The Pennsylvania Department of Health has received $4.6 million in the past year to curb gambling. The money, allocated from a small percentage of revenue from Pennsylvania casinos, was given in an effort to construct programs spreading awareness and treatment for addicts. This campaign resulted from the recent emergence of casinos throughout the state.
Since the 2004 legislation that legalized the use of slot machines in Pennsylvania, a total of 10 casinos have opened their doors throughout the Keystone State. Not long after casinos opened for business, legislature funded The Pennsylvania Department of Health with $1.5 million annually in compliance with anti-compulsive gambling programs. In 2010, game tables were legalized and with them, a greater risk of casino patrons developing a gambling addiction. Since then, funding has continued to increase each year. The Department of Health now receives $4.6 million a year for efforts to combat gambling addictions.
In the past year, as noted by pennlive.com, $6.4 million was given to 37 county agencies using both the Department of Health’s unspent allocations and new funds. The money supports treatment, counseling, media publicity and awareness projects in schools, retirement communities and prisons to spread information about the potential risk of addiction and how to receive help. The Pennsylvania counties’ drug and alcohol programs were also encouraged to implement treatment and prevention programs for gambling addiction.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted 135 new patients received state-funded treatment for gambling addictions in 2010. As awareness spreads, this number is expected to increase.
According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the casino industry in Pennsylvania is part of an act created in 2004 designed to increase the quality of life in local communities. For every dollar of revenue, 55 cents is returned to Pennsylvanians, with the biggest portion returning in the form of property tax relief. A small percentage of revenue from casino visitors’ losses is returned to fund anti-compulsory gambling campaigns.
As noted on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s website last month, Pennsylvania casinos generated a tax revenue of over $9 million, the highest amount ever recorded since game tables were permitted. In February, Hollywood Casino in Grantville, Pa. achieved a gross revenue of over $3 million from table games alone.
Dr. Emma Neuhauser, assistant professor of finance at Elizabethtown College, was shocked to see tax money going toward helping gamblers. “Gambling houses are set up to make money, not for charity,” Neuhauser said. “I would like to say 50 percent of Etown students are gamblers and have us receive a million dollars instead.”
While most Etown students do not make frequent visits to the casinos, with Hollywood Casino only 20 miles away in nearby Grantville, students and the surrounding community are closely impacted by the ease of access to a casino.
The National Council on Problem Gambling describes compulsory gambling as “behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life.” A person affected may become preoccupied with gambling, be secretive about their gambling habits, feel the need to bet more money more often and become irritable when not gambling. Those affected will continue their habits despite the obvious negative consequences.
Neuhauser believes it is important for students to know the risks of gambling and would not advise anyone to gamble as a means of becoming rich. “Put any money in any stock market, it would be safer,” Neuhauser said. “The chance of winning is better than going to a casino.”
According to an article on pennlive.com, national studies have shown only one to two percent of the population has a gambling problem. Similarly, more than 95 percent of the population can gamble without developing a problem.
Pennsylvania did not conduct many studies inquiring about gambling habits before the 2004 legalization of slot machines. While there is no data to prove gambling addiction has increased since Pennsylvania legislature legalized gambling, the newly opened casinos undoubtedly increased gaming accessibility to Pennsylvania citizens.
As a result of the funding to date, those who once lacked resources can now recognize the problem, find help and even receive treatment through state funds if they cannot afford the coverage.