Pa. sees record rise in revenue for online gambling — and addictive behaviors

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania has seen an increase in internet gambling revenue as the coronavirus pandemic carries on. But for some players, this popular method of gambling is also bringing about some new vices.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the state set a record for internet casino-style gambling revenue in December with more than $71 million. By January, the state broke its own record, bringing in $80.4 million.

Josh Ercole, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania, added his organization has seen an increase in people seeking help for an internet gambling addiction.

“We did see a shift in the helpline volume in terms of the calls for help that we received,” he said, “where people who traditionally would be calling for help related to casino-based gambling, slot machines, table games, that type of thing.”

Ercole said 25- to 35-year-olds make up a large portion of people gambling online and seeking help for it. Older adults, he said, are typically drawn to brick-and-mortar casino gambling.

Increased isolation and stress brought on by the pandemic can also be triggers for people struggling with a gambling addiction.

“It’s something that people realize now that they could do from the comfort of their own home,” Ercole said. “They don’t need to travel 10, 20, 30 miles to get to the closest establishment, and they’re enjoying it.”

The pandemic forced casinos to close at times, and people had to alter how they gambled. Similarly, the council had to adjust how they offer help.

“Self-help meetings, things like gamblers anonymous meetings, they’re very limited in terms of physical meetings right now throughout the state,” he said. “There are virtual options we try and put people in touch with. There are phone meetings that are available every night of the week.”

According to the state Gaming Control Board, internet gambling was up nearly 3% in January compared to the same time last year.