Students weigh the price of gambling

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Sarah Small

Scott Johnson, junior in LAS, played his first online poker game at the age of 13. Within a week of his first time playing, he had won $900. Three hours later, he lost all of his money.

Johnson turned 18 his first day at the University as a freshman, and during his first days on campus, he won $3,000. He cashed out $1,000 of this and lost $2,000. Since the first time he played an online poker tournament, Johnson has experienced the ups and downs of winning and losing.

“It’s a euphoria that you can’t describe unless you’re there,” Johnson said.

John Kindt, a professor in business administration who has done extensive research regarding gambling, said a big problem on college campuses is online gambling because students do not even realize it is illegal.

“Every year I ask my classes if gambling online is a federal crime, and there are still students who do not know this,” Kindt said. “Gambling online is totally, 100 percent illegal. No exceptions.”

About 2 percent of the adult population are addicted to gambling, or have a high affinity to become addicted to gambling, Kindt said. The percentage of young people, between the ages of 18 and 26, is even higher, at 4 to 6 percent.

“In high school classes, they tell you about drugs and alcohol, but they don’t tell it’s easy to get hooked on gambling,” Kindt said.

“There are students getting hooked and don’t realize the addictive behavior. Parents need to know students are in danger of losing their tuition money.”

Johnson said he sees a connection between online gambling Web sites and the University.

In the past, he has been invited to high-stakes games at apartments on campus.

He estimates that on any weekend, there are probably about five or six high-stake games around campus. For such games, players are usually required to bring about $500 to the table.

“I never went to anything because it’s very, very shady,” Johnson said. “I don’t trust a lot of poker players because when you’re dealing with that much money, it’s easy to get involved in the wrong things.”

Men are more interested in gambling than women and often start with sport gambling, Kindt said.

Some of the most popular sporting events to bet on are NFL and college football games, but it is possible to bet on any sporting event.

Craig Toberman, sophomore in ACES, said sport gambling is a way to make sporting events more exciting.

“People don’t play for the money; they play to have fun,” Tolberman said.

“It makes the games more intense because you pay attention to every play.”

In addition to the illegalities of online gambling, people don’t know who they’re playing with, and even if they are winning money, they still run the risk of not ever receiving money, Kindt said.

“If you lose you lose, and if you win you lose,” Kindt said. “You don’t know who you’re playing with, and you can’t force them to pay because you’re gambling illegally.”

In the end, the biggest winners are the people behind the Web site or setting the odds on games.

“The odds come from Vegas, and Vegas always wins,” Toberman said.

In online gambling games, the people running the Web sites are making billions of dollars every year, with the site operators making about 25 cents for each person playing, Johnson said.

“I always like to say you have to play with money that you’re willing to lose,” Johnson said.

“If you don’t have that it, you shouldn’t be playing.”