Pennsylvania, in the grand scheme of things, has only had legalized casinos for a little more than a decade. While the number of sites today is much greater than what it was even a few years ago, there are still plenty of opponents. From the time legalized casinos were being tossed around, opponents claimed that more accessibility to casinos means that there will undoubtedly be more problem gamblers.
While this is a logical train of thought, the reality of the situation has proven to be anything but that. In the first decade of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania—and particularly Western Pennsylvania—there has been no marked increase in the number of problem gamblers, according to experts. In fact, the numbers point towards problem gambling becoming less of an issue as each year passes.
Last week, the Council on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania held their annual conference in Pittsburgh. As fate would have it, the conference was held on the same day that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament kicked off. For those who might be unaware, the first day of the NCAA Tournament is one of the hottest betting days of the year, rivaling the Super Bowl in that regard.
Those doctors and industry experts which were in attendance almost unanimously agreed that they have not noticed an increase in the number of folks seeking out help for problem gambling. What’s more, attendance at gambler’s anonymous meetings across Western Pennsylvania has declined steadily over the past ten years, not rise. As you could have probably guessed, opponents to legalized casino gambling claimed that, as the number of casinos grows, so too will the number of problem gamblers. That much has simply not come to fruition.
In 2016, even calls to Pennsylvania’s problem gambling support hotline had dropped from the year before. In Pennsylvania, those that have admitted their addiction and registered themselves on the self-exclusion list (a list that bars them from gambling at casinos) have remained at a steady rate. There have been no surges in the number of folks adding themselves to the self-exclusion list, and this is but one more metric to, in so many words, prove that problem gambling is not on the rise in PA.
Finally, therapists who are on the front lines of dealing with gambling addiction throughout PA have made it clear that they have not seen any sharp increase in the number of people seeking treatment. We could go on and on about the different metrics to prove that gambling addiction is not running rampant in Pennsylvania, but the evidence provided seems to be more than sufficient. Hopefully, other states that are considering the legalization of casino-style gambling (ie. Georgia) will look to Pennsylvania as an example.