Pennsylvania Announces Self-Exclusion Program for State’s Online Gamblers

Updated: May 31st, 2019 by Haley Hintze

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has announced the launch of a state-run self-exclusion program focused solely on its regulated online-gambling offerings, which have just begun a “soft launch” rollout and are expected to be up and running at or near full speed by the middle of July. The Keystone State was the fourth US state to legalize and regulate some forms of gambling, though the official rollout has been hampered and delayed somewhat due to the slow pace of work on the new industry’s regulatory framework.

Creating a proper structure for addressing possible problem- and addictive-gambling behavior was one of the areas that had to be addressed. Pennsylvania already operates what it describes as a highly successful exclusion program for its dozen land-based casinos. Rather than simply expand that program into the online sphere, the state has chosen to create a parallel structure, the Pennsylvania iGaming Self-Exclusion Program.

The iGaming Self-Exclusion Program will allow Pennsylvanians who choose to exclude the options to do some from all or just some of the state’s regulated online gambling activities, which include such things as the state’s online-lottery offerings in addition to the three new and major additions to the state’s online gambling market — sports betting, casino games, and online poker. The rollout was made necessary at this time by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approving a soft launch of the first of the state’s online sports betting offerings, the online SugarHouse Sportsbook platform served up by Philadelphia’s Sugarhouse Casino ( SugarHouse Sportsbook already has the same product running in neighboring New Jersey, which gave it a bit of a head start in terms of presenting a fully-operation online package for PGCB approval. That in turn will give it a few weeks’ head start over some of its eventual online competitors.

No online-poker sites have been given the go-ahead to date, and whether any are allowed a similar launch ahead of the official July 15, 2019 launch date is unknown.

As for the online self-exclusion program, concerned Pennsylvanians can self-exclude for any of three length options: one year, five years, or for life. All three options are irrevocable once set into place. Those seeking exclusion can only self-exclude; it will not be allowed, for example, for someone to exclude another family member. The state will also not allow “by mail” self-exclusion. Instead, it must be done in person by visiting a PGCB office, or online through a process that includes ID-verification protocols (and which had better be quite secure, lest anyone find themselves excluded via a forgery enacted by an overly zealous family member).

A jumping-off link for Pennsylvania’s online self-exclusion program is already available on the PGCB’s home page. Within that link, which leads to a program overview, Pennsylvanians can access several related pieces of content, including a FAQ designed to explain the online self-exclusion process, plus a brochure designed to explain stop-limit options, another aspect of the program designed for people who like to gamble, but who fear (or who have experienced) the inability to stop gambling when a certain loss level has been reached.

Such self-imposed limits will likely represent a first step for any of the state’s gamblers who feel their control over gambling spend beginning to slip. According to the PGCB’s online brochure, “Some individuals may find that using self-imposed limits helps to keep their online gambling behavior at a responsible level. A registered player may select one or more limits or may suspend their registered iGaming account for a certain period of time. Registered players can select a limit or suspension by logging into their account and selecting which limit(s) best fit their need.”

Limits can be self-imposed in several ways, including deposit limits, spend limits, wager limits, and daily time-based limits. Gamblers can also seek short-term, across-the-board self-exclusions from some or all of their online accounts, from weeks or days down even to hours, as a cooling-off period. It represents a less-extreme option for some troubled gamblers than to block themselves for a year or longer.

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