College Policies Guide

Based on experiences at several colleges and universities, the Task Force encourages institutions to establish a campus-wide committee to develop and monitor a comprehensive policy on gambling. To help schools begin the process of establishing such a committee, the ICRG has developed a guide for initiating a dialogue about on-campus gambling policies.

Of course, every campus is different, so it will be important to tailor the toolkit materials to fit your school’s needs. As you review the toolkit materials, you’ll see a number of places to add specific information about your campus’ gambling-related initiatives. Adding detailed information about the initiatives already underway is important as it helps ensure everyone is on the same page about what already is being done to address the issue and lays a solid foundation on which to build future policies and programs.

Program Ideas

Higher education has responded vigorously to alcohol-related problems. Nearly all U.S. colleges have policies on student alcohol use, and increased awareness of high rates of “binge drinking” has led to the development of numerous prevention programs. Colleges can work to combat college gambling disorders by integrating gambling education and awareness efforts into existing programs about alcohol, drugs and other risky behaviors.

Currently, many colleges are missing opportunities to inform students about the risks of gambling disorders and to provide recovery-oriented measures. Before implementing new programs to raise awareness of responsible gambling and gambling disorders, administrators should evaluate their current programs and policies on campus by asking these important questions:

  • Does your institution comply with local, state and federal laws on gambling?
  • Does your institution have policies about gambling on campus or using the university-owned computers to gamble? Are they included in university handbooks or the code of conduct?
  • Does your school allow gambling (for real money) at special events such as casino nights or poker tournaments?
  • Does your school newspaper or athletics program accept advertising from gambling operators?
  • Is your student health service prepared to assess and treat gambling disorders?
  • What is your policy on students who take a leave of absence for purposes of recovery from an addictive disorder?
  • If a student violates rules related to gambling and alcohol, does your school refer the student to health services for an assessment?
  • What is the liability of your school if a student is physically injured or racks up debt because of gambling?

Once you’ve answered these questions, the following program ideas can help to begin the process of addressing college gambling on your campus.

1. Develop Campus-Community Collaborations

The expansion of legalized gambling during the past four decades means that the environment surrounding colleges and universities might include casinos, lottery vendors, or racetracks, in addition to the expansion of online sports wagering. By promoting collaborations between your campus and community that focus on reducing problems with student drinking and gambling, you can help promote responsible behavior. Here are some ways to establish these collaborations.

  • Contact casino or racetrack general managers or store managers of lottery vendors to start a conversation about collaborations to reduce gambling-related harms.
  • Know the legal age to gamble at casinos and on the lottery in your state.
  • Encourage restrictions on advertising to minors.
  • Ensure that laws on underage gambling are enforced and IDs are checked to verify age.

Schools will find that many of these operators and vendors are willing to cooperate on the enforcement of age restrictions for both drinking and gambling. For example, casinos are highly motivated to prevent minors from gambling and drinking alcohol because of heavy fines imposed by state regulators. Moreover, the growth of responsible gambling campaigns in recent years has made most operators very sensitive to the issue.

2. Include Gambling Questions in Student Surveys

Conducting a survey of student behaviors and gambling-related problems can provide useful information on which to base policies that are relevant to the school’s particular situation.

There are several reasons schools should integrate gambling questions into existing surveys. First, this data will provide a baseline for how many students are gambling and how many might have problems on your campus. Second, many schools will not have the resources for a separate gambling survey, and adding gambling questions to existing surveys is a cost-effective alternative. Third, because of the connections between excessive gambling and other risky behaviors and mental health problems, incorporating gambling questions into existing surveys might provide a more illuminating portrait of campus gambling and its relationships with risky behaviors.  

To gauge the gambling activities of your students, a survey could ask the following question from the Harvard College Alcohol and Gambling Study:

  1. During the past school year how often did you bet or spend money on each of the following activities: (options: never, a few times a year, monthly but not weekly, weekly but not daily, daily)

- Betting on pro sports and college sports online or in person at a sports book

-Betting on horse or dog races

-Casino gambling

-Betting on the lottery or numbers

-Betting with a bookie

-Playing cards or dice while at school

The following questions from the Brief Bio-Social Gambling Screening (BBGS) can be added to measure problems with gambling.  

  1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to stop or cut down on gambling?  YES/NO
  2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?  YES/NO
  3. During the past 12 months, did you have such financial trouble because of gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family or friends?  YES/NO

BBGS Scoring:  Answering ‘YES’ to one or more questions indicates that the individual is at increased risk for developing or experiencing gambling-related problems.


Gebauer, L., LaBrie, R., & Shaffer, H. J. (2010). Optimizing DSM-IV-TR classification accuracy: a brief biosocial screen for detecting current gambling disorders among gamblers in the general household population. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(2), 82-90.

LaBrie, R. A., Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., & Wechsler, H. (2003). Correlates of college student gambling in the United States. Journal of American College Health, 52(2), 53-62.

3. Promote Campus-Wide Education on Gambling and Gambling Disorder

Promoting campus-wide awareness of (1) gambling disorder as a mental health disorder that has a high rate of comorbidity with alcohol use and other addictive disorders and (2) responsible gambling principles is an important step to reaching college students. Here are a few ways you can educate students on your campus about gambling disorders and responsible gambling:

  • Disseminate information about disordered gambling behavior on a campus-wide basis.
  • This includes materials such as fact sheets on gambling and gambling disorder.
  • Use a variety of media to disseminate information.  
  • Students get their information from different resources. You can post information to your school’s website, send e-mails that provide links to resources or develop an educational program on your school’s television or radio network.
  • Hold workshops and provide educational materials to residential hall coordinators, financial aid workers, counselors and other professional staff on campus.
  • Hold mandatory seminars for groups who are more likely to be exposed to gambling, such as those involved in the Greek system. Distribute educational materials and resources.
  • Provide a link to from your school’s website or health center website.

4. Incorporate Gambling Information in Student Orientation Programs

Student orientations are an easy way to reach a large number of students. In addition to providing information about adjusting to college life, dealing with roommates and alcohol, you can also incorporate gambling and gambling disorders into the discussion.  Here are some possible topics to address during the orientation:

  • University’s policy on under-age gambling or gambling on university computers/networks
  • University’s policy on using university-owned computers or networks to gamble
  • How to identify problematic gambling behavior
  • The link between gambling disorders and other addictive behaviors
  • How to make responsible decisions about gambling
  • Where students can find help (online, the student health center, counselors, residential hall coordinators, national problem gambling helpline, etc.)

You can also distribute educational materials such as brochures and fact sheets in student welcome bags.

5. Incorporate Gambling Information in Parent Orientation Programs

Parents play a critical role in students’ adjustment to college, and, therefore, are instrumental in helping young people to be successful in college. If your school provides an orientation for parents, whether in person or online, you can include information about gambling and gambling disorders. Here are some suggested topics to cover:

  • The institution’s policies
  • Local, state and federal laws on gambling
  • Types of gambling
  • Rates of gambling
  • Risk factors for a gambling disorder
  • Types of gambling and warning signs of a gambling disorder
  • Problem gambling and its association with drug and alcohol abuse
  • How to talk to your son or daughter about gambling
  • Where students can find help on campus
  • How to make responsible decisions about gambling
  • Additional resources on gambling and gambling disorders

You can also direct parents to the “parents” section on to learn more.

6. Coordinate with Academic Departments to Include Gambling-Related Material in Current Curriculum

One way to increase knowledge and awareness of gambling and gambling disorders is to include the topic within appropriate curricula. Here are a few areas of study where information can be incorporated:

  • Health and wellness
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics (odds of winning)
  • Hotel or hospitality management

7. Include Gambling Information in The Student Health Section of Your School’s Website

Virtually every school provides information about drugs and alcohol on the student health section of its website, but fewer provide information about gambling and gambling disorders. If your school does not include this information on its student health website, consider adding a section or creating a website that discusses the following topics:

  • The institution’s policies
  • Local, state and federal laws on gambling
  • Rates of gambling
  • Risk factors for a gambling disorder
  • Types of gambling and warning signs of a gambling disorder
  • Gambling disorder and its association to drug and alcohol abuse
  • How to make responsible decisions about gambling
  • Where to find help on campus
  • Additional resources on gambling and gambling disorders

8. Take Another Look at School-Sponsored Casino Nights and Poker Tournaments

Casino and poker events are popular charity events to help raise money for a cause or organization.  However, these types of events can sometimes send the wrong message to students about gambling. If your school allows these events, here are some things to consider:

  • Charge an entrance fee and use play money instead of real money
  • If real money is being used, check IDs to make sure attendees are of legal age to gamble
  • Register the event as a charity event with the state
  • Post signs about the odds of winning
  • Provide brochures or other resources about responsible gambling
  • Provide information on how to get help for a gambling problem

Additionally, make sure your school has policies in place on these types of fundraising events, as well as pools, raffles and other gambling-related fundraiser events.