Gambling – Knowing the risks.

Have you found yourself gambling part of your loan or turning to gambling as a way to prop up your finances. It turns out you aren’t alone.

Tens of thousands of students each year are using their loans to gamble in a bid to top up their funds, with many ending up in debt as much as £5,000 or more.

It’s easy to consider gambling as a ‘quick win’ to give yourself an extra couple of hundred pounds at the end of a term? Many students are increasingly turning to gambling as the student support provided by the government has failed to keep up with the rising costs of living.

You can see the findings from the launch of NUS' Student Gambling survey here.

The Facts

Findings from a recent NUS survey, reveals:

-          Around three in five (59 per cent) students have gambled in the last year

-          Around half (48 per cent) did so to make money.

-          1 in 8 will bet more than they can afford to lose.

-          50% of those who have accrued debt have in excess of £1,000 

-          1 in 10 owe over £5,000.

-          Almost 1 in 10 have used all or some of student loan to gamble.

-          Nearly a quarter feel guilty when gambling and for those who have experienced problems with mental health as a result of gambling, the common feelings are of extreme stress and feeling depressed.

However, the cost of gambling can become a burden as many realise there is usually only one winner and as debt increases, this can have an impact on mental health bringing increased feelings of stress, guilt and feeling depressed.

The Reality

We spoke to Jason a student from Birmingham who shared his experience of gambling with us.

“My time at University saw the development of an unhealthy relationship between gambling and my mental health. I did not lose ‘life-changing’ amounts of money but often the temptation to gamble would kick in when making ends meet, often towards the end of term, became most difficult. So many students like me face a difficult time trying to balance all aspects of University life. I viewed gambling as a way by which I could make money quickly in order to help relieve the stress of financial worry, but it did not work that way.

An issue I found with gambling and student life was that often the problem was not gambling itself, but frequent thoughts about whether having a bet would be an effective way to help ease the financial burden of University. It altered my perception of watching live sport, one of my favourite hobbies, from being something I would do in my free time to something I would micro-analyse in order to have a have a bet. This kind of gambling is not good practice and you can easily trap yourself in a mental cycle of chasing losses, which only worsens your financial situation.

The University environment is a lot more stressful than many of us starting out realise; the combination of increased independence, financial autonomy and new-found freedom sounds like a dream to many, but it also brings with it a host of problems. For instance, my student loan was the first time I had ever had access to a large amount of cash, and I was unpractised in budgeting. When you gamble you often feel like you can win and it is indeed possible, but bookmakers also have the power to close profitable online accounts so you can never win for too long or win too much. I feel like students are sometimes unaware of how bookmakers operate and feel like they can win even when the odds are stacked against them. The lack of education on how something like gambling can affect your mental health is worrying.

Online self-exclusion was a great first step for me personally in helping to stop me gambling by removing the temptation to do so. This helped me financially and mentally, as having a preventative tool that made accessing online gambling websites impossible saved me money, and perhaps most importantly, freed up so much time mentally to focus on other aspects of University life. University is often described by many as “the best years of their life” and whilst this is true for many, there are many dangers associated with the transition to University life and the stresses you encounter along the way. Gambling is one of these dangers and needs to be recognised as such.

There Is Help

One area that can assist students is self-exclusion. There are a number of software products than can be downloaded and block access to online gambling sites. Some of these have proven to be 99% affective and a good step in the right direction for many.

NUS have entered a partnership with Gamban gambling blocking software – which is now being offered free to all students.

Students’ union across the country continue to support students with addiction concerns and financial problems via their student support services and NUS encourages students with any concerns around this to get help by speak to a students’ union. Gambling is a danger that needs to be recognised.


Further Guidance

National Problem Gambling Helpline (GamCare): +44 (0)808 8020 133 or LIVE CHAT
GamCare: +44 (0)20 7801 7000
Breakeven: +44 (0)1273 833722
The Beacon Counselling Trust: +44 (0)151 321 1099
National Problem Gambling Clinic: +44 (0)20 7381 7722
Addiction Recovery Agency: +44 (0)117 930 0282
BetKnowMore: +44 (0)800 066 4827
All Out: +44 (0)7851 494 927
Krysallis: +44 (0)1423 857939
Aquarius +44 (0)300 456 4293
The Chinese National Healthy Living Centre:+44 (0)20 3802 0350
Cumbria Counselling group: +44 (0)1946 820 230
Derman +44 (0)20 7613 5944
IMPACT Alcohol & Addictions Services +44 (0)1952 223 165
North East Council on Addictions +44 (0)191 414 6446
Options +44 (0)23 8063 0219
RCA Trust +44 (0)141 887 0880
Steven James Counselling +44 (0)1202 740 044
Gamblers Anonymous Scotland Helpline: +44 (0)370 050 8881
Newport Citizens’ Advice Bureau: +44 (0)7763911804
Living Room Cardiff: +44 (0)29 2049 3895
Gamblers Anonymous UK +44 (0)20 7384 3040
UK Gambling Commission: +44 (0)121 230 6666
GambleAware: +44 (0)20 7287 1994
Gordon Moody Association

We recommend signing up to GAMSTOP in addition to gamban® for added protection.