The University of Central Florida Partners with the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling in Addressing Problem Gambling Within the College Population

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A recent study conducted among college age students across the state revealed that 66% of students had gambled in the past year, and 1 in 5 students is at risk of or already has developed a problem with gambling.

“Gambling is a serious problem for many college students and with it comes a host of negative consequences, including an increased risk of suicide,” says Pat Fowler, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG).

A recent study conducted among college age students across the state revealed that 66% of students had gambled in the past year, and 1 in 5 students is at risk of or already has developed a problem with gambling. “Gambling is a serious problem for many college students and with it comes a host of negative consequences, including an increased risk of suicide,” says Pat Fowler, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG). Fowler describes a lack of concern, “Most people don’t perceive gambling among college students as a serious problem. Given the persistent threat of alcohol and drug use, as well as violence and unsafe sexual activity, gambling does not often rank high on the list when it comes to the health of young people. This perception in too many cases is dangerously inaccurate.”

The FCCG is the statewide designated authority on problem and compulsive gambling, and recognizes the dangers associated with this addiction, particularly among college students. The FCCG offers a variety of resources specific to this population, including a counselor’s workbook, a comprehensive campus-wide educational program with materials for student-athletes, financial aid counselors, resident advisors and peer educators, as well as a Peer Connect service and online forums.

In 2008, FCCG partnered with the REAL Project at UCF to develop Students Against Problem Gambling (SAGA). The REAL Project at UCF is a nationally recognized prevention and intervention program that provides services for students who are concerned about gambling problems as well as substance abuse. SAGA is designed to teach student leaders how to recognize signs of problem gambling and to connect their friends and classmates with resources available on campus and in the community.

Tom Hall leads UCF’s substance abuse prevention and intervention services. His prior experience includes developing mental health and substance abuse programs for high school and college-aged populations. He recently piloted FCCG’s program “Is it Worth the Risk?” at UCF. The program includes activities, training guides and related materials to raise awareness of the dangers associated with problem gambling. Student learning outcomes associated with the pilot in a classroom setting are promising.

“Collaborating with the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling on this project helped me better understand the impact of gambling on college students,” Hall said. “The public often perceives gambling primarily as a problem for professional athletes, celebrities and other high-wage earners. Our efforts demonstrate the need to sustain a dialogue with college students about problem gambling.”

The REAL Project will continue to support the Council’s efforts to develop effective programs for colleges and universities to combat problem gambling. Hall adds “our partnership with FCCG supports our mission to provide students with opportunities to succeed both inside and outside the classroom.”

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