About the Task Force on College Gambling Policies

The Division on Addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, established the Task Force on College Gambling Policies in 2008 to help colleges strengthen their health promotion efforts by providing a roadmap to policies that will (1) help reduce gambling problems among students and (2) enable students who are struggling with addiction to fully participate in college life.

The Task Force was composed of administrators, health care professionals and faculty from colleges and universities across the country. The I provided funding for the work of the Task Force as part of its mission to translate scientific research into practical applications.

Task Force Recommendations

After a review of the scientific literature and careful consideration of college student behavior and the realities of implementing new policies on campus, the Task Force developed 10 recommendations for policies and programs. The Task Force offered these recommendations not as a one-size-fits-all prescription but as guidelines broad enough to accommodate the great diversity of the nation’s colleges and universities. The Task Force recognizes that college administrators face a delicate balancing act on this issue. Taking personal responsibility for infractions of the rules is an important part of all students’ education, even those who are struggling with psychological problems. However, helping students persist in school by offering assistance for a psychiatric or addictive disorder should be regarded as an equally important goal.

The Task Force focused its recommendations on three primary areas:

  • On-campus prohibitions and restrictions
  • Recovery recognition and facilitation
  • Special events

The pivotal research underlying the Task Force report examined both gambling and alcohol use in college policies. Given the close relationship between these two addictive behaviors, the Task Force recommendations include guidelines for both.  

Summary of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

Establish a campus-wide committee to develop and monitor a comprehensive policy on gambling.

Recommendation 2

Ensure that college policies are consistent with local, state and federal laws.

  • Examine college policies to ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws regarding gambling.
  • Promote campus-wide awareness of local, state and federal laws regarding gambling.
  • Encourage campus law enforcement to collaborate with community law enforcement agencies to identify illegal gambling activities such as bookmaking operations involving students.

Recommendation 3

Strive for consistency and universal application with prohibitions and restrictions on gambling and alcohol use at special events.

  • Be prepared for conflicts of interest when attempting to restrict or prohibit gambling and alcohol use at on-campus events.
  • Consider the potential for sending mixed messages about alcohol and gambling.
  • Encourage organizations to use non-gambling themes for special events.

Recommendation 4

Promote campus-community collaborations that focus on reducing problems with student drinking and gambling.

  • Develop relationships with local gambling operators to encourage restrictions on advertising and ensure that laws on underage gambling are enforced.

Recommendation 5

Encourage adjustments in disciplinary action applied to violators of gambling rules if the student seeks assistance from health or counseling services.

Recommendation 6

Make reasonable accommodations for students focused on recovery from a problem with gambling or alcohol.

  • Allow students who need time off to focus on recovery from a gambling or alcohol disorder to take a medical leave of absence.
  • Make reasonable accommodations allowing students involved in off-campus treatment to continue in classes.
  • Allow students who withdraw and are no longer eligible for a refund to appeal the process citing gambling or alcohol problems as an extenuating circumstance beyond the control of the student involved.

Recommendation 7

Measure student attitudes, behaviors and problems with gambling through campus surveys or by incorporating such measures into existing campus health-related surveys.

Recommendation 8

Promote campus-wide awareness of (1) gambling addiction as a mental health disorder that has a high rate of comorbidity with alcohol use and other addictive disorders and (2) responsible gambling principles.

  • Disseminate information about disordered gambling behavior on a campus-wide basis.
  • Use a variety of media to disseminate information.
  • Target particular groups for education about gambling disorders.

Recommendation 9

Employ evidence-based strategies to identify and help students with gambling and alcohol problems.

Recommendation 10

Strengthen the capacity of counseling services to identify and treat gambling disorders.

  • Assess the ability of current counseling staff to meet the needs of students with gambling problems and provide additional training if necessary.
  • Encourage referrals to off-campus treatment providers who are certified specialists in the area of addiction treatment.
  • Specify the availability of services and promote them to students through a wide variety of media.
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