Information for Educators
Gambling and Higher Education
In examining the role of gambling in higher education, it is important to recognize the current and historical relationships between the two. In the last several decades, enrollment expanded enormously while restrictions on state funding increased. Gambling proceeds once again became a common source of funding for higher education. In addition, several scholarships have been created for students to attend college via state gambling money.
Today higher education is linked to gambling in each of the higher education’s three historical missions: teaching, research, and service.
The connection between gambling and teaching occurred as institutions began to offer courses in casino management.
The connection between research and gambling took off in 1989 when the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming was founded at the University of Nevada-Reno. Since then the University of Nevada- Las Vegas opened a similar center, and several other institutions have academic centers devoted to problem or pathological gambling. Among these are Harvard University and the University of California-Los Angeles. Among the scholarly journals publishing gambling-related articles are the Journal of Gambling Studies and the Journal of Gambling Service.
The connection between service and gambling is that higher education directly and indirectly services the gambling industry by providing trained, knowledgeable and skilled employees and by undertaking research that enhances profitability through marketing and political strategies. Also several universities allow employers in the gambling industry to recruit students at their career fairs.
Keeping the above connections in mind may be useful in your approach toward examining and implementing gambling policies and/or prevention programs at your university or college.
Gender and Gambling
People usually begin gambling as a recreational activity. Men usually get drawn in by a big win, and the cognition changes to thinking that one can make a fortune at it. The process for women is often different. Usually women are drawn into gambling to escape problems such as childhood disturbances, loneliness, boredom and troubled relationships.
Studies reveal that women are less likely to go into treatment than men. In part, women do not fit the societal stereotype of a gambler, one that portrays males as the big spender with the big ego. Because of this women are less likely to see themselves as compulsive gamblers and often feel overwhelmed by GA meetings which are mostly men. However, on the other side, gambling provides an opportunity for women to compete equally with men, in a male dominated world, gaining power and respect.
Female pathological gamblers often work in secretarial, clerical and other support positions and because of this, often have lower debt and engage in criminal activity less often than men. However, women are more likely to use money allocated to living expenses to pay for their habit.
Heavy gamblers, male and female, are attracted by the action of gambling. Action is an aroused state similar to the high produced by cocaine or other drugs. Action means excitement, thrill, and tension. The high can be so intense that people will not eat or sleep for days, allowing them to ignore other concerns. People who are gambling to escape troubles find relief in feelings associated with dissociated states (anesthetic and hypnotic states), related to memory black-outs, trances, out-of-body experiences and the feeling of taking on another identity.
Cross Addictions and Suicide
- Studies have found that approximately 50% of problem gamblers also experience problems with alcohol or drugs during the same stage in their life.
- Compared to the general population, individuals who are alcohol or drug dependent are also at greater risk for developing problem gambling.
- Cross addiction has been documented in several research studies as well as by treating professionals in case studies.
- Drug, alcoholic or gambling patients frequently substitute one addiction for another and should be educated in ways to avoid this cross addiction.
- Drug and alcohol programs need to provide educational materials on gambling issues and vice versa.
- Anyone struggling with alcohol and drug problems or severe financial, legal or martial problems should be evaluated for symptoms of compulsive gambling and suicidal ideation.
The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGC)
Easily administered and used for determining the presence of gambling problems. It can be obtained from the South Oaks Foundation: 400 Sunrise Highway, Amityville NY 11701.
The South Oaks Leisure Activities Screen.
This scale is for friends and family members as a double check to the SOGC.
Compulsive Gambling Signs and Progression Slide Rule
Used to help evaluate a person’s gambling behavior. Useful for both professionals and lay people. Can be obtained from the National Council on Problem Gambling Inc. at 1-800-522-4700
Suicide and Gambling
- For every death and dangerous suicide attempt, there are at least 6 people whose lives are profoundly affected.
- For every death there are at least 25 people who have survived an attempt.
- Many people live with distracting thoughts of suicide.
- Problem gamblers, especially those in the desperation phase may feel that the only way out is suicide.
- It is estimated that 25% of compulsive gambling attempt suicide.
- In a cross national U.S Study of GA, 48% of the sample reported suicide ideation and 21% had attempted suicide.
- In a study of 50 male pathological gamblers in an impatient gambling treatment program in a VA hospital in Cleveland, 30% had made a severe/extreme/lethal suicide attempt and 50% reported moderate or mild suicide ideation.
- Some evidence suggests that there is a high rate of comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders.
Recommendations for Institutions
Below is a list of some basic program and policy recommendations that can be done to help educate your campus on problem gambling. These recommendations are meant as guidelines to help your institution begin to address issues associated with problem gambling.
Provide awareness to various populations on campus:
- Introduce the problems associated with gambling at new student orientations such as summer or fall welcome.
- Provide educational materials to students, residential hall coordinators, financial aid workers, counselors and other professional staff on campus. This information should include population-relevant information, easy-to-understand reference material, campus and national/state phone numbers to call for help and a self-assessment tool.
- Develop and evaluate prevention programs and messages designed specifically for college students.
- Hold work-shops and personal development programs on campus for college officials from Student Affairs, Financial Aid, Health Services, Counseling Center and Residential life. Educating these gatekeepers is critical in helping to identify students suffering from this problem.
Incorporate gambling information in parent orientation programs
Make use of counseling service professionals
Review institutional conduct codes
Publish policies in staff and student handbooks
Consider curtailing campus sponsored casino nights and poker tournaments
Important research questions to think about!
- Does gambling promote other unhealthy behaviors such as alcoholism and drug abuse?
- How academically successful are students who participate in gambling activity?
- Do undergraduates identified as problem gamblers have lower G.P.A’s?
- What is the effect of online gambling on the socialization process at a school, whether it is in residential halls or off campus?
- Do students today feel compelled to gamble as a way of fitting in to campus life?
- Does online gambling promote interaction amongst residential populations or is it a reaction to a lack or perceived lack of extracurricular activities on campus?
- Do students spend more time on their computers gambling than socializing with other peers?