Responsible gambling has been a hot topic of discussion over the last several months. As the gambling industry has expanded rapidly in offerings and operators, the number of people that exhibit problem gambling behaviors has also increased. Responsible gambling resources are also evolving as the industry does.
One resource available to help PA gamblers stop themselves from irresponsible gambling is the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) self-exclusion list.
There are four separate lists gamblers can join:
- Video Game Terminals (VGTs)
- Fantasy contests
The PGCB also offers signs of problem gambling and directions to get help. It released its annual report and the numbers for self-exclusions have been increasing over the years, expecting to break a record for 2022.
As more people are signing up for self-exclusion, the conversation of responsible gambling has come to the forefront. How is Pennsylvania shifting to a more responsible gambling environment?
PA self-exclusion numbers increase with gambling accessibility
In the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the PGCB did not report any iGaming self-exclusions because online gambling had not launched yet. Even casino self-exclusion leveled off from 2012-18.
The chart below shows the total number of people on any PA self-exclusion list. The year 2019 is when iGaming (online casino), Video Game Terminals (VGTs) and fantasy contests started to get tracked.
The current calendar year is on track to well outpace 2021’s high of 2,891. The 2022 total for PA self-exclusions could reach 3,900 or even 4,000 according to Bonus.com estimates.
Growth of online gambling options mean more self-exclusions
When online sportsbooks and online casinos launched in June and July 2019, respectively, only a few offerings existed. For example, FanDuel and many other big name gambling brands didn’t launch online casino until 2020.
The growth has expanded rapidly since, with 14 online PA sports betting apps and 18 PA online casinos, with hundreds of games available to PA residents.
Here is a table showing the increase in iGaming, VGTs and fantasy contest self-exclusions:
Steps PGCB has taken to promote responsible gambling
The increase in self-exclusion numbers has caused the PGCB to work hard over the last couple of years to expand the reach of responsible gambling messaging and raise awareness of tools available to the public.
The PGCB knew it had to update its website to better drive home responsible gambling. Elizabeth Lanza, Director of the Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling, said that previously, problem gambling information was only a single webpage on the PGCB website “with a list of information.”
When expanded gambling legalized over time in Pennsylvania, the PGCB hired an outside agency to revamp its problem gambling messaging. It is a sharp-looking website that is more accessible and user-friendly to gamblers. There is a ton of information about problem gambling, self-exclusion, phone numbers and different ways gamblers can be helped.
The PGCB is also keen on getting responsible gambling messaging out in different languages. On the website, gamblers can review problem gambling information in six different languages. The gambling population in PA is diverse, so the messaging needs to reach everyone who gambles in the commonwealth.
“We wanted to reach them and let them know there are resources available,” Lanza said. “It was more about getting this information into the right hands and giving them information they can use.”
PA’s gambling prevention and treatment organizations
As legal gambling options continue to expand, so does the support for prevention and treatment of problem gambling behavior.
There are three departments within the commonwealth that address prevention and treatment of responsible gambling:
- PGCB Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling
- Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania
- Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP)
Here’s a little more about each of those resources.
PGCB Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling
The Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling is the regulatory side of responsible gambling, making sure operators reach a certain threshold of responsible gambling resources and messaging to gamblers.
Lanza said the PGCB requires operators to have certain prevention tools on their sites to help Pennsylvanians gamble responsibly to prevent gambling addictions and disorders. For example:
“[Gamblers] can put deposit limits, spend limits, wager limits and there’s self-suspension cool off limits as well,” Lanza said of the different tools operators offer.
Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania
The Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania focuses on the 1-800-Gambler helpline and education, along with outreach and advocacy of responsible gambling. They facilitate referrals to help.
Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs focuses on the funds allocated to the different counties in PA. It focuses on both prevention and treatment once a gambler suffers from an addiction or disorder.
How operators are coming together to focus on responsible gambling
The fact that gambling has expanded so rapidly increases the odds of someone developing a gambling addiction or disorder. One of the topics that has been preached in recent months is balancing customer well-being and long-term sustainability.
During a Responsible Gaming Education Month webinar in September, it was clear that operators have come together to realize that the well-being of players greatly impacts the sustainability of the industry.
Participants explained that the “us against them type of dialogue” has been squashed in order to protect gamblers, which in turn keeps the industry strong.
“I can promise you that attitudes have absolutely shifted,” Lanza said of operators coming together. “When I first came on, it was a lot more ‘This is what our regulations say, so do it.’ Now I’m literally being contacted by operators that say ‘Look at this new program we’re starting to develop to help individuals gamble more responsibly for operators in PA for the future.’ There are definitely operators that have gone above and beyond what we require in PA.”
The more gambling expands in Pennsylvania, the less controversial gambling will be, and the more willing people will be to get help. That’s the goal for Lanza.
“The less and less gambling is controversial, the less people will feel that stigma that they did something wrong when it’s simply an addiction that they need help for,” Lanza said.
As gambling keeps expanding, so will the messages of responsible gambling. Many entities are working together to increase awareness and resources for anyone who does develop a gambling addiction to feel comfortable reaching out for help.
Hopefully as new education, tools and resources evolve, there will be more prevention of problem gambling behavior in the first place.