Approximately 75 percent of college students gambled during the past year, betting on the lottery, casino games, cards and sports. Gambling can be fun – as long as you are of legal age and gamble responsibly.

Many college students assume gambling is a risk-free activity; however, research has shown that for some college students, gambling for fun can turn into a problem.  While the vast majority of college students who are of legal age to gamble do so responsibly, the most recent research estimates that 6 percent of college students in the U.S. have a serious gambling problem that can result in psychological difficulties, unmanageable debt and failing grades.

Today’s college students are exposed to gambling both on campus and in the surrounding community.

What is gambling?

Gambling is characterized by the following three criteria: (1) Players wager money or an object of value; (2) this bet is irreversible once placed, and, finally; (3) the game’s outcome relies on chance. There are many types of gambling, including:

  • Online wagering on professional and college sports
  • Lottery/numbers
  • Casino gambling, including table games and slot machines
  • Horse/dog races
  • Internet gambling on casino games and poker
  • Bingo and raffles

Gambling Disorder and Health Implications

Most college students are able to make responsible decisions about gambling, but for some, gambling can turn into a serious problem. Having problems as a result of your gambling doesn’t mean you necessarily have a gambling disorder but could signal future problems.

Gambling disorder can be associated with numerous negative consequences and are highly correlated with other risky behaviors. Students who use tobacco, drink heavily or binge drink, smoke marijuana or use other illegal drugs, drive under the influence or have a low GPA are more likely to gamble.

Warning Signs of a Gambling Problem

Here are some signs that could indicate you or someone you know may have a gambling problem. Keep in mind that all of these behaviors could indicate other difficulties such as alcohol problems and drug use.

  • Frequent unexplained absences from classes
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Progressive preoccupation with gambling
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Visible changes in behavior (e.g., mood changes, behavior problems, etc.)
  • Decline in health, increased symptoms of depression
  • Lies about engaging in gambling behavior
  • Feels compelled to chase losses
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop
  • Gambles to escape worry or problems
  • Exaggerated display of money and/or material possessions
  • Unexplained debt
  • Borrows money to gamble
  • Feast or famine cash flow
  • Feels need to increase betting amounts

If you think you or someone you know may need help for a gambling problem, click here for a list of resources.

Know Your School’s Gambling Policies

While 75 percent of college students gambled during the past year (whether legally or illegally, on campus or off), only 22 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have formal policies on gambling.

If you are of legal age to gamble, make sure you know your school’s policies before engaging in these activities. If your institution currently has policies on gambling, you will most likely find information on your school’s website, in the student handbook or by contacting the office of student affairs.

Responsible Gambling

There is no standard legal gambling age nationwide, and age restrictions can be different depending on the gambling activity. Before you gamble, make sure you know your state’s gambling laws.

If you are of legal age and choose to gamble, it is important to make responsible decisions. Here are some resources that will provide you with more information about gambling for fun and help you to understand the odds of different casino games.  

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