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Reasons for the Increase in Online Gambling

Stuart Brown

[The following is an excerpt from the chapter, "The Surge in Online Gambling on College Campuses," to appear in the upcoming monograph on campus gambling to be published in the New Directions for Student Services series.]

The popularity in online gambling can be attributed, to some extent, to the popular media. There are regularly scheduled broadcasts of poker tournaments on such cable channels as Bravo, ESPN and the Travel Channel. They come complete with strategically placed cameras and color commentators hyping the action. The Spike television network has a weekly Casino Cinema night that mixes poker playing advice and demonstrations during commercial breaks of the broadcast movie. The recently concluded 2005 Poker World Series attracted front page coverage from such stalwarts of journalism as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. In fact, "poker is now the third most watched televised sport on cable TV, trailing only auto racing and football" (Emling, 2005, p.3F).

Even though there are a number of unresolved issues surrounding online gambling this has not dented the enthusiasm and popularity among the campus population. According to Dr. Malcolm Kahn, Director of Counseling at the University of Miami, students see poker players as the stars of today, people they want to emulate (personal communication, July 21, 2005). Several other reasons for the increase in online gambling among young people are discussed below.

Comfort Level With Technology. College and university students have been accessing the Internet since grade school and their use of web-based applications is second nature to them (Kanne, J. et al, 2002).

24/7 Access. With free, universal high speed connections available in residence hall rooms and throughout campuses access to online gambling sites is as effortless as the click of a mouse-no matter the day or time (Walters, 2005).

The Anonymity. In online gambling sites no one knows your identity--who you are, where you are playing, or your age. Players are viewed only as screen names or on-screen icons. If you make an ill-advised move or dumb mistake you are protected by the anonymity of cyberspace (Walters, 2005).

Access to Credit. Today's undergraduate is most likely equipped with at least one credit card. Bill Saum, former Director of Agent Gambling and Amateurism Activities of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, reported that "a study by Nellie Mae indicates that 78 percent of college students have credit cards. Thirty-two percent have four of more" ("Financial aspects," 2001). Kevin Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling stated that college and university students armed with credit cards "is going to result in a lot more internet gambling among adolescents" ("Financial aspects," 2001). The online casinos make the process of utilizing credit cards effortless.

Learning the Ropes. Most online gambling websites entice participants with a play money option. Individuals can learn various poker games and practice at single or multi-table tournaments without spending a dime. As reporter John Walters (2005) states, "you can play 150 hands an hour in one game, easily, online. In poker, as with so many endeavors in life, experience is the best teacher."

Walter Mitty Syndrome. Before winning the 2003 World Series of Poker Tournament, champion Chris Moneymaker's only serious tournament experience came from playing online where he won a tournament on and thus gained a seat in the prestigious 2003 World Series of Poker. He ended up walking away with $2.5 million, inspiring thousands of online college and university undergraduates to take up the game (Appelbaum, 2005; Walters, 2005).

Blogs. These online journals have grown from "an estimated 4.8 million [in December 2004]…up from just 100,000 two years ago" (Gard, 2004). Online gambling blogs play into the narcissism in today's society where students think their views will be absorbed by others (Kahn, M., personal communication, July 21, 2005).


Appelbaum, B. (2005, May 2005). It's easy; it's quick; it's online. Knight Ridder Tribune Business, p. 1.

Emling, S. (2005, August 28). Online gambling hits growing jackpot: Illegality doesn't stem popularity. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, p. 3F.

Financial aspects of Internet gaming: Good gamble or bad bet? (2001). U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Financial Services, July 12, 2001. Retrieved July 24, 2005 from

Gard, L. (2004). The business of blogging. BusinessWeek online, December 13, 2004. Retrieved August 24, 2005 from

Kanne, J., Dunch, D., Tone, J., Schellinger, E., Bechen, E., Allrich, H., Moon, J., McCarthy, S., Vidunas, L., Calderon, N., and Tieu, A. (2002). You're so money: Easy credit and online gambling sites lead students down the path to debt and addiction. Metro, February 7-13, 2002. Retrieved July 24, 2005, from

Walters, J. (2005, May 24). Computer friendly: Gambling has found a growing fan base online., Retrieved July 10, 2005, from

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