Win One for the Students: Sports Wagering by College Students

Article excerpt

College students (N=359) at a university with legal access to sports betting were asked how often they wagered on athletic events. Sightly over half of the sample (53.5%) said they never wagered on sporting events at a casino, but nearly as many (46.4%) reported betting "once in a while." During the past 6 months, 13% reported making at least one bet on their alma mater, with a significant difference between males (23.2%) and females (7.5%). Of those in the sample who were not of legal age, 16% said they had bet in a casino once or more often on a sport event, and 15% said they had bet on a local school team since the change in the law permitted it.

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College students placing bets on the outcome of sporting events has emerged as a significant research topic and public policy issue during the past decade. It has been the focus of considerable national news media. Sports Illustrated lead the way with a three part article (Layden, 1995), while other national print and broadcast media have followed. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has also taken an interest. They appointed a "gambling issues representative," and conducted a survey which found that 3.7% of the Division I student-athletes reported having gambled money on a game in which they played, and 25.5% said they had gambled money on other college sporting contests (Cullen and Latessa, 1996). Finally, for the past two years the United States Congress has considered intervening with a federal prohibition of wagering on college and amateur sporting events.

Currently, wagering on college athletic teams is legal in only one state, Nevada. However, until recently state law forbade betting on college teams from the state of Nevada. In an attempt at forestalling a federal ban on all college sports betting, the Nevada legislature removed the limit beginning in February, 2001. (For an excellent overview of betting on college sports and its consequences see Sperber (2000).

The lifting of the ban may have had a significant effect on wagering by college students and the general public, though it is too early for a final assessment. One Las Vegas sports book supervisor was recently quoted as saying "We get tons of actions on those games [UNLV], I read where someone said its not a big deal, but it is a big deal." He went on to add that UNLV games were "among his book's most heavily bet all year" (Iole, 2001, p. 6c). Testimony is, however, no substitute for data.

The purpose of the present study was three fold: first, to obtain an estimate of sports betting by college students following the change in Nevada law permitting bets on local teams, second, to determine some of the attributes of those who did bet on local teams, and finally, to estimate the prevalence of sports wagering by underage student casino patrons

Although the UNLV student body may not be representative of college students nationally, they do provide a baseline against which to assess reports from other campuses, a baseline representing the only state where bets on college athletic teams may be legally placed Thus, samples drawn from UNLV afford a measure obtainable in few, if any, other place.

Method

Subjects

Students who voluntarily participated in this study were sampled from Psychology classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The convenience sample of students (N=359) was 35.7% male, 64.3% female, and the modal age category was 21 to 29 years (24.9% were under 21 years of age). Residents of Nevada comprised 79% of the sample, and a majority of the participants were not currently nor had ever been employed by a casino/hotel (69%).

Instrumentation and procedure

The questionaire consisted of 15 items pertaining to aspects of sports betting with demographic questions limited to gender, age range, residency status, and history of employment in the hotel/casino industry. The students were informed about the nature of the study, and given time to complete the questionnaire in class. …