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.

McClellan, G. & Winters, K., (2006). Gambling: An old school new wave challenge of higher education in the twenty-first century. New Directions for Student Services, 9-23.

Other Issues

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

Screening Aids for Problem Gambling

Gambling Anonymous’ twenty questions.

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

Range of Problems

Suicide and Gambling

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

Educating parents on warning signs and risks through pamphlets and bulletins is important because they are sometimes the first to discover problems by way of credit card statements. Parents can be critical to identifying issues early on.

Make use of counseling service professionals

Establishing a working relationship between mental health professionals and health promotion staff to help to identify the needs and prevalence rates amongst your student population. Have counseling personnel display information resources available to students who are having problems with gambling such as Gamblers Anonymous, help lines and professional counseling services.

Review institutional conduct codes

Establish or ensure that current codes and policies address gambling issues on campus grounds including internet gambling on university computers. Develop staff and student policies that emphasize rehabilitation rather than punishment. Once such policies are agreed upon, adequately publish them to the staff and student body.

Publish policies in staff and student handbooks

Have information about institutional policies toward gambling outlined clearly in staff and student handbooks and codes of conduct. Information could be disseminated through campus workshops, web announcements, school website, press releases and local publications.

Consider curtailing campus sponsored casino nights and poker tournaments

Review or create school policy on pools, raffles, gambling-related fundraising or recreational activities at school and school-sponsored activities. Officially sanctioned activities such as these could send mixed messages to students, reinforcing a skill/activity that is potentially harmful to their wellbeing. Once a decision has been made about gambling activities on your campus, stick with them and provide adequate consequences to violations of that behavior.

Health Screening

Consider embedding questions about gambling behavior in standard wellness/health surveys on your campus, along with questions about drinking, smoking, drug use and other high-risk behaviors. Monitor college student behavior, including the extent of gambling, illegal gambling and problem gambling. Provide treatment services for students who have already developed a gambling problem.

Important research questions to think about!