Penn State University to Explore the Impact of Gambling in PA

Updated on November 2, 2020


Researchers at Penn State University have embarked on a study to discover the impact of gambling in Pennsylvania. Led by Glenn Sterner, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice, the students will conduct the research through phone calls and online polls.

Penn State will enroll the help of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and the Survey Research Center (SRC), both located in the Keystone State. After the study is done, Sterner and his group will hand over the findings to local policymakers. Why Online Gambling in PA?

Online Casinos in Pennsylvania are Legal

Pennsylvania is one of only four states that permit online casinos. The rest are New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia. PA legalized the industry in October 2017, meaning gaming sites have been around for roughly three years. features a list of the best PA online casinos. Some of them, like BetRivers, are renowned brands in the country. Others, like Unibet, are more successful internationally. All the same, these operators hold valid licenses from the PA Gaming Control Board.

Pennsylvania allows online casinos to provide all major games: slots, roulette, blackjack, poker, bingo and scratchers. They can also provide native Android and iOS apps. Or target mobile players with responsive mobile websites.

Online Gambling is on the Rise

One of the reasons why Penn State is conducting its latest study is that interactive gaming is pretty popular in PA. It wasn’t always that way. But ever since the Supreme Court ended PASPA and allowed states to authorize sports betting, the demand for casino games has also grown.

This year, the growth for slots and poker has been particularly high. And many experts believe COVID-19 had something to do with it. Back in March, the pandemic forced major sports leagues to cancel games.

Both land-based casinos and bookmakers also shut doors, leaving online casinos with unfettered access to PA gaming market. Crucially, most people were quarantined at home and needed entertainment.

For clarity, Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest gambling communities in the US. Ranked third, only Nevada ($12B) and New Jersey ($3.4B) are ahead. In other words, PA is full of casino players.

PA Isn’t Immune to Problem Gambling

Penn State’s primary focus is the impact of online casinos to gamblers’ wellbeing. Addiction, marriage, finances and career are some of the areas Penn State will revolve around when surveying casino players.

Indeed, most problem gamblers have difficulties managing important aspects of their lives. For example, they could mismanage their finances. In turn, they could ruin their relationships and careers. 

Penn State won’t be providing direct solutions to people with addiction issues. However, it only wants to get the numbers. Then it will share the data with gambling authorities to help fight gaming addiction in the state.

Presently, PA has a budget of $2 million or 0.2% of annual gambling revenue for problem gambling. But there’s a chance it could increase this figure should Penn State’s research show that more needs to be done.

Are Online Casinos Bad for the Public?

The thesis question of Penn State’s study aims to find out whether online casinos are bad for the people. It’s the first time someone is conducting such an experiment in the Key Stone state.  As such, it will be particularly helpful in determining to what extent online casinos have caused problem gambling in the state.

For clarity, Penn State isn’t after lobbying Pennsylvania to ban online casinos. Instead, it wants to discover if there’s a significant impact on people’s wellbeing and provide suggestions to the Gambling Control Board. 

Is Problem Gambling Preventable?

Although no one is immune to gambling addiction, it can be prevented. It can be avoided by playing with money you can afford to lose, having a budget and playing casino games for fun only. 

Sure, you can also win money or turn it into a career. But many people don’t win regularly, which leads to more losses than wins. That said, there are ways to increase your chances of winning.

A great example is to choose high-paying games. These are slots and card games programmed to pay back up to 99% of wagered money. And that means they produce winners more often than low paying games.

Are Online Casino Players More to Addiction?

Some people think it’s easier to become a problem gambler online than in Las Vegas. That’s not true, at least according to researchers. The chances of becoming an addict are equal whether you play slots online or at a land-based establishment.

That’s because the factors that drive people into problem gambling are similar everywhere. For example, you could lose several rounds of poker consecutively. But instead of quitting, you continue chasing your losses.

Another problem is a lack of control. Playing slots or card games for too long is a quick route into addiction. Spending too much is even worse, because it will also ruin your finances. In other words, it’s not a question of online versus land-based casinos. It’s an issue of what you do to prevent addiction.

Do Online Casinos Have a Role in Preventing Problem Gambling?

By law, online casinos are required to monitor their customers for problem gambling. They also need to enforce Know Your Customer (KYC) rules. Not only does it help prevent money laundering; but it also prevents people from betting with money they don’t own.

Many casinos also feature tools players can use to lower their chances of becoming problem gamblers. One common tool helps people to enforce a cool-off period after playing for a while. Another service helps people set budgets and limits casinos help enforce.

Although not available in PA, many casinos in the UK also feature a service to suspend your account. You could order casinos throughout Britain to blacklist your information for up to five years. And during the entire time, you won’t have access to casino games.

The last resort is closing your account. Many casinos have this option. But in some cases, they could also close your account by force if they’re convinced you shouldn’t be gambling. 

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