Columbia, Mo. — As the popularity of gambling increases across the nation, college students are finding themselves rolling snake eyes. With an estimated 85 percent of college students in the United States involved in some form of gambling — 23 percent on a weekly basis — public universities across the state of Missouri are partnering with University of Missouri-Columbia experts to combat problem gambling on campus.
"College students today are among the first generation of youth to grow up in a culture of widespread legalized gambling," said Kristy Wanner, gambling prevention coordinator at MU´s Wellness Resource Center. "The advancement of Internet and television gambling, changes in gambling laws, greater accessibility to money, and culture influences are creating not only financial problems for students, but also difficulties with academics, friends and family."
According to the National Annenberg report, published by the National Center on Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, the number of college males that gamble each week has risen almost 12 percent in the last four years. With the addition of poker on television, which is ESPN´s third most watched sport, and the increase of Internet gambling, college students are betting some of their savings, college tuition and social life, Wanner said.
Keeping the Score, MU´s statewide coalition program designed to support responsible gambling decision-making, is informing students, educators, parents, financial aid workers and student affairs professionals about the "silent addiction" on college campuses. The program combines 12 universities around the state, working together to educate students on the risks of gambling and warning signs of problems. By providing educational workshops, a Web site, awareness materials and presentations to campus organizations, the team is hoping to slow a national problem.
"What is taking place in Missouri is on the cutting edge of college gambling prevention; for the first time we are seeing counseling professionals and student affairs professionals come together," said George McClellan, lead editor of the book "Gambling on Campus" and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. "Missouri is serving as the national model, bringing together higher education, health and state agencies, and gaming organizations in a way that has never before been done."
Keeping the Score is funded by a grant from the Port Authority of Kansas City, Mo. Along with MU, the following schools are involved: Lincoln University, Missouri Southern State University, Missouri State University, Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Truman State University, the University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-Rolla and University of Missouri-St. Louis.