Penn State Study Provides Insight into Online Gambling Habits

The revised survey on online gambling in PA reveals new insights into the habits of online gamblers, including their preferences for different gambling formats.
Penn State Study Provides Insight into Online Gambling Habits
April 13, 2023

The typical online gambler in Pennsylvania is a married white male in his mid-to late-30s, lives in the southwest part of the state, has at least a bachelor’s degree, and makes more than $50,000 annually, according to an analysis by the Pennsylvania State University.

Penn State also found that about one in ten Pennsylvanians had gambled online within the past 12 months and that more than half of those who gambled engaged in two or more formats — the most popular one is online sports betting, according to 54% of respondents surveyed.

The 28-page report is the second assessment conducted by Penn State; the first covered 2020 and 2021. For the second installment, Penn State changed its questionnaire by eliminating the filter questions that were asked the first time and instead dove straight into asking which gambling format respondents engaged with.

The revised questionnaire includes new questions surrounding motivations to gamble, the reasons players use to end an online gambling session, and the opinions of players on the harms and benefits of online gambling.

Sports Betting Most Popular With Online Gamblers

According to Penn State, about 11% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older had gambled online within the past 12 months. Of those that gambled, 51.5% engaged in two or more formats when gambling.

Not surprisingly, online sports betting was the most popular format, with 54% of respondents saying they place online wagers for sporting events. Penn State also found that 39.5% of online sports bettors also bet on fantasy sports — on its own, fantasy sports drew 31.9% of online gamblers overall.

Since Pennsylvania regulators classify online slots and table games as separate product offerings, a precise figure for how popular online casino gaming is with online bettors overall is not possible. But Penn State found 33.3% of respondents gambled with online slots, and 20.8% played table games online.

That means somewhere between 33.3% and 54.1% of respondents played online casino games, but the actual number is probably much closer to the former, taking into account the overlap between the two and that slots are the more popular format.

Online poker was popular, with 15.6% of respondents who gamble, while iLottery was used by 20.4%.

Offshore Casinos the Most Popular Illegal Choice

Penn State also found that 13.3% of online gamblers used risky and illegal offshore sites, but the breakdown between the different gambling formats bore no resemblance to those in the regulated market.

For example, while 54% of respondents who gamble said they use regulated online sportsbooks, only 2.3% use illegal sites to bet on sports. The disparity is likely a result of a barrage of advertising for legal online sportsbooks across the Keystone State.

But 8.6% of respondents said they frequent illegal offshore casinos, and 3.6% play online poker on offshore sites.

The most popular reason online gamblers cited for betting in the first place was for enjoyment (77.3%), followed by convenience (66.1%) and availability (63.7%). The least popular was that online gambling served “as an escape” from daily life (18.1%).

Meanwhile, when asked why they typically ended an online gambling session, 62.4% of online gamblers said they had something else to do at the time. Online gamblers quit 56.5% of the time because they had already won a lot of money, while 53.6% quit because they had run out of money.

Penn State also reported that more than one-third of online gamblers (36.7%) who bet within the past 12 months had experienced at least one problem with their gambling. The university also found that 26.5% of respondents have attempted to curtail, control, or stop gambling in the past year.

The report is supported by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), with additional support from the Pennsylvania Department of Drugs and Alcohol Programs.

Not sure if you’re playing on an illegal site? Check out this handy guide to help tell if an online casino is legal and safe to play on: How to Pick a Legal Online Casino in the United States

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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