On Thursday, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania, a private, nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Council on Problem Gambling, held its annual Pittsburgh conference and nothing presented indicated that gambling addiction had increased in the region in the past decade, according to The Associated Press.
A spokesman for Gamblers Anonymous reportedly indicated that group meetings and attendance in the region have actually decreased from 10 years ago. A drop has also reportedly been seen in the number of calls received by the state compulsive gambling council’s hotline from 2015 to 2016 from individuals seeking help. According to the news agency, individuals who admit they have an addiction continue to add themselves to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board‘s self-exclusion list, which prohibits them “from collecting any winnings, recovering any losses or accepting complimentary gifts or services or any other thing of value at any licensed facility” but at a maintained annual pace, not a surging.
As for the region’s therapists who have been practicing in the field since the casinos there have opened, they have not seen a sharp increase in the number of individuals seen as casinos became more accessible, including the Rivers Casino, which opened on the North Shore about two years after The Meadows, according to the report.
Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia region of Gamblers Anonymous spokesman, Norm B., said that the presumption that the opening of local casinos would result in a spike in attendance was based on the experience of GA chapters nationally. However, rather than increasing, the region’s current 24 weekly meetings are fewer in number than 10 years ago, and their rolls of active attendees reportedly indicated about 20 fewer Pennsylvania residents. The spokesman said that he “expected a deluge of new people,” but that has not happened.
The problem does still exist, however, with reportedly 1,422 calls made to the state council’s gambling hotline in 2016 from either individuals, who themselves have a serious problem, or from someone who knows an individual who is a compulsive gambler and sought advice on getting help. About 1,500 new people are added to the voluntary self-exclusion list by the Gaming Control Board each year, with the knowledge that they can be arrested for trespassing if security personnel at a casino find them there. There are nearly 7,800 people on the list.
Elizabeth Lanza, director of compulsive and problem gambling at the state gaming board, said, “In explaining it to the public, I like to say gambling addiction is a huge, enormous problem for a very small percentage of people,” according to the report.
Those in the field offer several possible explanations for why gambling-related problems have not increased locally in any visible way, one being the effectiveness of programs such as state-funded treatment, the requirement that casinos promote problem gambling awareness, and the exclusions list.