In a recent meeting, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the state's regulatory watchdog, declared that its Casino Self-Exclusion Program has now received its 20,000th voluntary request. This monumental achievement comes when other regions, like Washington, D.C., have decided to drastically cut funding for tackling problem gambling.
Elizabeth Lanza, the director of the PGCB's Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling, praised this achievement as a testament to the program's effectiveness.
Lanza maintains that such initiatives enable individuals to reclaim authority over their lives. She observed that the self-exclusion list acts as an efficient mechanism in the battle against problem gambling.
The Self-Exclusion Program, initially launched in 2006, has come a long way. The progress was slow initially, but the program took a significant leap in 2019 following the adoption of legislation that permitted online gambling in Pennsylvania.
This expansion allowed the program to cover fantasy sports and video gaming terminals, offering a more robust shield to those enrolled. This broadening coincided with an escalated rate of problem gambling.
The program places a responsibility on gambling establishments to decline bets from individuals on the self-exclusion list. In addition, self-excluded individuals could face legal consequences, such as trespassing charges, if they attempt to access gambling products on a licensed venue's premises in Pennsylvania.
The PGCB has extensively analyzed the demographic characteristics of the enrollees. The data reveals that the number of men battling gambling issues surpasses that of women; 12,811 men have enlisted in the program compared to 7,189 women, though the number of women affected has been steadily on the rise.
Moreover, the program has witnessed 1,026 individuals who discontinued the program but chose to return later.
In Pennsylvania, gamblers are provided with an option of voluntarily barring themselves from casinos for a set period: one year, five years, or even a lifetime.
If they attempt to enter a casino while on the self-exclusion list, they could be charged with trespassing and forfeit all their winnings from their visit. The exclusion also extends to any on-site sportsbooks.
Casinos are obligated to ban anyone on the self-exclusion list. They are prohibited from offering that person the following privileges:
The structure of this program closely mirrors self-exclusion initiatives in other states. For instance, Massachusetts has a voluntary self-exclusion program where people can ban themselves from casinos.
Interesting data from the PGCB's breakdown of the 20,000 self-excluded individuals has been gleaned. For example, 21% of these individuals, up to 4,335, have opted for the lifetime ban.
Other noteworthy statistics include the following:
Furthermore, nearly 6,000 individuals have requested self-exclusion for online gaming and truck-stop video gaming terminals (VGTs). The program began in 2019, and since its inception, online casinos or iGaming have made up the majority of self-exclusion requests:
As gambling and sports betting continue to expand, the rate of self-exclusion in Pennsylvania is anticipated to rise. Nationwide, calls to problem gambling hotlines have surged over the past few years, coinciding with the growth of the gaming industry. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately 1% of U.S. adults suffer severe gambling problems.
These statistics concerning problem gambling are likely to increase as more states legalize iGaming, commercial casinos, and sports betting. With this in mind, Lanza urges Pennsylvania bettors to seek help if they believe they might have a gambling problem and to consider the benefits of the voluntary Self-Exclusion Programs.
Pennsylvanians struggling with a gambling addiction can turn to the OCPG's self-exclusion website to learn about self-exclusion and find help for their addiction. They can also find assistance at 1800gamblerchat.org or by calling 1-800-GAMBLER.