Risky Business: College Students and Gambling

Are you getting ready to send your student off to college? If you are, college can be an exciting, but scary time for all involved. It may be the first time one is living on their own and making adult decisions. Often, we talk with college students about substance use and other risky behaviors, but it is also important to talk about gambling. Make sure that you know why you should talk about it, why college students are at risk, and what the warning signs are. 

Why talk about gambling?  

While gambling is legal for some college students, it’s not risk free. It is important when talking with college bound students to help them understand the risks. For many they can gamble without it causing any issues but for some gambling can cause harm. When you educate them about the facts of gambling and risk-taking, they can be better prepared to make their own decisions.  

Why are college students at higher risk?  

There are several reasons why college students may be at a higher risk of developing a gambling problem. According to these include:  

Age: College years are associated with a wide range of at-risk behaviors.  

Availability: This is the first generation to be exposed to wide-scale legal gambling. Technological advances make placing bets easier than ever. With the legalization of mobile sports betting in New York State the availability of gambling is everywhere.  

 Acceptability: Gambling is accepted by our culture, it is run by governments, commonly endorsed by schools, and integrated into mainstream culture.   

Advertising/Media: More than ever we are seeing advertisements everywhere we go. Promoted as sport, glamorized, and with winning bias it can be easy to think that gambling is risk-free when it is not.  

Access to cash: College students may get an allowance from their parents or guardians, have access to student loans or credit cards. The average college student receives about 25 credit card solicitations per semester (National Public Radio) 

What are the warning signs of problem gambling?  

Problem Gambling is called the hidden addiction. It can be easy to hide, so it’s important to keep an eye on college students behavior and make sure to have conversations with them about gambling and the potential harm. If you are concerned about your loved ones gambling, there are warning signs to look out for. These include:  

  • Preoccupation with thoughts about gambling 
  • Asking for larger amounts of money or gambling more frequently 
  • Personality changes, such as irritability, restlessness, and withdrawal  
  • Alienation from family and friends  
  • Inability to cut back or stop gambling  
  • Lying to friends and family about how much you gamble  
  • Borrowing to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by your gambling  
  • Thinking about or committing an illegal act to finance your gambling  
  • Suicidal thoughts 

Resources & Help  

Whether you are trying to learn more about gambling harm or looking for resources and services for a loved one, the New York State Problem Gambling Resource Centers can help!