Pennsylvania Study Shows No Increase in Compulsive Gambling

by Jim Hall

A new study conducted in Pennsylvania shows that despite access to casinos, there has been no rise in reports of compulsive gambling in the state.

When discussing casino gambling, opponents always raise the question of whether or not new facilities will cause an increase in compulsive gambling. We all know that gambling can be addicting, so we must handle our wagering habits with care. Casinos have to provide assistance for gambling addicts by way of information or even programs in order for operations to take place in states across the US.

In Pennsylvania, there are currently twelve casinos in operation and opponents have worried from the very beginning that so much gaming will cause an increase in compulsive gambling among residents. When the first casino opened ten years ago this year via The Meadows, opponents warned that compulsive gambling would be inevitable and lead to more bankruptcy filings, divorce within families, crime, etc. However, a recent study puts these beliefs to rest.

Council on Compulsive Gambling

Council on Compulsive Gambling of PennsylvaniaThe Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania held their annual conference last week. The group is a nonprofit and private organization that works to ensure gambling addicts have help when they need it most. During the conference, the members of the council had nothing to show that indicated gambling addicts had increased within the last decade.

According to a spokesman for the group, meetings and attendance of Gamblers Anonymous in the state are actually down from totals from ten years ago. Callers seeking help via the hotline provided by the compulsive gambling council dropped last year from 2015. Those who have a problem with gambling continue to place their name on the self-exclusion list with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board which bans the individual from entering a casino, but the number of names added to the list continues to drop each year.

Therapists see drop in patients

In the state, therapists are seeing a drop in the number of patients seeking treatment for gambling addictions since the casinos opened in the state. Even with new venues opening, the state has seen lesser numbers when it comes to patient treatment for gambling addiction via therapy.

During the conference, licensed social worker Sabrina Heller, stated that she has eight patients who she is currently treating for gambling problems. Only two of these patients can tie their addition to casinos. Heller has reported that she did not see an onslaught of patients when the gaming venues opened and did not see a reason why she should.

A spokesman for Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia region of Gamblers Anonymous, Norm B., commented on the issue as well, stating that experience within the chapters of the GA nationally, there is a presumption that opening of casinos will increase attendance. However, instead of hosting the 24 weekly meetings that took place in the past, the GA actually only meets less times per week and there are almost two dozen less participants for the state than ten years ago.

The Facts

While the state has not seen an influx of gambling addicts, there are still those who use the compulsive gambling services provided by the state. The gambling hotline provided by the state council received 1,422 calls in 2016. Around 1,500 new names are added to the voluntary self-exclusion list each year. These individuals are willing to allow themselves to be arrested for trespassing if they are fond to be within a casino by security. The list currently has almost 7,800 names.

While compulsive gambling will always be a problem, it does not seem to be one that can be connected to the opening of casinos as well as availability of gaming. Pennsylvania continues to do well by way of gaming revenues, money that is used to support the state, including offering compulsive gambling programs.