I’ll Take My Future on Red

When we think about addictions that plague college students, we generally think about crystal meth, alcohol, and sex, but Lauren Patrizi has shed light on a new college addiction: online gambling. As an online gambling addict herself at 19 (because these online gambling firms are registered off-shore, where the 21 year age limit doesn’t apply), Patrizi wasn’t at all surprised to learn that college students are three times as likely as rest of the population to experience pathological gambling problems and twice as likely to experience sub-clinical gambling problems.

But students aren’t just finding internet gambling — internet gambling companies go out of their way to find them. Party Poker, one of the largest and best known online gambling firms, has begun advertising on TheFaceBook.com, the internet hub for college students (800+ colleges are registered, about 2.7 million users). In the ad, college students are hugging each other with the tagline, “Just wanna have fun?” Another site, Absolute Poker, has ads proclaiming, “College Students: Win Your Tuition.”

Ed Looney, the director of the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling, explains, “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this Texas Hold ‘Em rage. When crack cocaine came out, the phenomenon was similar.”

Though there have been several bills on the state and federal level to curb online gambling, none address the issue of youth and addiction. More needs to be done. Gambling companies are moving overseas to avoid U.S. regulations. With more government action, hopefully fewer stories will end like Lauren’s: “I just wish I had talked about it sooner. I had pretty much everything to lose — college funds, credit card payments, a debt-free life. I am not even entirely sure how much I have spent over the last six months and I really don’t want to know. After a last, desperate $50 bet to try to cut my losses, I knew that I needed to stop.”

— Elana Berkowitz, Campus Progress