Colleges take more notice of gambling problems
Innovative efforts, like those in Missouri, address the problems of widespread student gambling.
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"I lost about $3,500 online, and that's a ton for college kid who didn't have much income," he says. Then he won $200,000 in a tournament and quit school to play full time. He says he wants to finish his degree soon, but he still plans to make a living from poker. Having seen the "brutal lows" of the gambling scene, though, he doesn't recommend it to others: "It's hypocritical for me to say, 'Stay in school – don't quit to play poker,' but I absolutely think you should stay in school," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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"They all think they're professional poker players," but the longer they play, the more they'll lose, says Arnie Wexler, a former gambling addict in New Jersey who gives talks and operates a counseling hot line. In the past few years, "one-third of all my calls ... are coming in from students from the age of 12 to 25 or the parents." One mother said her son is eligible for a college scholarship but he wants play poker instead.
There isn't enough help at colleges for the shame, stress, and isolation that problem gamblers can experience, Mr. Wexler and others say. At least one school, however – Texas Tech University in Lubbock – hosts Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
Studies show that the earlier people start risky behaviors such as drinking or gambling, the more likely they are to develop an addiction, says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (help line: 800-522-4700).
In a survey of 119 colleges, only 22 percent had a gambling policy, Harvard researchers found in 2005. But more schools are paying heed. When the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling started offering training to college administrators three years ago, four schools participated. Now, it's up to 20. The National Collegiate Athletic Association also stepped up efforts after a 2003 survey that showed rampant gambling among student athletes.
Even at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where some innovations have taken place, it hasn't been easy to make a comprehensive policy. Kristy Wanner, gambling-prevention coordinator for the coalition of 12 Missouri schools, has brought together people from Greek organizations, residential life, the student conduct office, and other groups to discuss the matter. They don't plan a zero-tolerance approach but might regulate things like charity gambling.
They're also considering replacing casino nights – popular alcohol-free entertainment – with multiple-game events. "It's kind of reframing it in a way where it's not just Las Vegas night," Ms. Wanner says.