Is Student Gambling a Real Problem?
The online casino changed the way the world gamble: no longer did you have to find your way to the nearest land-based casino; now the casino came right into your living room. Along with the fun and excitement came the risk of gambling addiction. One trend that was initially considered fun and is now taking on worrying proportions in the UK is the steady rise in the number of students into gambling.
The worry is that it is not just the online casinos that see students in action; you find them at land-based gambling action too, wagering usually at the roulette machines and at the bookmakers too. There are strange forms of encouragement too, that the authorities don’t seem to be too worried about. For instance, Ladbrokes actually launched an online betting service in 2013 that allowed students just into their first year to bet on their final degree classification! Gala Bingo is another organization that actually sets up bingo stalls at the freshman fairs in some of the universities in the UK.
Fun or Too Much Freedom?
This may seem like a fun thing, but does it send out the right message in the first place? Agreed that the freedom that university life gives a student is a completely different experience from the disciplined environment in schools. And so an odd night of binge drinking or a couple of lottery tickets has always been accepted as normal. Statistics backed this up: 80% of youngsters in the UK have placed a wager at least once.
What is not normal is the steady rise in the number of students gambling and, worse, ending up with gambling related problems. There are horror stories galore about student betting getting out of hand. The biggest scare is when students use their loans to gamble, and this is not a one-off event. A survey by Save the Student in 2013 showed that more than 20% of students gambled with their student loans to make more money.
The problem is two-fold: you lose money by gambling away your student loan and so gamble more to recoup on your losses. Or you win and the high of winning gets you gambling more and then you end up losing. Either way, the chances of losing and ending up with a gambling problem is high.
Students Spending Money That is Not Rightfully Theirs
There is the story of a young student that highlights the story in a way that can be frightening. The student wagered away from his student loan and ended up losing over £8000 in one hour. It started with wagering of £20 to £40 on fixed odds betting terminals and then progressed to wagering on online roulette at home. When he got his student loan, he wagered a big amount of money from it and soon was on a winning streak, winning thousands of pounds.
As he could withdraw only nominal amounts daily, he visited the site again the following day, and decided to try and extend his winning streak. And within the next hour he had lost over £8000. And it didn’t stop there. He continued gambling, spending time with the bookies instead of on campus, in an effort to alleviate his financial woes.
The Issue in Numbers
The statistics don’t give you a nightmarish scenario. As yet. In 2014, the number of young folks with gambling problems stood at 127,000. In 2016, GambleAware, one of the leading charities in the UK working to combat gambling-related issues, provided funds for the treatment of 379 clients aged between 15 and 24 in northern England. Of these, 10% were students. Of these, 44% had some form of debt to clear and 8% owed more than £10,000. 16% had suffered a loss in relationship and 6% had lost their jobs.
That is not the end; a study by ICM in 2017 showed that one in seven youngsters aged between 16 and 24 years lied about their gambling habit at home in the North-West of England, a worrying 14%. An online survey conducted by the UK Gambling Commission through YouthSight, a research agency, on 1000 people showed that 3 out of 4 students had gambled in the month leading up to the survey.
That was scary in itself; what was even more worrisome was the fact that if you took those survey results and projected them across the UK, you would find that more than 100,000 students had some form of gambling debt. And the final numbers from the most recent findings of the UK Gambling Commission are definitely serious: over 1.2 million students in the UK gamble.
Teaching Healthy Betting Habits
The temptation to gamble away and get addicted to it is real; if it can afflict adults it can definitely affect the youngsters. And aiding that temptation is the ability to gamble from anywhere, literally, now with the advent of mobile casino gambling. The lure of easy money by just playing at an online casino is big, especially when the alternative is working a part-time job and putting in the extra hours and effort to make a few bucks.
The problem with gambling addiction is that there are no real physical manifestations to start off with, unlike other addictions like those related to alcohol and narcotics. That is why it can be so hard to combat. However, all is not lost yet and there is a silver lining in the cloud. According to Trevor David, the lead training and development consultant for GamCare, another leading organization working with problem gambling, student finance officers are now coming forward and requesting them provide information about gambling and its potential downsides to students.
The following are a few recommendations from GamCare that universities and colleges, especially their student unions and student activity hubs can implement to raise awareness about and prevent gambling-related problems from surfacing in their student communities:
- Put in place strict campus policies about gambling.
- Carry out regular assessments about the students’ approach to gambling.
- Be part of gambling awareness projects and workshops conducted by leading organizations like GamCare.
- Provide information and create awareness about responsible gambling.
- Provide support for combating problem gambling on campus.