College gambling a fun, risky business

by Mark Pleiss

As another week came to close and a new weekend of college football found the horizon, I found myself defending my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers again.

“Pleiss, come on, they’re terrible,” my friend told me. “Oklahoma is gonna trample the ‘skers. They aren’t the team they used to be.

But I remained loyal.

“They just got a few kinks to work out,” I said. “I bet anything they’ll stomp on the Cyclones.

And then, something unexpected happened. My friend called me on it.

“Really? You want to make it interesting?” he asked.

I was shocked at first.

I had made thousands of empty claims like the one previously mentioned without anyone calling me to the table. But now I had a decision to make. My pockets had been empty for weeks due to my $20-a-week addiction (Hy-Vee Chinese), and my Huskers desperately needed my support.

In the end, I decided it best to let him win the debate. I never liked betting, especially on college sports – a subject with athletic ineligibility written all over it.

But the scenario made me think, nonetheless.

I have had more people call me on my favorite expression, “I betcha … ” this year more than any other.

Has gambling really increased?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently published a story explaining the connection between at-home gambling and the rise of poker shows on television. It specifically addresses a gambling-store owner who said since last August, when the shows began gaining popularity, she’s had a boom in business. She’s selling cards, chips and other miscellany every Saturday at a rate to match what she’d usually sell in an entire week.

What’s also interesting about this phenomenon is that women are getting involved as well.

Poker and gambling are clearly becoming more popular.

It’s finally gone mainstream.

The old image was that only shady people in dark speak-easies gambled, but now that’s not the case.

Kids and adults – both male and female – are gambling. But with this essentially harmless business can come consequences, and ones college students aren’t always ready for.

Perspective, a Higher Education newsletter, published a story just last September about the effects of gambling among college students. Notably, the article stated college gambling “was a common and benign experience for most.”

But according to the story, for a few students, gambling was also associated with an unwillingness to take part in personal responsibilities, binge drinking and unsafe sexual activity.

Another publication, The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, also recently published a story that investigated which types of kids tend to have greater gambling tendencies.

According to the study, “students who feel they have less choice and base decisions on contingencies, pressures and characteristics of the environment (as indicated by higher scores on controlled orientation) gamble more frequently, spend more money and have more negative consequences.”

In other words, kids that often feel overly pressured and tend to not think about the consequences of their actions are most likely to gamble.

Now, show me a college student who never feels pressured and always weighs the consequences of his actions and I’ll show you someone who isn’t a college student.

The weight of study and peer pressure produces a perfect climate for college gambling disorders.

Simpson has done a lot to inform students on topics such as personal well-being, drinking and smoking, but is yet to tackle the growing problem of disorder gambling.

It’s true that gambling, especially with games such as poker, is normally no big deal. As the studies indicated, small games really aren’t causing much harm.

But, we must also remember there’s a percentage out there that can easily fall victim to the lure of fast money.

Students need to be well-informed about what they’re getting into. That way, they can make good decisions and those who are already struggling financially don’t waste their money.

Even if the Huskers have to take a low blow once in a while.