Risky Business: The Gambling Problem Among College Students

By Kelle Grace Gaddis

In the recently released 2013 film “Runner, protagonist Ritchie Furst, played by Justin Timberlake, believes he can win his Princeton college tuition by playing poker. Ritchie Furst calculates the online gambling statistics of “average poker players” and decides that he has the skill to tip the odds in his favor. He soon loses all of his money and begins a lengthy analysis of the poker sites win/loss statistics. Furst discovers that corrupt online casino owner Ivan Block, played by Ben Affleck has skewed the online poker odds from bad to unbeatable. Timberlake’s character then goes on a mission to get his money back.

In the movie, after considerable hardship, Ritchie Furst succeeds and eventually soars into his future on a private jet having outsmarted the disreputable casino owner. This provides a satisfactory Hollywood ending but in real life casino owners do not need to go out of their way to be corrupt.  The laws governing casino gambling allow casinos to skew the odds in their favor. The saying “The house always wins” is grounded in statistics. The odds against a gambler vary from game to game. Those who gamble on sports are at a 3 percent disadvantage to the house. Keno gives the house a 50 percent advantage and poker, slot machines, blackjack and the rest give the house between a 25 to 40 percent advantage. These impossible odds make getting one’s money back after a significant loss about as likely as winning the lottery.


In the United States casinos earn an estimated $40 billion annually and that number grows every year as online gambling reaches new markets. Dr. Suchma PhD, in the Office of Student affairs at Ohio State University, conducted a survey of college undergraduates at five major campuses: Syracuse University, University of Rhode Island, Connecticut State University and two Minnesota Universities that chose to remain anonymous. The study revealed that 50 percent of all college students had gambled in the last year and that six percent of this group gambled at a pathological level. “While most college students make responsible decisions about gambling, the six percent of college students who have a serious gambling problem suffer from psychological difficulties, unmanageable debt and failing grades.

The University of Washington Bothell, although not a participant in Dr. Suchma’s survey, is located close to several casinos including: the Snoqualmie Casino, Tulalip Casino and Quil Ceda Creek Casino. The college gambling statistics for our region are likely to parallel those of other regions who are in close proximity of gambling venues however the hard data is not yet available.

Online gambling is difficult to regulate. The US Justice Department has sought to ban much of it causing many to turn to illegal online gambling sites. There seems to be little prosecution of online gambling but the odds of winning are still not in one’s favor.


*If you are a problem gambler you can contact collegegambling.org for more information.

One Response to Risky Business: The Gambling Problem Among College Students

  1. sam

    November 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Great to see the Herald posting articles again!! Keep up the good work! I always heard that blackjack was the fairest of all casino games, where did you get your statistics for this article? Also, looks like you switched font sizes back and forth throughout the article. Good read though!

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