Is it a Problem?

General gambling statistics

Problem gambling

  • It is estimated that between 1-3% of the adult population can be classified as a compulsive or pathological gambler (about 2-4 million each year).
  • About 4% of the adult population can be classified as a serious social gambler/ problem gambler, where negative life consequences exist (about 4-6 million).
  • It has been estimated that between 4-8% of teens presently have a serious gambling problem and another 10-14% of adolescents are at risk of developing a serious gambling problem.
  • The prevalence rate for impaired youth gamblers is about 3 to 5 times the adult rate.
  • It is estimated that 2.9 million youth are gambling on card games on a weekly basis.
College students
  • Studies have found that between 4-7% of college students can be classified as “pathological gamblers” with the rate of male pathological gamblers significantly higher than females.
  • It has been estimated that about 10% of college students aged 18-24 can be considered serious social gamblers/problem gamblers where several negative consequences are experienced.
  • According to the National Annenberg report, 26% of college males gambled each week in 2005, up from 11.9% in 2002. Females have remained the same at 5.5%.
  • A study in Minnesota found that 12% of students reported gambling on a weekly or daily basis. Betting on games of skill (athletic contests) was the category most often played weekly/daily by men (7%) and lotto playing by women (2%).

What accounts for the trend in youth gambling?

College students today are among the first generation of youth to have grown up in a culture of widespread legalized gambling. College students and those even younger have been exposed to many messages about gambling as a normative activity in our society. Although there are hundreds of promotional messages being sent out for gambling, our youth are hearing far fewer, if any, about the dangers associated with gambling, placing them at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction.

Currently, the college population has the highest prevalence rate of compulsive gamblers, followed by teens and then adults. This increased prevalence rate is really the product of four major elements coming together to create an environment conducive to gambling problems.

  • The first piece is the greater accessibility of gambling venues seen across the United States. Laws have dramatically changed in the last ten years and gambling is now legal in eleven states.
  • The second major piece, also related to accessibility, is the increase in technology that has allowed Internet gambling to take off. This not only increases the accessibility but allows people to gamble from the privacy of their own homes and use credit cards to do so.
  • This leads into the third element that has influenced the gambling environment which is our greater accessibility to money, especially money that is not our own. It is much easier to get a credit card now than it was five to ten years ago, especially for college students. This increased flexibility in ways to pay and access money has been a major change in our society and has given people a license to use “other people’s money” to gamble and keep gambling.
  • The fourth element is the culture that we currently live in, where faster is viewed as better. We have fast food, want faster wealth, faster Interne,t etc.: essentially we live in a culture where “we want what we want when we want it.”

Cultural influences, massive improvements with technology, increased access to money and changes in laws related to gambling (increasing accessibility to gambling venues), have all happened around the same time. This in turn has influenced the frequency of gambling used as a form of entertainment and the prevalence rates of problem gamblers (McClellan & Winters, 2006).