Impact of Online Gambling in Pennsylvania Analyzed in New State Report

Report shows that about 1-in-10 Pennsylvanians have gambled online in 2021, wagering $219 per week on average.
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) logo is seen on blurred abstract orange and brown background. The PGCB just released a report analyzing PA gambling behaviors in 2021.
By
January 28, 2022

A new report, assessing the impact of online gambling in Pennsylvania, has just been released by state authorities.

The headline figures show that roughly 1-in-10 Pennsylvanians engaged in online gambling in the previous 12 months, playing 5.8 hours and wagering $219 per week on average.

The survey also reported on problem gambling, revealing that just over 2% of respondents had contacted the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline.

The analysis was conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Penn State University (PSU), and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) — and sought to evaluate the consequences of online gambling in the Keystone State.

When interactive gaming aka iGaming was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2017, the act stipulated that the DDAP must conduct reviews on the effects of interactive gaming in the state. This is the first such review.

“This report will assist DDAP in its mission to assess and address how gambling behaviors impact compulsive and problem gambling within the commonwealth,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith.

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Gambling by Numbers: What the Study Reveals

Of the 1,138 people taking part in the survey, 11.1% said they had engaged in some form of iGaming during the last year. Extrapolating this figure suggests that over 1 million Pennsylvanians have gambled online.

More than two-thirds of those (67.8%) were men, and almost three-quarters (73.4%) were white. The average age of iGamers was 38.

43.9% of those surveyed said that iGaming was their favorite form of gambling, and many consider it to be a social experience — 45.2% of respondents said they play with friends or other social acquaintances.

The study also looked into the different forms of online gambling that players prefer. Of those who engage in iGaming, participation breaks down as follows:

  • Sports Betting — 47.7%
  • Table Games (Roulette, Blackjack, etc) — 40.6%
  • Fantasy Sports (DFS) — 29.0%
  • Slots — 28.8%
  • iLottery — 20.7%
  • Online Poker — 16.4%
  • Other — 9.8%

More than two-thirds (68.6%) who bet online also enjoy in-person gambling. The most popular outlet for this is the Pennsylvania State Lottery, which 45.9% say they have played in addition to their iGaming.

Findings on Problem Behaviors

One of the survey’s tasks is to monitor problem gambling. Participants were asked if they had displayed any of five behaviors deemed to be problematic. 44.6% of those who gambled, answered yes to at least one question. However, it is important to note that this does not make them problem gamblers per se — and only 2.1% had felt the need to seek professional help.

“We want to ensure we are offering all the resources we can at the state level to anyone who may be experiencing problem gambling behaviors,” Smith said.

“Knowing the current iGaming trends in the state will help DDAP make informed decisions and help to spread awareness that treatment and resources are available to help when this recreational hobby becomes a more serious problem.”

The research lead for the report — Dr. Glenn Sterner, assistant professor of criminal justice at Penn State — emphasized the importance of the team’s work.

“By collecting these data on a yearly basis, we can ensure an accurate understanding of the impact of this policy change on our Pennsylvania communities,” Sterner said. “If interventions are required, this assessment will help to guide a data-driven response.

“The key concern about this group is their gambling can happen anywhere, at any time, in any location. When their gambling behavior can be hidden, there’s concern that issues with problem gambling are not as easily caught as if they’re out in public.”

The team will continue its research for two more years at least, with more reports to follow.

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