With increased tuition fees, greater financial pressures and a tidal wave of advertising, it is perhaps no surprise that more and more students are finding themselves involved in the perilous world of online gambling.
The temptation of online gambling has created financial problems for hundreds of students across the UK, tempted in by companies such as Ladbrokes and bet365, offering irresistible “risk free” sign up bonuses and promising lucrative returns in exchange for your debit card details. Before football matches, on Facebook, and across the internet, eye catching and alluring adverts entice millions across the country to part with their savings.
Whilst gambling has traditionally been seen as the past-time of middle aged men, technological advancements have moved casinos online and opened up a younger, more vulnerable audience to be targeted. So why do students provide the perfect marketing opportunity for such companies?
One reason why young people choose to get involved in such a risky activity is boredom. Lectures aside, many students have hours of free time daily, which combined with rapid internet connections in University accommodation, provide the ideal habitat for an addiction to be born.
Another factor that influences a student’s susceptibility to gambling, is the new-found control over finances sprung upon them after leaving home for the first time. A sudden influx of funds from the Student Loan Company may be seen as a golden opportunity to make serious money, as many ignore the reality that the loan is not actually “free money” and does have to be repaid.
Strangely enough, the biggest problem starts when the user starts winning, as the websites play upon the greed of individual customers to lure them to re-invest their winnings. Having experienced the sweet taste of success, helpless gamblers are powerless to resist a bombardment of emails, offering ‘incredible’ chances for them to make their fortune. It seems it is only a matter of time before opportunistic companies realise the potential of student markets and ‘Student Specials’ start to appear on the side of Facebook pages across the country.
Although clearly not everyone who gambles can be labelled an addict, a one off bet rewarded with success can quickly develop into a habit, and over time, an obsession. The harmful effects of this are obvious. Stories of teenagers spending hours playing online poker, missing lectures, rejecting social interaction and failing exams act as a warning to others, although the lack of media attention to the issue is alarming. Unlike drugs and alcohol, there are no government advertising campaigns warning of the dangers, there are no University help programs to advise students, and perhaps most frightening of all, there is no attention given to the problem in the press.
So what should be done? Whilst restrictions on University internet access may appear a fitting solution, it is highly unlikely that the Student Community would welcome such measures. Perhaps a more viable resolution at this stage is an awareness campaign targeting young adults. Simple actions like the distribution of leaflets at the Student Union are often the most effective and help lead the way for further action in the future.
Similarly to alcohol and drug addictions, a social taboo lingers over the subject. Surely talking about the problem is the first step to helping those already hooked and therefore crucial in preventing others falling into the same trap?