Young people are increasingly getting involved with gambling, especially males. Many are even developing gambling addictions. Research presented at the 106th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association showed that between 5% and 8% of American and Canadian youth had serious gambling problems, compared to 1% to 3% of adults. The same research suggested that addictions to gambling may be worse than addictions to alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Antisocial behavior and frequent use of alcohol are also associated with increased gambling activity.
One of the largest studies of youth gambling, conducted by Dr. Randy Stinchfield and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, surveyed 122,700 sixth-, ninth-, and 12th-grade students in 1992 and then followed up with 75,900 of them in 1995. This study found that gambling behavior was relatively stable over the three-year period. The only change was in gamblers’ preferences, which shifted from a preference for informal games to legal games, which corresponded with the students’ increasing ages. Those who were heavier gamblers at the beginning of the study continued to be the heaviest gamblers during the follow-up period. Most of the students in the study had gambled at least once during the previous year, with rates far higher for boys (80%) than for girls (50%). Twenty percent of boys gambled weekly or more, while only 5%of girls gambled that frequently. Older students generally gambled more than younger ones.
Another study of 21,297 eighth- through 12th-grade students in 79 public and private schools in Vermont found that 53% of students had gambled in the previous year. Seven percent reported problems they attributed to their gambling. Males were again more likely to gamble. A host of negative behaviors were associated with gambling, including use of alcohol and illegal drugs, smoking cigarettes, not using a seat belt, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, being threatened, being in a fight, carrying a weapon, and engaging in risky sexual activity. Although one of the primary motivations to gamble is the hope of winning, sometimes youth gamble for other reasons.
Stinchfield and his colleagues concluded that some of the prevention efforts designed to curb adolescent drug use could also be helpful in curtailing or reducing youth gambling. The Vermont researchers suggested that medical and mental health professionals should include gambling in their assessments of youth.
Many college students are also involved in gambling. A 2005 study measuring rates of gambling among college student-athletes found that 24% claimed to have never gambled, but another 15% had a gambling problem. A review of college student handbooks found that gambling was infrequently included as a topic in these documents; only 22% of the 119 college handbooks reviewed contained policies on gambling. A 2003 study of college students’ gambling found similar associations with negative behaviors as those found with adolescents. Compared with nongamblers, gamblers were more likely to binge on alcohol, use marijuana, smoke cigarettes, use illicit drugs, and engage in unprotected sex after drinking.
Online gaming has exploded in recent years, likely fueled by television coverage of poker tournaments and easy access to the Internet. This form of gambling is particularly popular with college students, who often play Black Jack or Texas Hold ‘Em online. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found a 20% increase in gambling rates from the same month a year earlier, with 57% of young men reporting that they gamble at least once per month. Experts suggest as many as half a million students could be addicted to gambling. They caution that few colleges are prepared to identify and help those students, given that many colleges see it as a harmless extracurricular activity.
Historically, many athletes and coaches have gotten in trouble for gambling on games in which they are involved. How frequently this problem occurs is difficult to measure, as data often emerge only after some type of scandal. A 2003 study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) found 63.4% of males reported some type of gambling, and that student-athletes were most frequently involved with gambling in the form of playing cards or board games for money, betting on games of personal skill, lottery tickets, slot or electronic poker machines, sports cards, football polls, or parlays.
In January 1951, the New York Journal-American reported on widespread point shaving in college basketball. Point shaving occurs when a player or group of players attempt to fix a game or match so that a particular team does not cover the published point spread, which helps those who have bet on the other team. In one scandal, Junius Kellogg of Manhattan College was offered $1,000 to shave points. Kellogg told his coach, who told the university president. The police got involved, telling Kellogg to take the offer so they could arrest the perpetrator, Henry Poppe, a former standout at Manhattan. A month after the Manhattan
College scandal, three players from the City College of New York were arrested for throwing games during the 1950-1951 season; only days later, three players from Long Island University were arrested for the same offense. Other point-fixing scandals in college basketball occurred in 1961, at Boston College in 1978-1979, and at Tulane College in 1985 with the indictment of eight players. One of the biggest football point shaving scandals involved Northwestern University in 1994. Other college gambling scandals in the 1990s involved the University of Maine, the University of Rhode Island, and Bryant College. In 1996, Boston College suspended 13 football players for gambling on college and professional sports, in violation of NCAA rules.
- Christianson, E. (2004, May 12). NCAA study finds sports wagering a problem among student-athletes. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved from http://www.ncaa.org/
- Finley, P., Finley, L., & Fountain, J. (2008). Sports scandals. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Gambling takes hold of college students. (2006, March 10). ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=1710705&page=1
- Kerber, C. (2005). Problem and pathological gambling among college students. Annual of Clinical Psychiatry, 17(4), 243-247.
- Labrie, R., Shaffer, H., LaPlante, D., & Wechslet, H. (2003). Correlates of college student gambling in the United States. American College Health, 52(2), 53-62.
- Pathological gambling more prevalent among youths than adults, study finds. (1998, August 20). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/08/980820075118.htm
- Proimos, J., DuRant, R., Pierce, J., & Goodman, E. (1998, August). Gambling and other risk behaviors among 8th- to 12th-grade students. Pediatrics, 102(2), 23.
- Shaffer, H., Donato, A., Labrie, R., Kidman, R., & LaPlante, D. (2005). The epidemiology of college alcohol and gambling policies. Harm Reduction Journal, 2(1).