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Study Says Colleges Lack Resources to Treat Problem Gamblers

A national gambling task force recommended that colleges and universities treat campus gambling problems the same way they treat alcohol abuse among students.

According to the Task Force of College Gambling Policies, nearly 80 percent of all schools do not have a written policy concerning gambling abuse. The study was done by the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School, and was funded by the National Center for Responsible Gaming.

Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that the task force came up with ten science-based policy recommendations that can be adopted and tailored for implementation by colleges and universities nationwide.

“Research has shown that teenagers and college-aged young adults are more impulsive and at higher risk for developing gambling disorders than adults," said Christine Reilly, executive director of the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders.

The task force involved 12 colleges, including University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which was represented by Bo Bernhard, an associate professor at UNLV's International Gaming Institute, who specializes in problem gambling research. He wasn't surprised that so few schools have policies to address gambling addiction.

Bernhard said UNLV's policy on student gambling treats the issue under the guise of getting someone counseling and treatment, rather than dealing with the matter with a punitive measure, such as expelling the student.

"That's an idea that worked its way into our list of recommendations," Bernhard said. "Obviously, I'm biased and I think we have a good policy (at UNLV). But there are always things that can be done to make it better."

In discussing gambling issues with his fellow task force members, Bernhard said gambling problems crossed a wide spectrum, from online gambling and live poker games in dorm rooms to sports wagering. He said the nationwide expansion of gaming, through riverboats and Indian casinos, made the activity more accessible to students.

During a conference call to discuss the findings, task force chairman Peter Van D. Emerson of the Cambridge Health Alliance said addictions are treated differently on college campuses.

"If a student presents himself to a university health service with a physical problem such as kidney disease or a fractured hip, the college will bend over backward to assist the student," he said. "Addiction is in a different category."

The ten policy recommendations focused on three primary areas: on-campus prohibitions and restrictions, recognition of the importance of recovery-based policies and how to facilitate them, and special events.

The task force recommended that schools establish a campus-wide committee to develop a comprehensive gambling policy, make reasonable accommodations for students who miss classes as they focus on recovery, and strengthen the capacity of counseling services to identify and treat gambling disorders.

"We know from research that when higher education institutions adopt and enforce clear policies, they can be very effective in preventing students from experiencing negative consequences from their decisions around health issues and can help them learn healthy habits they can take with them after college," said Kristy Wanner, a member of the task force and the gambling prevention coordinator for Missouri Partners in Prevention at the University of Missouri.

Information on how universities deal with preventing campus alcohol abuse was reviewed as background research.

The task force examined scientific literature about alcohol and gambling on universities; state, local, and federal laws relating to alcohol and gambling; programs intended to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs; and existing campus alcohol and gambling policies.

University policies on alcohol and gambling at on-campus events, including charity and sporting events, were also reviewed.

"We hope that the recommendations in this report will stimulate dialogue on college and university campuses about ways to integrate efforts to reduce gambling problems into existing programs focused on addictive behaviors," Reilly said.

Posted on April 14th, 2010

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