Beyond the Burg: Gambling addictions increase among students

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October 6, 2009

12:43 AM

A new study shows gambling addiction among college students is on the rise at American universities.

In a report issued Friday, the Task Force on College Gambling Policies suggested that administrations focus too much on fighting substance abuse by students, essentially ignoring other addictions and disorders.

“In general on college campuses, it’s something that’s been off the radar because it’s much easier hiding gambling problems than hiding problems with drugs or alcohol,” task force member Kristy Wanner said to the New York Times.

According to data collected by the Cambridge Health Alliance, which funded the task force, nearly 50 percent of college students placed at least one wager last year, and 11 percent qualify as gambling addicts. However, only 22 percent of universities nationwide have official policies regarding on-campus betting.

“If sororities or fraternities want to have a casino night, you have to wonder, ‘What kind of consistent message does it send?’” Director of the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders Christine Reilly said to the New York Times.

Some universities periodically address the issue of student gambling, but those discussions occur irregularly throughout the semester and are quickly forgotten.

“[The gambling discussion] was a flash in the pan, we haven’t heard anything about it since,” University of Alabama student Shannon Shorr said. “I definitely think it should be addressed.”

Shorr, a professional poker player, said popular culture and increased exposure of professional gambling have led many students into harmful gambling behavior.

“What people don’t realize is that there are very few people in my industry who are actually making money,” Shorr said. “I’ve seen friends run up big debts playing. I don’t advise it to anyone.”

To combat the increase in risky behaviors, the task force encouraged colleges to establish gambling policies, begin gambling awareness campaigns and talk about gambling addiction in the same manner as substance abuse.

“It has been really hard to get people to look at the data and say this is something that is a problem and is happening,” Wanner said to the New York Times. “Everything is much easier to access, whether it’s casinos, money or gambling online. We also want faster wealth, faster food, faster Internet access and faster means to get money, and some students see gambling as a way to get fast money.”

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