The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released its annual report on the Keystone State gaming industry in late September.
According to that report, the casino gambling market is worth more than $3 billion a year. PA online casinos could generate an additional $300 million in revenue.
But an expansion of gambling has some concerned about underage play.
Lawmakers in the House Gaming Oversight Committee are set to talk about online casinos and daily fantasy sports again in a hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Underage gambling highlighted in 2015/2016 state report
One of the pillars of opposition to online gambling is the fear of underage players. That concern came up in a House hearing this summer.
Online gambling supporters have stressed repeatedly that the issue is about consumer protection. Betting on the web gives operators and regulators an unprecedented ability to oversee gaming.
“My whole intent when introducing the iGaming bill was to bring protections to my children, my grandchildren, the compulsive gamers,” Rep. John Payne (R-Dauphin County) said at the hearing. “Make no mistake, you can gamble online right now [on an offshore site] without this bill, using a credit card.”
Despite the paranoia, the House approved online gambling. It awaits a possible Senate vote in the handful of days remaining in the current legislation session.
In the annual Pennsylvania gaming report, the state reiterated that it’s constantly fighting underage gambling at land-based casinos
Since the inception of casino gambling in Pennsylvania, more than 100 underage gamblers have been placed on an involuntary exclusion list. The state has levied more than $2 million in underage gambling fines against the casinos over the past decade.
“Throughout the years of legalized casino gaming in Pennsylvania, there have been thousands of attempts by individuals under the legal casino gambling age of 21 to enter a facility,” Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said in the report.
“Our concern is not just that these [players] gain access to the casino floor then gamble or consume alcohol, but the consequences that decision can have that may follow that young person for many years.”
ID scanners help casinos catch underage players before they enter.
Adelson casino the latest fined over underage access
The only casino in Pennsylvania that’s neither supportive nor neutral to the online gambling plan is Sands Bethlehem, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson.
By now, most people know that Adelson is a staunch opponent of any casino game being available on the internet. He says he is worried about underage players.
In August, the Gaming Control Board approved a $39,000 fine against Sands Bethlehem for three separate incidents involving underage patrons.
Success of New Jersey online casinos
Since the launch of New Jersey online gambling in late 2013, there hasn’t been a single documented case of underage internet play.
That’s despite between 400 and 500 people each year facing charges for underage gambling at Atlantic City casinos.
In September, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement fined Resorts and NYX Gaming $5,000 for allowing a self-excluded gambler to play online. The person wasn’t underage.
The technology available to online gambling platforms is clearly working, and regulators are quickly able to know when something was missed.
No online gambling technology is impervious.
New Pennsylvania campaign to combat underage play
The report said that the state has a new program designed to help curb underage gambling. No taxpayer money was used.
The campaign is funded by money confiscated from gamblers who have been either voluntarily or involuntarily excluded but played and won anyways.
The campaign is titled “What’s Really at Stake” and is designed to use social media to raise awareness among youth. The same could be done for online casinos.