Penn State University to Research How Pennsylvania Residents are Impacted by iGaming

In late 2017, the state of Pennsylvania approved many changes to its gambling landscape, including authorizing online casino gaming. The new industry did not launch until July 2019, and in that more than one-year time frame, the state has seen great growth and revenue potential. Now it is time for the state to consider how the new industry has affected residents of the state. Penn State University researchers will begin a comprehensive survey this November to review the impact.

State Grant Funded Study

The state is providing grant money via online gaming funds to pay for the survey. The study will be led by Penn State University Abington assistant professor of criminal justice Glenn Sterner. Up to 3,000 phone calls will take place from November to June to see how the new industry is affecting the residents in the state and if it is causing any problems.

The study will take place each year to detect the long-term changes that gambling has created in the state. Researchers will work with the Social Science Research Institute and the Survey Research Center of Penn State to complete the study. According to Sterner, the results of the reports and assessments will be presented to policymakers in Harrisburg.

Director of gaming initiatives for the university as well as teaching assistant professor of hospitality management, Mikael Ahlgren, will be working on the project as well. He said that because the industry is in its early stages, there is a lot to be learned.

Ahlgren pointed out that the effects of problem gambling can have consequences despite providing a monetary benefit. This starts a debate as to if the income is worth the risk and if the risk can be mitigated.

The casino industry brings a lot of money to the state each year. So far, the industry has provided $1.5 billion in tax dollars. While this is a meaningful amount, it also can come at the cost of residents facing severe issues due to becoming addicted to the new entertainment option.

Helping Those in Need

With the study, the findings can hep the state’s lawmakers to determine if changes need to be made regarding prevention or treatment programs that are already in place. There may be a need for an expansion of prevention systems or treatment. The study may even show a need for additional funding to help these programs succeed.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs earn almost $5 million yearly from gaming revenues to use for programs associated with treatment, prevention, and education. Other studies have found that around 2% of the population have a gambling problem and most never seek treatment.

While the focus now seems on problem gambling, studies in the future should cover the same information as well as if participation in the industry is growing from previous years. Right now, the state continues to see new games via existing operators and new operators coming in to the state to get started providing services.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.