Researchers at Penn State University are undertaking a ground breaking study into the societal and long-term impacts of legal online gaming and sports wagering in Pennsylvania. The University’s Criminal Justice Research Center has received a grant from the Keystone State’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to undertake the study that will allow for participants from across the length and breadth of the state to share their experiences in legal online sports wagering and online casino play. It is expected that government policies on gaming expansion and problem gambling management are expected to developed from the results of the research.
Pennsylvanian Government’s Proactive Approach
It is understood that the state government is funding the research via online gaming tax receipts in order to pay for the survey program. The study will be headed up by Penn State University Abington Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Glenn Sterner. More than to 3000 phone calls will be made between November and June to check how Pennsylvania’s relatively new industry is affecting the state residents and if it is causing any problems. If problems are identified, (in particular problem gambling), then the research will be used to help build better and more productive programs to combat them.
The study will be undertaken annually to reveal long-term changes that online gaming may create in the state. Researchers will collaborate with both the Social Science Research Institute and the Survey Research Center of Penn State in order to execute the study. The results of the study and its outcomes will be presented to lawmakers in the State Capital of Harrisburg for their action.
Mikael Ahlgren, Director of Gaming Initiatives and Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management for Penn State, will also be working on the project. He said that he understands as the online gaming industry is in its infancy, there is a lot to be learnt;
“Since Pennsylvania has very recently legalized online gaming, we are in a very unique position attempt to measure and monitor the impacts,” Ahlgren said. “We are in the early stages, and there is much to be learned.”
Ahlgren went on to say the effects of problem gambling could in theory quite considerable. It’s one of the jobs of the research to study if the tax income earned is not at the expense of problem gambling and to examine how the risks can be mitigated and managed.
The aim of the research is to assist those in need of help
With the study, the findings should be able to assist the state’s legislators to determine if changes are required to any problem prevention or treatment programs that are already in place. A need for an expansion of prevention systems or treatment may be exposed. The study might show evidence of the need for additional funding to help existing programs to succeed.
In the Keystone State, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs show annual income of $5 million from gaming revenues to use for gaming treatment, prevention, and education programs. Previous studies have indicated that approximately 2% of the population have a gambling problem and the majority of those never seek assistance, and even less look for treatment.
“This is the first time the State of Pennsylvania has had a probability study focused solely on problem gambling,” said Rachel Kostelac, Communications Director with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. “This report could show the need for changes to the prevention or treatment systems already in place, expansions of treatment and prevention, and potentially even a need for more funding related to prevention or treatment.”
Whichever way it plays out, Pennsylvanians can rest assured that they are being cared for.