Problem Gambling within Colleges and Student Athletes: Exploring Correlations, Risks and More

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Problem Gambling within Colleges and Student Athletes: Exploring Correlations, Risks and More

Balancing academics and extracurriculars, student athletes have a lot on their plates. This April 6th, we celebrate these talented youth with National Student-Athlete Day (#NatlSADay), recognizing the high achievements of those splitting their time between the classroom and the sports field. However, school athletics are not all fun and games, and when gambling enters the equation, the consequences can be significant. 

Problem gambling is no stranger to school campuses, with research estimating that 75% of college students have gambled during the past year, including both legal and illegal betting. [1] Although compulsive gambling can and does affect every age, gender, race, ethnicity and social class, youth and young adults face unique risks when it comes to excessive betting.

Alan Feldman, Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ International Gaming Institute, shares college students are in many ways more susceptive to develop issues with gambling due to their age, predisposition for risk taking, and access to money for what may be the first time.[2] About 21% of college students have used financial aid to gamble and 31% of students reported having used credit cards to fund their gambling. [3] In addition to these characteristics, college students are also “close to the action,” with college sports playing a huge role in student life. Not to mention, there may be peer pressure from friends and fellow athletes to participate in social gambling. 

While sports betting is currently illegal in Florida, this does not mean college students in The Sunshine State are not making wagers outside the system. The National Council on Problem Gambling reports about 67% of all college students nationally bet on sports, including 30% of male athletes, who are at high risk for sports gambling in part due to their competitive personalities and need for action and excitement.[4

Additionally, sports and online gambling may be legally accessible for students from Florida attending college or university out of state. In states where these types of wagers are legal, a number of college campuses have struck deals with sports betting companies, often partnering with these companies as corporate sponsors of their athletics programs.[5] While the details of these partnerships often lack transparency, they often include sports betting brands being promoted across stadiums, college radio stations, websites, and other mainly student-targeted media placements. In fact, it was recently uncovered that gambling companies have struck deals with several universities where the schools receive compensation for every student that signs up, making them the subjects of criticism for not protecting their already vulnerable students from financial distress. [6]

The truth of the matter when it comes to compulsive gambling in young athletes and college students is that, while almost all American higher education institutions have a policy on student alcohol use, only 22% have a formal policy on gambling.[7] This means many young adults may be left wondering where they can turn to for support. With constant access to school sports and big professional sporting events such as March Madness, students need resources they can trust when they’re looking to recover from problem gambling. 

For students struggling with gambling, there is no shortage of options for help, hope, and a roadmap to recovery. Florida’s Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, is Your One Sure Thing for free, confidential resources helping those who are in need, you can text 888-ADMIT-IT, email at fccg@gamblinghelp.org or live chat at gamblinghelp.org. That means students can access recovery support anytime, anywhere — from their dorm room to in-between classes — and these free resources can fit into any college student budget. 

  1. “College Gambling Facts and Statistics.” National Council on Problem Gambling. https://www.ncpgambling.org/files/NPGAWcollegefactsheet.pdf
  2. Behe, Rege. “As March Madness Begins, College Students Are at Increased Risk from Problem Gambling.” CDC Gaming Reports, March 12, 2022. https://cdcgaming.com/as-march-madness-begins-college-students-are-at-increased-risk-from-problem-gambling/
  3. “More than 1 in 5 College Students Used Financial Aid and/or Student Loans for Gambling.” Intelligent, 8 Mar. 2023, https://www.intelligent.com/more-than-1-in-6-college-students-used-financial-aid-student-loans-on-gambling/#:~:text=Additionally%2C%2031%25%20of%20student%20gamblers,used%20credit%20cards%20to%20gamble
  4. “College Gambling Facts and Statistics.” National Council on Problem Gambling. https://www.ncpgambling.org/files/NPGAWcollegefactsheet.pdf
  5. Connuck, Shane and Blake Townsend. “Colleges’ Betting Agreements Are Often Hidden from the Public.” Capital News Service, February 27, 2023. https://cnsmaryland.org/2023/02/27/on-college-campuses-sports-betting-agreements-are-shielded/.
  6. Louis, Serah. “Dave Ramsey Just Blasted US Universities for Promoting Online Gambling …” Moneywise, 2 Dec. 2022, https://moneywise.com/managing-money/debt/you-freakin-idiots-dave-ramsey-just-blasted-us-universities-for-promoting-online-gambling-to-students-and-reaping-millions-in-fees-why-young-people-are-the-perfect-prey.
  7. “College Gambling Facts and Statistics.” National Council on Problem Gambling. https://www.ncpgambling.org/files/NPGAWcollegefactsheet.pdf.

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