College Students


The college population currently has the highest rate of compulsive gamblers (followed by teenagers). Several factors contribute to this:

  1. Proliferation of legal  gambling
  2. Technological advances (internet gambling, etc.)
  3. Accessibility of cash (credit cards, etc.)
  4. Societal desire for instant gratification (in today’s society we perceive “faster” to be “better” – i.e. we want what we want, when we want it)3

Another reason that prevalence is so high is that today’s college students are amongst the first generation of Americans to have grown up in a culture where legalized gambling was widespread and culturally acceptable. They have spent much of their lives exposed to advertising and other messages advocating gambling while receiving very little information about the dangers associated with it.3

For example, college students as a whole began to gamble much more frequently on the internet following the expanded TV coverage of poker tournaments (World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, etc.). Their game of choice was poker, but they began to play all forms of internet gambling more.1

In addition to internet and casino gambling, college students are prone to gambling on campus. These forms of gambling may include:

  • “Betting” on games of personal skill (drinking contests, basketball, video games, pool, etc.)
  • Casino-style games (poker, blackjack, etc.)
  • Betting on sports
  • Raffles

Yet, despite the prevalence of gambling on campus and amongst students, only 22% of U.S. colleges and universities have formal policies on gambling,2 and students who admit to having a problem sometimes have difficulty finding support or resources on campus.

If you are in college and worried that you may have a gambling problem, take this self-assessment. Or, for more information about the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, go here.

College Students & Online Gambling
Despite being illegal in most states, online gambling has existed for years. From poker sites to sports betting sites and more, it is a multi-billion (with a “b”!) dollar industry which is quick and easy to access from just about anywhere.

Internet gambling is especially popular amongst college students, who have rarely been educated about the additional risks it poses, such as:

  • It’s addictive!
    Online gambling enables you to gamble without anyone else knowing. Gambling in isolation and using credit to gamble are risk factors for developing a gambling problem6
  • You can lose your money!
    As of May 2012, there are no legal internet casino operators in the United States. This means that you do not have US laws to protect you. There is no regulation ensuring that the site is operating on the “up and up,” and you have limited recourse if you do not receive money you are owed!*
  • Nearly unlimited availability and access
    You can start to play quickly at any time and there are no time limits. You are always “close to a gambling venue” – something that has been proven to increase prevalence rates7, and without needing to travel to gamble, it’s easy to play more and more often.
  • You never touch your money
    You never touch “cash” or “chips” making it very easy to lose sight of the value of the money in you have and/or are wagering
  • Delayed cash-outs
    At brick-and-mortar gambling establishments, you can change your betting units (chips, slot receipts, etc.) out and go home at any time with no delay. But with internet sites, there is a delay between the time when you cash out and the time you receive your money – often as long as several days or even weeks. During this time, you may be tempted to “reverse” your cash-out and continue playing.
  • Rapid deposits
    Money can be deposited nearly instantly, even from credit cards5

* For example: In 2011, Full Tilt Poker (and several other internet operators) were shut down in the United States by the Department of Justice. A deal was negotiated for the poker sites to return deposits back to the players; however, Full Tilt Poker had insufficient funds and as much as $390,000,000US was not returned to the players!

You can view one of the many articles about this incident here.

College Students and Gambling
Many college students assume that gambling is a risk-free activity; however, perception does not match reality. For some college students, gambling for fun can turn into a very serious problem that affects many or all aspects of their lives. Research has shown that:

  • About 6% percent of college students in the U.S. have a serious gambling problem2
  • About 10% of college students aged 18 to 24 can be considered serious social gamblers/problem gamblers where several negative consequences are experienced.3
  • Approximately 75% of college students gambled within the past year, with 18% gambling weekly or more frequently.2
  • Casino nights, poker tournaments and other gambling activities are popular at special events sponsored by campus organizations and fraternities and sororities.2
  • Teenagers and college-aged young adults are more impulsive and at higher risk for developing gambling disorders than adults.2

Risks of Gambling for College Students

  • The earlier people start to gamble, the more likely they are to become problem gamblers
  • Distraction or absences leading to academic failure
  • Loss of scholarship or potential jobs
  • Much higher rates of suicide
  • Significantly increased rates of alcohol and substance abuse/addiction
  • Relationship/family problems
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems4
  • Crime*

*Gambling can turn deadly. Read how three college students were shot to death over a gambling debt in Wisconsin.6

Why do College Students Gamble?

  • Add [more] excitement, action or competition to sporting events or other games
  • Entertainment
  • Socialization
  • Peer pressure
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Relieve stress
  • To Win Money4

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