According to a new report from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), Pennsylvania online gambling rates remained stable in 2022 while problem gambling numbers decreased.
The study, a follow-up to 2021’s initial Pennsylvania Interactive Gaming Assessment, also found fewer Pennsylvanians visiting illegal betting sites.
However, results also showed that players engaging in multiple online gambling types are at higher risk of developing a problem.
Online Gambling in Pennsylvania in 2022
As of 2022, Pennsylvania hosted 19 online casinos and 14 online sportsbooks.
During the 2021/2022 fiscal year, those igaming sites (online slots, table games and poker) brought in revenues of $1.2 billion. Online sports betting operations earned another $267 million.
Pennsylvania Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS, online and retail) also made $27 million, approximately 10% of the online sports betting rake.
While the above numbers provide economic data points to describe the industry, the annual assessment offers another point of view.
The study was supported by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and the Pennsylvania Act 42 of 2017, which legalized online gambling and provided funding through revenues from interactive gaming licensees.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) provided additional backing.
Importantly, the assessment intends to establish the prevalence of online gambling in Pennsylvania, the demographics of PA gamblers, and the characteristics of problem gambling in the state.
Considering the human cost of the industry in addition to the economics is another to help ensure the pros of Pennsylvania online gambling continue to outweigh the cons.
Most PA Online Gamblers Play for Enjoyment
According to the data, the prevalence of Pennsylvania online gambling held steady between years one and two.
In that first year, 11.1% of adult residents (18+) engaged in at least one form of online gambling. In the second, the proportion remained nearly static at 11%.
However, location does seem to matter for online gambling engagement. Notably, only 5.5% of NW Pennsylvania residents play online compared to SW PA’s 15.2%.
Statistically, the average Pennsylvania online gambler is male (66.1%), in his mid-to-late 30s (38.8), and from SW Pennsylvania.
He’s also white (72.9%, including mixed race), married (43.5%), and employed (62.6%). He has a bachelor’s degree or above (47.7%) and earns $50.000+ (52.3%).
Lastly, the findings show he prefers online sports betting (54%) and plays for enjoyment (77.3%).
Other common motives for gambling included:
- The convenience of play (66.10%)
- Ease of availability (63.7%)
- Winning money (63.4)
- Self-paced play (61.1%)
- Flexibility in stake (45.20%)
- The challenge (35.10%)
- The stimulation (32.20%)
- The anonymity (31.7%)
- The competition (28.10%)
- Highspeed online play (26%)
- An escape (18.10%)
- Other (13.6%)
When it comes to stopping, the most common reason is having other commitments (62.4%). Other reasons for pulling the plug included:
- Winning a lot of money (56.5%)
- Running out of money (53.6%) or losing too much (46.8%)
- Boredom (57.6%
- Reaching a target (48%)
- Frustration (43.8)
- Tiredness (42%)
- Other (7.7%)
Notably, the study found that 51.5% of online gamblers participate in two or more gambling types.
Additionally, 13.3% of Pennsylvania online gamblers have engaged in illegal offshore betting.
Also, one in three online players has experienced one or more problems with their gambling in the past year.
Study Considers PA Land-based Casino Engagement
In contrast to the 11% of Pennsylvania adults who gamble online, 67.5% of residents 18+ have gambled offline. That number jumps to 90.2% among PA gamblers who play online.
Like online gamblers, offline players typically engage in more than one type of play. For both offline only and offline/online gamblers lottery is the most popular format.
Gender-wise, offline gamblers reflect an equal split, with just over half (51.7%) attributed to men. However, the racial divide is even starker, with 81.7% of offline players identifying as white.
Offline players’ marriage rates and household incomes are relatively consistent with their online counterparts. However, slightly fewer offline players reported being employed. Even fewer earned university degrees. And offline players were significantly older (48.8).
Interestingly, the study found those who played both on and offline were more likely to believe all types of gambling should be legal than offline players. They also had significantly higher participation across Pennsylvania gambling types; offline, offline, and out-of-state.
Problem Gambling Stat Drops, but One-in-Three Still Affected
Of the 11% who engaged in online gambling during the study, 36.7% experienced at least one gambling-related problem during the research period. While still slightly more than one in three, it’s an improvement over the 44.6% revealed in the earlier findings.
When experiencing trouble, the most common problem was attempting to cut down, control or stop gambling (26.5%). Fortunately, none of the respondents reported borrowing money or selling goods to fund their gambling.
However, other gambling concerns included:
- Gambling longer, more often, or spending more than intended (9.9%)
- Requiring more significant amounts of money to maintain excitement (9.7%)
- Becoming preoccupied with gambling (5.6%)
Additionally, PSU found a correlation between the number of reported gambling problems and the number of formats individual gamblers engaged in.
This suggests that the more ways a player gambles, the more potential problems they could develop.
For those players with at least one problem, motivation for gambling revolves around setting the pace, being challenged, and winning money.
They’re also more likely to end a session due to frustration, boredom, and loss.
Lack of Baseline Prevents Measuring Full Online Gambling Impact
While the interactive gaming assessment is useful, it’s not without limitations.
Cross-sectional, self-reported data restricts the potential for casual inferences. Additionally, results show a snapshot in time rather than an evolving story. Researchers would need a consistent data sample to track changes over time.
Also, no reliable pre-legalization data exists because the study began after Pennsylvania’s online gambling legalization. It’s possible the emergence of COVID-19 in near tandem with Pennsylvania’s online gambling expansion helped shift more gamblers online.
However, without a baseline for comparison, measuring those impacts on gambling in the state is impossible.
The study does note that evidence from Pennsylvania’s 1-800-Gambler hotline suggests a significant increase in online gambling calls. That data showed increased online-related calls following the online expansion and pandemic.
Future Studies Aim for Even Broader View of PA Online Gambling
Still, the study revealed much that can be addressed through prevention and treatment, like making the risks associated with engaging in multiple gambling formats better understood.
It also proposes tailoring those messages to those most at risk, like men in their 30s and 40s. Equally important is making sure the message lands, so targeting popular websites and sports programming makes sense.
Additionally, the report suggests observing individual communications and behaviors on gambling platforms to predict those at risk for problems. However, detection would need to be accompanied by resources and problem gambling support.
Researchers intend to modify the questionnaire for future assessments to broaden their understanding of Pennsylvania’s online gambling behaviors.
Respondents will also be able to participate in the assessment online, reinforcing anonymity and potentially boosting response rates.
Other changes include determining frequency, expenditure and time spent gambling. It will also expand the study’s breadth to include gambling in video games, crypto and NFTs.