The Rapid Rise of Gambling Debt

Feb 28, 2024Bankruptcy Law0 comments

For many years, Pennsylvania residents had few options to gamble without leaving the state. Sports gamblers could always seek out a neighborhood bookie and call in wagers. In more recent times, there were a few online casinos based outside of the United States that were unregulated. You had to “take your chances” and hope your money was not stolen. Credit card companies and American banks stopped participating in funding these online casino accounts located outside of the United States. This made it more difficult for users to fund offshore gambling accounts. While offshore casinos and corner bookies were used by a small percentage of Pennsylvania residents, most individuals did their gambling via day trips to Atlantic City or a planned multi-day trip to Las Vegas. The time and expense of Atlantic City or Las Vegas trips served to limit the amount of gambling the average Pennsylvania resident was exposed to. For most, gambling was an activity done on an occasional trip with friends or family.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, led by Governor Rendell, pushed through the first slot machine casino legislation in 2004. The process was complete in 2010 when legislation passed allowing casino table games. The stated purpose of these bills was to raise tax revenue with the promise of fixing schools and reducing property taxes. Casinos are now located in Valley Forge, Morgantown, York, Bensalem, Bethlehem, and Wilkes-Barre in eastern Pennsylvania. In 2017, Pennsylvania further allowed online casino gambling for the first time. However, due to federal law, online sports betting was still not legal. But fear not! In 2018, the federal government rescinded the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), thereby allowing Pennsylvania and other states to engage in sports betting. In a fifteen (15) year period, casino table games and sports betting went from an illegal banned activity in Pennsylvania to widespread legality and acceptance, both online and in-person. In 2023, Pennsylvania casinos reported $5.69 billion in revenue.

Increasing Accessibility
In the late 2000s, with the new laws on the books, casino construction throughout the state was progressing as quick as possible. In May 2009, Sands casino opened in Bethlehem in the old Bethlehem steel plant. Parx casino opened up in Bensalem later that year. Valley Forge casino opened up in March 2012. In May 2021, Hollywood casino opened its doors in York, Pennsylvania. Later in year 2021, Hollywood added another casino in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. Seventeen casinos now exists throughout Pennsylvania, strategically placed to make sure you are never too far from a casino. Most of the casinos are open 24/7.

However, the real growth for Pennsylvania casinos in the last few years is being driven by the online betting accounts. The data speed and technology on the gambling platforms have made the online experience greatly improved. Now, the thirty-minute drive to the casino is even eliminated. The casino is in everyone’s pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice. No need to get dressed or drive anywhere. For some, they can squeeze in an online casino trip playing blackjack while eating lunch. Or, maybe they engage in some slot play for an hour because they can’t sleep at 3am. Sports gambling has thousands of options. Sports betting is now truly global, so no matter what the time of day it is, there are always active sports games to place wagers on.

The accessibility and prevalence of gambling is now unprecedented. In the August 22, 2023 edition of Men’s Health magazine, the survey results of 3800 American men were published. Of the 3800 men, 1500 engage in sports gambling. Of those 1500 men, 76% bet online or inside of an app. 61% of these men admit to betting daily or weekly. 20% of the surveyed men admit to being in debt due to sports gambling. Worse yet, 1 in 5 of these men allocate 25% of their paycheck for sports gambling. The results of the Men’s Health study can be found here:

The Fallout
The rise of the casinos throughout Pennsylvania and on smart phones is starting to take a toll on many people. Credit cards and debit cards are both readily accepted at the online casinos and sportsbooks. Now many accept PayPal and in some cases, the online casinos accept bitcoin. If one were to have a losing gaming session, there are no limits to reloading the account with additional money from another account or credit card. The ease of limitless credit card funding eliminates the loss limit set by the inevitable ATM daily limit that used to protect people from themselves. We are experiencing a silent epidemic of gaming addiction and growing gaming losses. The casinos are required to give you the 1-800-GAMBLER phone number in microprint on their websites and on small signs throughout the casino. But that does not begin to address the unpaid mortgage payments, growing credit card debt, divorce, and job loss that results from the growing 24/7 gaming culture in Pennsylvania.

Bankruptcy and Gambling Debt
Bankruptcy can be a great assistance to an individual in regaining their life back after being in the grips of excessive gambling or addictive gambling. Most gambling debt is dischargeable in either Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or both. While there are always exceptions to the general rule under one of the narrow exceptions, the courts have generally disfavored any attempts to deem gambling debts as non-dischargeable. The bankruptcy attorneys at RQP Law can review your unique situation and advise you on your legal options to discharge the debt and obtain a fresh start. If you are struggling with gambling debt, contact RQP Law for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.


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