In a move to reduce the possibility of students developing problem gambling tendencies, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling is assisting regional colleges to identify college problem gamblers and obtain assistance for them as soon as practicable.
Explaining the need for early identification and corrective action, council executive director Pat Fowler said: "By the time the problem is recognised, they have already put their education and future on the line."
The Council's new initiative is informed by a study conducted by the University of South Florida, which surveyed 2 300 students at seven Florida campuses and concluded that up to 5 percent displayed symptoms of problem gambling, four times the rate of the general adult population in Florida. The university followed the American Psychiatric Association's definition of pathological gambling, which defines the syndrome as "persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior."
Fowler claims that a major contributing factor to the college problem gambling issue is Internet poker. "With free time plentiful and computer access everywhere, students, especially males, spend hours playing at online sites," she said.
The Council is implementing its corrective program, Students Against Gambling Addiction, at colleges throughout the sunshine state. Recommendations include techniques to help adults and residence hall counsellors recognise problem gamblers, building a higher profile for the state's problem gambling hotline and a suggestion that universities do not sanction on-campus gambling activities such as poker tournaments and casino nights.
Problem gambling statistics at individual colleges will not be disclosed, although state-wide figures will be made public.