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Is Gambling a Problem for Students?

30th June 2017

Guest blogger Fay thinks about how we can protect young people at university from developing problems with gambling.

No doubt about it, online gambling has made gambling more accessible for everyone, and that includes students. 

While some research has shown that problem gambling is prevalent among university students, the warning signs may not be highlighted so well in this environment. That’s why we believe it’s best to be proactive, and make sure young people have the tools they need to make informed choices about if, how or when they gamble. We also want to make sure young people know where to get help for themselves or someone they care about, should they need it.

As young people grow and enter university, they are loaded with ambition and they very often hope to create a new life for themselves. Most face a lot of difficulty trying to work out who they really are, and they may also experience stress and anxiety about being away from home. Couple that with pressure to ‘fit in’, and we can sometimes forget how hard this can be…

Faced with so many new and potentially scary experiences all at once, without a firm sense of our own identity, we can suffer from anxiety, emptiness, lack of self-confidence and feelings of helplessness. Gambling could sometimes be a fun way to fill in that void, and the social aspect of some gambling activities can give us a false sense of control and belonging.

University students are considered an at-risk group as they can be feeling lonely, stressed or bored, have low income, and they may even be in a new country for the first time. They also generally have a lot of free time, and may suddenly have a large lump sum of money thanks to a student loan. Add in curiosity about what different gambling activities can offer now that they are legally allowed to play, plus the desire to feel in control, and this can lead to a tendency to take big risks.

A few signs that could indicate that a student is having a problem with their gambling are frequent class absences, a lot of cash flow or no cash flow, unexplained debt, an overall decline in health and withdrawal, mood changes and behaviour problems. 

Some simple recommendations for universities, student hubs and unions:

  • Provide information about responsible gambling and problem gambling support on campus;
  • Establish campus policies with regards to gambling, suggesting what events may cause harm to health;
  • Assess student’s attitudes towards gambling regularly;
  • Participate in problem gambling awareness projects and workshops. For more information about workshops we can provide for universities, contact us at [email protected]


For more information about GamCare counselling, available for free to anyone affected by problem gambling, click here.