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Quarter of UK university students who gamble at risk of harm, study finds

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A smartphone user accesses a gambling website while watching a football match on television.

A quarter of UK student gamblers may be experiencing harm and half said betting has affected their university experience, a study has found.

The survey of 2,003 students at UK universities was conducted in December and found that 71% had gambled in the last 12 months.

Of these, 28% were found to be at “moderate risk” and 24% exhibited “problem gambling” behaviour.

Half of respondents said gambling had impacted their university experience, with 13% having trouble paying for food, 10% missing lectures and tutorials, 10% admitting betting affected their assignments and grades, and 9% struggling to pay bills or for accommodation.

Participants were quizzed on their gambling habits, spending, influences, impacts, sources of funds and help-seeking.

The survey included the short-form Problem Gambling Severity Index: a widely used measure of “problem gambling” in the UK population – which allowed researchers to understand the level of risk experienced by students in the sample.

The poll by research company Censuswide was commissioned by education charity Ygam and Gamstop, the national online self-exclusion service.

It found that 45% of student gamblers were unaware of the support available to them from their universities.

Some 48% said they gambled to make money but just 11% reported winning money in an average week.

A third of student gamblers said they splurged £11-£20 per week on bets, while 23% spent £21-£50 and 13% spent £51-£100.

Some students said they borrowed money to fund the habit, with 8% asking for money from family and friends and 6% using payday loans.

It is crucial that universities engage and take this issue seriously
Dr Jane Rigbye

More than 40% of students have bought cryptocurrency, a digital or virtual and generally unregulated currency, in the last year, higher than the figure for the overall population.

The full report is to be published on Monday and it calls for investment in prevention education in schools to teach young people about the risks related to gambling before they go to university.

Campaigners also want gambling harms to be considered as part of every university’s health and wellbeing strategy.

Ygam chief executive Dr Jane Rigbye said: “We can now see that not only are a large percentage of the student population gambling on a regular basis, many of them are doing so in a way that may cause them to experience harm.

“The data further emphasises the importance of educating our young people on the risks associated with gambling.

“It is crucial that universities engage and take this issue seriously.

“We aim to work closely with many more universities to ensure they can help prevent the harms and support their students when they need it.”

Bray Ash, 29, who is now studying to become a mental health nurse, said: “At university, I dealt with a severe gambling addiction that saw me confined to my room for days at a time.

“Propped up by the money from my student loan, I was able to fall into a gambling addiction that spiralled out of control until one day I managed to work up the courage to talk to my friends and family about it and get myself into rehab.

“At the time when I was first going through university, resources like Gamstop weren’t around.

“Now that they are and they are helping thousands of students, it’s always one of my first recommendations to anyone who feels that they might be experiencing gambling harms.”

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