Sports Wagering

Schools double down on wagering awareness

To better understand schools’ current practices and challenges related to sports gambling education, the NCAA Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Wagering and a national office team of subject matter experts issued a survey to compliance directors in all three divisions.

NCAA, members continue to address sports wagering concerns

In the wake of recent changes to laws regarding sports wagering, the NCAA national office and representatives from member schools have continued to work to protect both the integrity of competition and the well-being of student-athletes.

Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Wagering

The Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Wagering has been established to protect student-athlete well-being and ensure the integrity of competition. The committee is charged with examining the sports wagering landscape and its potential impact on current NCAA rules, educational efforts, player availability reporting, and any associated risks as more states legalize sports wagering. The committee consists of 12 members, including at least one president or chancellor, one director of athletics from a Division I autonomy conference and one student-athlete. The committee has six members from Division I, three from Division II and three members from Division III. The committee also includes members that have a working knowledge of sports medicine/athletic training and research. It also has the opportunity to engage subject matter experts as necessary to carry out its duties.

Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Wagering Roster

NCAA to use technology services to monitor sports wagering

As part of its ongoing efforts to protect the integrity of competitions, the NCAA national office is working with service providers to improve how it monitors sports wagering in the global betting market. The move comes as legalized gambling expands in the United States following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for states to allow sports wagering.

NCAA examining impact of sports wagering

As sports wagering in the United States expands, the NCAA national office is examining the long-term impact on college sports. An internal team of subject matter experts will explore how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.

NCAA supports federal sports wagering regulation

To ensure integrity in sport, the NCAA supports a federal model addressing legalized gambling and has suspended its championship host policy related to sports wagering.

NCAA statement on Supreme Court sports wagering decision

"Today the United States Supreme Court issued a clear decision that PASPA is unconstitutional, reversing the lower courts that held otherwise. While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college...

Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes


  • Overall rates of gambling among NCAA men have decreased.  Fifty-five percent of men in the 2016 study reported gambling for money within the past year, compared to 57% of respondents in the 2012 study and 66% in 2008.  As in the general population (college-aged and otherwise), women engage in nearly all gambling activities at much lower rates than men.  Over the 12-year period studied, participation in most gambling activities decreased among all student-athletes despite the expansion of land-based and online gambling opportunities during this time.
  • However, in contrast to activities such as poker or online casino games, sports wagering remains popular among student-athletes.  In 2016, 24% of men reported violating NCAA bylaws within the previous year by wagering on sports for money (9% reported wagering on sports once per month or more).  These rates are just slightly lower those seen in the 2008 and 2012 surveys.  About 5% of current NCAA women reported wagering on sports in the past year.
  • Most of the gambling and sports wagering behaviors of student-athletes involve low stakes.  Among student-athletes who have ever gambled for money, the largest reported one-day loss is less than $10 for nearly one-third of men and more than onehalf of women.  Only 35% of men and 13% of women gamblers have ever lost more than $50 in a day.  Of the student-athletes who have ever wagered on sports, only 21% of men and 5% of women reported losing more than $50 in a day.  Most fantasy sports and basketball pool participation among student-athletes involves similarly low amounts.
  • That said, gambling and sports wagering can lead to significant well-being issues for some student-athletes.  Just under 2% of men participating in the 2016 survey (along with a smaller percentage of women) met standard diagnostic criteria for problem gambling.  Four percent of men who had gambled in the past year reported one-day gambling losses of $500 or more.  Student-athlete gambling debts are a wellbeing concern, but also a worry for potential vulnerability to outside gambling influences. 
  • Gambling and sports wagering behaviors are initiated long before college for many NCAA student-athletes.  Thirty-one percent of NCAA men and 14% of NCAA women gamblers had their first such experience prior to entering high school.  Only 12% of men and 31% of women in the 2016 survey who had ever gambled indicated that they first gambled in college.  Among those student-athletes who have ever bet on sports, 90% of men and 82% of women placed their first bet before entering college.  Although playing cards for money was the most common gambling entry point for current NCAA men, we are increasingly seeing sports wagering being cited as their first gambling activity.
  • There are many different sports on which student-athletes report wagering, but the majority of sports betting is focused on a few sports.  The NFL remains the top sports wagering target for both men (65% of those who bet on sports in the past year) and women (44%), followed closely by college basketball (primarily tournament pools or bracket contests).  The NBA and college football round out the top four targets for both men and women.
  • Technology continues to change how gambling and sports wagering occur.  Most student-athlete sports betting occurs among friends, family and teammates.  However, the next most popular method for placing a sports bet is not at a casino / sports book or a via a traditional bookie, but electronically through an Internet site or an application on one’s phone or tablet.  One-third of the men and 15% of the women who reported wagering on sports in the 2016 survey placed bets electronically.  In addition, a number of student-athletes continue to report engaging in some form of simulated gambling activity via social media sites, videogame consoles or mobile devices.  These games are being increasingly marketed toward youth, and the line between gaming and gambling via social media sites is quickly disappearing in many countries.  
  • There are contest fairness concerns around sports wagering technological enhancements.  We continue to have concerns that wagering enhancements such as live in-game betting (odds generated in real-time for participants to bet on various aspects of a game as it unfolds) could present increased opportunities to profit from “spot fixing” a contest (just a single mid-game event or portion of a contest needing to be fixed for a bet to pay off) as has been uncovered recently in a number of international sports leagues.  Spot fixing is generally seen as easier to undertake and harder to detect than manipulating a final contest outcome.  Thirteen percent of the NCAA men who wagered on sports in the past year engaged in live in-game betting.  An additional technological concern is the proliferation of websites that offer betting lines on NCAA sports outside of men’s basketball and football, including non-Division I contests.
  • Fantasy sports continue to be popular among student-athletes.  However, it appears that daily fantasy games have not led to increases in the number of student-athlete fantasy participants.  Approximately 10% of NCAA women and onehalf of NCAA men have participated in free fantasy sports leagues.  Twenty percent of men and 3% of women in the 2016 study reported having played (in violation of NCAA bylaws) in fantasy leagues with an entry fee and prize money during the past year.  Both sets of rates are similar to what was seen in the 2008 and 2012 surveys.  Although 11% of men and 2% of women surveyed in 2016 said they had recently played daily or weekly online fantasy sports contests for money, these participants overlapped substantially with those who reported playing season-long fantasy games.  Note that the 2016 survey took place in proximity to a spike in advertising for such daily fantasy sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel. 
  • Student-athletes seem to be more attuned to outside sources looking for inside information.  Division I men’s basketball and football players continue to be seen by gamblers as important potential sources for information that can provide a betting edge, whether that information comes indirectly (e.g., via a social media posting) or directly from the student-athlete.  Perhaps as a result of campus educational efforts, the percentage of student-athletes reporting that they knowingly provided inside information remains lower than seen when these surveys began in 2004.  In 2016, Division I football and basketball players reported being much less likely to post information via social media that could be useful to gamblers than was the case in 2012.
  • It is difficult, if not impossible, to get a true gauge of illegal match fixing / point shaving behavior among student-athletes from these surveys.  That said, we have generally seen decreases in student-athletes reporting the most concerning behaviors (betting on their own team, being asked to influence the outcome of a game, etc.) since 2004.  One concerning number from 2016:  Eleven percent of Division I football players and 5% of men’s basketball players reported betting on a college game in their sport (but not involving their team).
  • Substantial divisional differences remain in gambling and sports wagering behaviors.  Although their rates have dropped a bit over the course of the study, men and women in Divisions II and III continue to gamble and wager on sports (in violation of NCAA bylaws) at much higher levels than observed among Division I studentathletes.  Whereas 17% of men in Division I reported wagering on sports in 2016, that percentage was 23% in Division II and 32% in Division III (for women, the Division I, II and III sports wagering rates were 3%, 4% and 7% respectively).  The most likely reasons for these disparities are differences in educating student-athletes about NCAA sports wagering rules and perceptions that the rules (and potential issues of contest fairness) are solely a Division I concern. 
  • Some inroads appear to have been made with Division I golf student-athletes.  However, there are still significant reasons to be concerned about gambling and sports wagering among golf student-athletes generally.  Even outside the pervasive culture of on-course wagering in the sport, golf student-athletes (men in particular) across NCAA division are significantly more likely to engage in virtually every gambling activity assessed compared to other student-athletes.  For example, 18% of men’s golfers report betting on sports (outside of on-course wagering) at least once per month versus 9% among other men.  They are also two to three times more likely than other men to frequent casinos, play cards for money and play casino games on the Internet.  Ten percent of Division I men’s golf participants reported betting on another team from their school, 16% said they know a bookie and 4% report knowing a studentathlete bookie at their school.
  • Knowledge/understanding of NCAA wagering bylaws has risen since 2012.  Among men and women within each NCAA division, more student-athletes reported in 2016 that they had received information on the NCAA sports wagering rules.  Awareness of the rules is highest in Division I (76% among men and 82% for women) and lowest in Division III (68% for men, 64% for women).  In addition to NCAA efforts to educate student-athletes (particularly those on the highest-profile teams) on sports wagering issues, many schools are making substantial efforts to provide their studentathletes with innovative programming and timely reminders about NCAA sports wagering bylaws.
  • Changing attitudes about gambling and sports wagering is a difficult task.  Fiftyfour percent of NCAA men and 31% of women currently report that they think sports wagering is a harmless pastime.  These figures are substantially higher (76% and 61%) among those student-athletes who wager on sports.  Half of men and one-quarter of women who bet on sports think they can consistently make a lot of money on the activity.  They also feel that many others violate NCAA wagering bylaws and one-quarter believes coaches do not take these rules seriously.  This last finding is important because student-athletes report that coach and teammate awareness/reaction is a significant factor in getting student-athletes not to wager.
  • More than one-quarter of student-athletes are uncomfortable that people bet on college sports and more than half do not think gambling entities should advertise at college sporting events or during college sports telecasts.  A slightly higher proportion (one-third) of Division I football and men’s basketball players report being uncomfortable with college sports wagering.
  • Continued enhancements and innovations in educational programming are necessary to protect student-athlete well-being and contest fairness.  As gambling opportunities and technologies continue to evolve and laws regulating the industry potentially change, it will be important that educational programming for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators be continuously evaluated.  To be maximally effective, this programming needs to go beyond simply telling these groups not to gamble/wager, given the deepening normative nature of gambling and sports wagering in our society.   These programs should assist all involved in college athletics to recognize risk factors associated with problem gambling, provide up-to-date information on the science and technology of gambling and sports wagering (e.g., betting lines are set using a great deal of data/research; gamblers can easily reach student-athletes through social media), and even promote strategies for discussing perceptions and normative expectations associated with gambling/wagering (e.g., being an athlete does not necessarily mean one has the insight required to make money wagering on sports, as many student-athletes believe).  Many schools have developed their own educational initiatives and it is clear from the data that these local efforts are more effective than just receiving materials from outside entities like the NCAA staff.  Above almost anything else, a typical student-athlete does not want to negatively impact his/her team.  So, it is important that student-athletes from all three NCAA divisions fully understand not only the NCAA penalties for sports wagering, but also the potential negative outcomes for student-athlete and team well-being.

Study Background

  • Over the course of four study iterations (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016), more than 84,000 student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions were surveyed about their attitudes toward and engagement in various gambling activities, including sports wagering.  This includes 22,388 in the 2016 study.
  • Surveys were administered with the assistance of campus faculty athletics representatives (FARs), who were asked to survey up to three teams on each of their campuses.  It is estimated that more than 60% of NCAA member schools participated on each occasion.
  • Study protocols were designed to ensure the anonymity of participating studentathletes and schools.
  • Analyses were limited to 22 sports (11 for men and 11 for women) that were adequately sampled in each NCAA division within each administration.
  • A high data-cleaning standard was applied consistently to data from each administration.  Data were then weighted in comparison to national participation rates within the sampled sports to create national aggregates.
  • Study investigators are Dr. Thomas Paskus of the NCAA Research staff and Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky of McGill University.

Download the Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes: Executive Summary

Sports Wagering

NCAA rules prohibit participation in sports wagering activities and from providing information to individuals involved in or associated with any type of sports wagering activities concerning intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics competition. Sports wagering has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the well-being of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.  It also demeans the competition and competitors alike by spreading a message that is contrary to the purpose and meaning of "sport."  Sports competition should be appreciated for the inherent benefits related to participation of student-athletes, coaches and institutions in fair contests, not the amount of money wagered on the outcome of the competition. 



The National Council on Problem Gambling operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700). The network is a single national access point to local resources for those seeking help for a gambling problem. The network consists of 28 call centers which provide resources and referrals for all 50 states, Canada and the US Virgin Islands. Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential.

The National Problem Gambling Helpline Network also includes text and chat services. These features enable those who are gambling online or on their mobile phone to access help the same way they play. One call, text or chat will get you to problem gambling help anywhere in the U.S. 24/7/365.

Mind, Body and Sport: Gambling among student-athletes

By Jeffrey L. Derevensky and Tom Paskus

Gambling remains one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with multinational corporations investing billions of dollars to attract customers. While age restrictions exist in most jurisdictions (the age often is dependent upon the type of gambling), it is an activity in which many colleges students participate.

Most individuals gamble legally, occasionally and in a generally responsible manner (that is, setting and maintaining time and money limits). However, for a small but identifiable subset of youth, gambling can quickly escalate out of control and affect both psychological and physical well-being.

Excessive, problematic or pathological gambling has been repeatedly shown to result in consequences that can include deviant anti-social behaviors, decreased academic performance, impaired athletics performance, and criminal and legal problems.

Generally, the social and problem gambling experiences of college student-athletes are similar to those of other youth gamblers. Results of a 2012 study that the NCAA commissioned found that 57 percent of male student-athletes and 39 percent of female student-athletes reported gambling in some form during the past year, with those student-athletes in Division I reporting the lowest incidence of gambling (50 percent for males; 30 percent for females).  

While pathological gambling is a problem that affects relatively few student-athletes, it is nonetheless a persistent health concern for some individuals: 1.9 percent of males and 0.2 percent of female student-athletes are exhibiting some clinical signs of problem gambling, placing them at extremely high risk for mental health issues.

One notable difference between student-athletes and their peers is that student-athletes tend to be drawn to sports wagering at higher rates. This is not surprising, given their background and interest in sports. However, for student-athletes, wagering on sports can have negative consequences even if the behavior is not classified as excessive or pathological.  

To protect the integrity of college athletics contests, NCAA regulations prohibit student-athletes from betting money on any sporting event (college, professional or otherwise) in which the NCAA conducts collegiate championships. Violations of this regulation can result in a student-athlete losing his or her athletics eligibility, which has clear negative repercussions for the individual and his or her team.

Despite NCAA regulations prohibiting sports wagering for money, 26 percent of male student-athletes report doing just that, with 8 percent gambling on sports at least monthly.  Of particular concern is the culture surrounding golf, where on-course wagering is considered a normative aspect of the experience. Males who participate in NCAA golf are approximately three times more likely to wager on sports (or engage in other gambling behaviors) than other student-athletes.  

While most student-athlete sports wagering occurs solely among friends and teammates, many are now placing bets with online sites or using bookmakers they can access easily via their smartphone. Technology is also allowing outside gamblers seeking “inside” betting information easier access to college student-athletes (for example, through social media). Nearly 1 in 20 Division I men’s basketball student-athletes in the 2012 study reported having been contacted for such inside information.    

Unlike other more publicized addictive behaviors (for example, alcohol, drug abuse, tobacco consumption), gambling problems often go undetected. It is important that student-athletes and athletics personnel understand that a gambling problem parallels other addictive behaviors. Helping student-athletes with a gambling disorder requires education, early assessment, an acknowledgment of a potential problem and effective referrals into the mental health care system.

The ability to identify the college-age problem gambler may be more difficult today because more of it is occurring online. But two-thirds of student-athletes believe that teammates are aware when a member of the team is gambling. They also report that the coach has a strong influence on tolerance for gambling behaviors and for empowering members of the team to intervene when a teammate needs help. Athletics departmental personnel, including athletic trainers and coaches, are in a unique position to observe and interact with student-athletes on a daily basis and help refer student-athletes for the appropriate assistance should such a need arise.

Gambling behaviors among male student-athletes

  2004 Study 2008 Study 2012 Study
  Past Year 1/month + Past Year 1/month + Past Year 1/month +
Played cards for money 46.8% 20.6% 45.9% 14.3% 27.4% 6.1%
Bet horses, dogs 9.8% 2.0% 8.5% 1.4% 6.5% 1.5%
Games of personal skill 39.7% 16.3% 33.1% 13.0% 25.4% 9.9%
Dice, craps 13.4% 4.3% 11.7% 3.9% 7.8% 2.5%
Slots 19.8% 3.6% 15.1% 2.0% 11.9% 1.8%
Lottery tickets 36.2% 11.1% 31.4% 9.1% 35.2% 11.1%
Played stock market 10.2% 4.7% 9.2% 4.5% 7.4% 3.6%
Commercial bingo 6.5% 0.9% 6.9% 1.1% 5.3% 1.2%
Gambled in casino 22.9% 3.8% 18.7% 3.3%
Bet on sports 23.5% 9.6% 29.5% 9.6% 25.7% 8.3%
Casino games on Internet for money 6.8% 2.8% 12.3% 4.7% 7.5% 1.9%

Percentages displayed are cumulative rather than independent. A student-athlete reporting having wagered “once/month or more” is also included in the “past year” figure.


Gambling behaviors among female student-athletes

  2004 Study 2008 Study 2012 Study
  Past Year 1/month + Past Year 1/month + Past Year 1/month +
Played cards for money 19.0% 4.4% 10.7% 1.3% 5.3% 0.6%
Bet horses, dogs 4.8% 0.4% 3.2% 0.1% 2.8% 0.2%
Games of personal skill 14.1% 3.2% 7.2% 1.2% 4.0% 0.7%
Dice, craps 3.5% 0.7% 2.2% 0.3% 2.0% 0.3%
Slots 14.3% 1.3% 9.9% 0.5% 8.4% 0.6%
Lottery tickets 29.7% 5.4% 24.0% 3.5% 30.5% 5.1%
Played stock market 3.5% 1.3% 2.1% 0.6% 1.1% 0.4%
Commercial bingo 7.3% 0.8% 6.8% 0.8% 6.2% 0.8%
Gambled in casino -- -- 11.0% 0.6% 9.4% 0.6%
Bet on sports 6.7% 1.5% 6.6% 0.8% 5.2% 0.6%
Casino games on Internet for money 2.1% 0.8% 1.9% 0.2% 1.8% 0.3%

Percentages displayed are cumulative rather than independent. A student-athlete reporting having wagered “once/month or more” is also included in the “past year” figure.

Q&A with Jeff Derevensky

When it comes to understanding the effects of gambling behavior on student-athletes (or the population in general), few people are more knowledgeable than Jeff Derevensky, the director of the International Center for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University in Montreal.

Following is a Q&A that probes Derevensky’s insights on gambling behaviors.

Question: What are the most alarming trends you’ve seen to date?

Jeff Derevensky: There are several. Perhaps the one from which all others emerge is the global normalization of the behavior. The gambling industry has done a terrific job in that regard – they don’t even call themselves gambling anymore. Now it’s “gaming.” They’re selling entertainment. They’ve gotten away from the sin-and-vice image that had been associated with gambling to where it’s now a normal socially acceptable behavior. TV also has done a remarkable job advertising gambling, not just through sports but through poker tournaments. ESPN has been able to develop inexpensive programming along those lines that has attracted millions of people. The electronic forms of gambling have made it accessible to the average person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even the government is in on the act, supporting lotteries as an easy kind of “voluntary taxation.”

Self-reported personal beliefs of student-athletes about sports wagering
(all divisions, among student-athletes who reported wagering on sports in the last year)

2012 study Males Females
Most athletes in college violate NCAA sports-wagering rules 59% 48%
Wagering is acceptable as long as you don’t wager on your own sport 57% 41%
Coaches see wagering as acceptable as long as you don’t bet on your own games 41% 26%
Athletes and coaches take NCAA sports-wagering rules seriously 62% 68%
I think sports wagering is a harmless pastime 68% 58%
People can consistently make a lot of money gambling 59% 49%

Q: What about other trends and concerns?

JD: The landscape has changed dramatically. There are more states with casinos than ever before. When the NCAA initiated its first gambling task force in 2003, only Nevada and New Jersey had casinos. Now there are plenty of casinos in Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana and many other states. Also, electronic forms of gambling are becoming increasingly popular. In 2003, very few people even thought of gambling online. Now you can wager virtually on anything online. There were odds on what Prince William and Kate Middleton were going to name their baby. You can gamble on who’s going to be the next pope, or the next president. There were odds on where Angelina Jolie would adopt her next child from. In that vein, there is now live in-game betting – odds generated in real time for participants to bet on various aspects of a game as it unfolds. About 10 percent of male student-athletes in the 2012 study who wager on sports have engaged in live in-game betting. “Spot fixing” is another one. Spot fixing is just a single midgame event or portion of a contest needing to be fixed for a bet to pay off. It’s generally seen as easier to do and harder to detect than manipulating a final outcome.

Q: What about the technology? Has gambling through social media become pervasive?

JD: Simulated forms of gambling – often referred to as “practice sites” – that’s the new phenomenon. We currently don’t know if there’s a causal relationship between simulated forms of gambling (for virtual currency) and actual gambling. We do know, however, that as simulated gambling goes up, so does actual gambling and gambling-related problems.

Percentage of student-athletes reporting that they played simulated gambling activities in the past year

  Males Females
Played activity via video game console 18.2% 4.8%
Played activity via social media website 12.0% 4.2%
Played activity via Internet gambling site 10.3% 2.4%
Played activity on a cell phone 14.5% 5.4%
Played a free sports-betting or bracket game online 11.7% 2.2%

Q: What do you mean by simulated forms of gambling?

JD: If you play a simulated form of gambling online, such as virtual slots or fantasy sports or filling out brackets for “virtual money,” it hasn’t been proven that it will prompt you to gamble for real money. But the link is rather intuitive, isn’t it? Playing for “fun” or the “social media-type” games often have greater payouts than the real-money games do. So if you’re playing these games and you’re winning all this virtual money, the natural thought is that, gee, if I had only been playing for real money, look how much I would have made. One of the most frightening findings we’ve recently found in terms of motivation for gambling is that children, teens and even young adults are gambling either for virtual or real money to relieve boredom. It’s just a click away.

Q: How do audiences accept you when you’re presenting around the world?

JD: These days, the most receptive crowd is the industry itself. Years ago, I gave a talk to the Internet gambling industry and they regarded me as a pariah. Somebody in the audience emailed me afterward in fact and said that while it was an interesting presentation, why was I walking back and forth across the stage so much? I answered, “It’s harder to hit a moving target.” Now, the industry is looking at “responsible gaming.” They are concerned about keeping players safe; making sure that people don’t lose their homes, drop out of school, get involved in illegal behaviors or commit suicide because they’re overwhelmed by their gambling problems. Nobody wants that.

Q: What about the reception from colleges and universities?

JD: It’s a little more under the radar at the collegiate level. Most people are more familiar with drug and alcohol issues and violence on campus. But gambling is just like alcohol. While it’s a normalized behavior – for example, with drinking, the message is “as long as you’re old enough and you drink responsibly, then you’re OK.” But you can’t become an alcoholic if you don’t start drinking. And you can’t become a problem gambler if you don’t start gambling. At the youth level, authorities talk with young people about drinking, but not about gambling. We do need more prevention, education, awareness and treatment programs for our youth and their parents.

Q: What’s your advice for colleges and universities now?

JD: First of all, don’t ignore it. Does it affect, or is it harmful to, the majority of your student population? Probably not. But is it negatively affecting at least some of your students? Absolutely. I was with a university president once whose school had collected research on gambling behaviors on campus, but he said he wasn’t going to release the results. I asked him why, and he said he couldn’t trust “gambling researchers” because they would make a big deal of three people out of 5,000 having a problem. I said I understood, but I added that by not releasing the findings, people think you’ve got something to hide. That convinced him to be more transparent. Just like most campuses have policies on drugs and alcohol, they need a policy on gambling.

Q: What is a good way to spot problem gambling behavior?

JD: It’s difficult to do, because not many problem gamblers are open about their situation. But if you notice someone who maybe talks a lot about gambling or is pretty secretive about where he’s going, then that’s a clue. Also, problem gamblers become consumed with the behavior, and everything else tends to slide. If someone who had been doing well in class begins to let his or her grades slip, or if a usually outgoing person becomes reclusive, and of course if that person starts having financial trouble, then problematic gambling might be at the root of those behaviors.

Q: Are there approaches on campus that are known to work?

JD: Student-athletes report that coaches and teammates are their primary influences, so programs targeting those people – particularly coaches – are helpful. I like the idea of involving student services groups as well. The more campus-wide involvement, the better. This is a more general student issue, and not one that affects only student-athletes. It’s important to understand that what starts off as a fun, harmless activity can lead to other serious problems. One or two out of 100 college students having a problem isn’t likely to set the world on fire, but if you approach the gambling issue as being among a number of things that can negatively impact student health and well-being, then your odds of resonating, so to speak, are much greater. It’s important to remember that every problem gambler tends to seriously impact a dozen other people: boyfriends, girlfriends, peers, teammates, coaches, parents and employers. And for student-athletes, it can jeopardize their eligibility.

Most effective ways to influence student-athletes not to wager on sports
(as reported by student-athletes who have wagered on sports in the past year)

Rank Males Females
1 Coach Teammates
2 Teammates NCAA penalties
3 NCAA penalties Coach
4 Pro athlete presentation Pro athlete presentation
5 Parents Law enforcement presentation
6 Athletics department info Athletics department info

Jeff Derevensky is the director of the International Center for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University in Montreal. The National Center for Responsible Gaming recently honored Derevensky with its coveted Scientific Achievement Award, one of dozens of accolades he has earned from his research over time. He and NCAA Principal Scientist Tom Paskus co-authored the 2008 and 2012 NCAA studies on student-athlete wagering behaviors.

Tom Paskus is the principal research scientist for the NCAA. In this role, he directs the NCAA’s national portfolio of studies on the academic trajectories of college student-athletes and oversees the NCAA’s data collections and research initiatives pertaining to the academic, athletic, social, and personal well-being of current and former student-athletes. Before joining the NCAA, Paskus was a faculty member in the quantitative research methods program in the College of Education at the University of Denver. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in quantitative psychology from the University of Virginia, and an A.B. in psychology from Dartmouth College.


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