Pennsylvanians play in record numbers, online gambling on the rise

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(WHTM) – The Pennsylvanians disguise themselves, distance themselves and play. In March, for the very first time, over $ 400 million was wagered in a single month.

The state hit the jackpot. His cut was almost $ 167 million. And if you’ve watched TV, you know the popular play.

“We are seeing more and more revenue that will come from online gaming,” said Doug Harbach, of the Pa. Gaming Control Board.

Almost half of that $ 400 million walk was from internet gaming and it’s a safe bet that this percentage will only increase. But is it a good thing?

“Let’s face it, some people won’t be able to gamble responsibly,” said Josh Ercole, Council on Compulsive Gambling.

The board oversees the “1-800” helpline. Two years ago, the calls were mostly from middle-aged casino players. Now callers are younger and connected.

“We have seen these numbers skyrocket over the past 15 months,” Ercole said.

Logic. The pandemic has shut down casinos for months. Sent most of us home – isolated, anxious, bored and on our own. Many of us have jumped on our devices.

“All you need is a smartphone or tablet. You don’t have to travel anywhere. It is becoming so much more accessible to many more people, ”said addictions counselor Jody Bechtold.

Online gambling, especially sports betting, is too accessible, Bechtold said. She is a co-author of the Gambling Disorder Treatment Handbook and sees a steady stream of men in their twenties seeking help.

“You could be 26 years old, have a serious problem and yet you have never walked into a brick and mortar casino. Everything has been online for you, ”said Bechtold.

Previously, sports betting meant betting on a team and spending three hours watching the game to see if you won. Now online you can bet on every pitch and every batter. It’s a success … but if you’re fighting addiction, it’s a mistake

“When you can make bets in the game, you can continue if you have lost and then continue to continue throughout the game. Whereas in the old days you had to bet on another game to chase your losses, ”Bechtold said.

The Gaming Control Board recognizes the problem. In addition to the number 800, it allows players to set limits on the time or money they spend, or to self-exclude. And nearly 15,000 people have done so since 2006.

“People who access sites but have control issues with their game, all of these tools are in place to help them – but they have to choose to use them,” Harbach said.

Bechtold says it’s a tough conversation to have with a player, especially someone in their twenties.

“Trying to convince a 24-year-old that he will never be able to play safe again is very difficult,” said Bechtold.

It is also difficult to prepare for the coming assault. These sites are not going to go away. In fact, they are just getting started. Bechtold says it’s a safe bet there aren’t enough advisers to call.

“Do we have enough help there, do we have enough people trained to have this expertise in gambling addiction?” We don’t, ”Bechtold said.

In addition to the $ 400 million in casino-related revenue in March, Pennsylvanians spent $ 600 million on games offered by the Pennsylvania Lottery. That’s over a billion dollars wagered in a month.

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