or an amount equal to .002 multiplied by the total gross terminal revenue of all active and operating licensed gaming entities, whichever is greater. The Act 42 of 2017 expanded gaming to include a new category of mini casino licenses, interactive gaming, fantasy gaming, sports betting, truck stop gaming terminals, and airport gaming terminals.”

DDAP has received more than $24 million over the years. It provides counseling, maintains the 1-800-Gambler hotline and awareness of problem gambling through outreach and education programs.

Here is the breakdown of money DDAP has received by fiscal year:

  • 2017/2018: $4.6 million
  • 2018/2019: $4.4 million
  • 2019/2020: $4.4 million
  • 2020/2021: $4.3 million

Though the report for FY 2021/2022 hasn’t been released yet, Secretary Smith said DDAP received “just shy of $7 million for treatment and prevention.”

In each report, DDAP gives a breakdown on where the money goes. In the FY 2020/2021 report:

  • 68% of the money was allocated to counties across PA
  • 14% was allocated to counselors for treatment
  • 18% was used for administration and oversight of the program

Programs DDAP funds for problem gambling prevention in PA

DDAP uses funds for presentations on problem gambling to target vulnerable populations such as students and seniors.

An example of popular presentations are:

  • Gambling Away the Golden Years: Targets seniors in senior centers who turn gambling from entertainment to an addiction during retirement.
  • Kids Don’t Gamble … Wanna Bet?: Targets third through eighth graders to discourage underage gambling through critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • Know Limits: Question and answer game for middle school and high school students to increase engagement and awareness of issues related to gambling and other high-risk behaviors.
  • Too Much To Lose: For all students up until high school that covers topics such as defining gambling, addiction and risk taking, phases of gambling, refusal skills, consequences of gambling, recognizing problem gambling, coping skills and getting help for addiction disorders.

Philadelphia county was allocated $643,126 in FY 2020/2021. Other notable counties in PA that received DDAP funds include:

  • Erie: $363,150
  • Lancaster: $174,537
  • Delaware: $155,561
  • Bucks: $143,743
  • Lebanon: $73,579

DDAP distributes the money through a funding proposal each county fills out with a detailed plan of how they intend to spend the dollars for problem gambling prevention.

How DDAP has evolved the 1-800-Gambler helpline over the years

DDAP has had to adapt over the years to be able to reach and help more people.

One of those ways was adding a text and chat option. Gamblers who feel they need help can text 800-522-4700, or visit the National Council on Problem Gamblings website and speak with someone via an instant messaging chat. Both ways are just as effective as calling 1-800-Gambler.

DDAP saw a need and installed chat and text options for additional ways for gamblers to reach out.

“Folks who are willing to reach out for help, typically at this point in their addiction or problem gambling disorder have experienced a great amount of shame,” Smith said. “The fewer times they have to encounter a person to explain what they’ve done and talk badly about themselves, the happier they are to have it be less personal.”

In 2019, the Council of Compulsive Gambling only fielded 105 chat requests and 77 texts. Numbers have grown since.

  • 2020: 241 chats / 159 texts – 172 intakes
  • 2021: 477 chats / 223 texts – 241 intakes

Through Sept. 2022, the helpline recorded 421 chats, 255 texts and 219 intakes. That is on pace for 561 chats, 340 texts and 292 intakes.

Josh Ercole, Executive Director Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA, said the increase in numbers suggests text and chat options are needed.

“We’ve seen a continual increase over the past several years, and while we don’t have specific info regarding how folks feel about [the text and chat options], we feel that the numbers indicate that [those options are necessary],” Ercole said. “Meeting people where they’re at is very important – whether it’s easier, or more comfortable for them, to reach the helpline using this avenue, we feel it’s an important resource to offer.”

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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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