Thousands of sports fans across Pennsylvania wagered on their favorite NFL team this past weekend during week one of the 2022 season. Many of these fans are placing bets for the very first time. With the growing accessibility to online sportsbooks and casino gaming, it’s understandable why some people are worried about how it could make it easier for players to become addicted and develop gambling problems.
Since the repeal of PAPSA in 2018, states have had the option of whether they would like to keep gambling an in-person activity or if they will begin allowing wagers to be placed online through computers and cell phones from the convenience of their own homes. Pennsylvania state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer legalized sports betting and online casino gaming in 2019, with sportsbooks and online casinos officially launching in January 2021. Since then, the Pennsylvania Gambling Problem Helpline has reported a dramatic increase in calls. With many retail casinos limiting capacity last year, it’s clear that online casino gaming and sports wagering were predominantly responsible for the increase.
Many individuals who wager on sports betting or online casino games will never develop a problem. For many, placing a $10 or $20 wager on their favorite sports team is a way to make the game a tad more exciting and a way to make a little cash on the side. Others, however, can become trapped in a vicious cycle of overspending to make up for their losses.
Mental health and addictions therapist at the Lansing Institute of Behavioral Medicine, Jim Loree, says that many players believe once they’ve won, it’s possible to win again.
“And the truth is they can win again,” says Loree. “The problem is, we’re talking about probability. The probability is they won’t win again, or they won’t win frequently enough to make up for the losses.”
MDHHS Gambling Disorder Program specialist, Alia Lucas says that much of the advice previously given to those addicted to casino gaming – like limiting yourself to only play with cash that you brought to the casino, or never going alone – simply doesn’t apply anymore given the widespread accessibility to online casino gaming and sports betting.
“With the changing landscape and accessibility to gambling, the concern now is that an individual can sit at home on their couch with their phone and gamble to their heart’s content,” says Lucas.
With NFL sports betting up 71.5% during week one as compared to last season, it’s critical everyone has access to help, should they need it.
Michael Burke, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association on Problem Gambling, used to struggle with gambling addiction. Burke even ended up spending time in prison due to his gambling addiction.
“I started gambling and it led me down a very bad road. I embezzled funds from clients and ended up doing three years in prison because of that,” says Burke. According to Burke, “Only 10% of gamblers in serious trouble will seek help. . . As in my case, many gamblers get involved in some form of taking money that isn’t theirs. 2 out of 3 compulsive gamblers will commit an illegal act to get money with which to gamble,” says Burke.
Just realizing some of these facts is enough for many of those affected by gambling addiction to reach out. And at playonlinepennsylvania.com, we want to be sure everyone has access to help.
Resources available in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania provides several options for those struggling with gambling addiction. First, there is the state’s Problem Gambling Helpline. Free, confidential consolers are available 24/7 by calling 1-800-270-7117.
Pennsylvania also provides a disassociated persons list where individuals can voluntarily ban themselves from the three casinos in Detroit, MGM Grand, Hollywood Casino at Greektown, and MotorCity Casino Hotel. Players can sign up for a five-year or lifetime ban. The state also provides a similar service for online casino gaming. The Internet Gaming and Sports Betting Responsible Gaming Database is for players wishing to ban themselves from iGaming or sports betting in Pennsylvania. Players can exclude themselves for one or five years.
Mac Daniel is a South Carolina-based freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinepennsylvania.com