University of Oregon Student Gambling Survey – Executive Summary

| February 5, 2013

The  University of Oregon Student Gambling Survey was commissioned by the Lane County Prevention Program and conducted by Steve Johnson & Associates LLC.

Citation: Johnson, S. and McCaslin, C. (2010, June.) UO Student Gambling Survey. Eugene, OR: Steve Johnson & Associates.

Stephen Johnson, Ph.D. & Christine McCaslin, MCRP

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In Oregon today almost 3% of adults are thought to have gambling problems.  At the same time, a majority of Oregon adolescents have gambled and as many as 6% are thought to have problems with gambling, or to be in danger of developing problem gambling behaviors.  College students are estimated to have gambling problems at almost the same rate as adolescents (5.6%), or approximately twice the rate of adults.  For some college students, this could prevent them from finishing school and potentially limit their success later in life.

Lane County Health and Human Services has an active education and prevention program directed at reducing the negative effects of gambling.  In an effort to learn more about gambling among college students, Lane County Health and Human Services commissioned a survey of University of Oregon students in 2007.  Following the 2007 survey, Lane County’s gambling prevention program partnered with the University of Oregon in the creation of a problem gambling awareness and prevention project.  That project ran on the University of Oregon campus from the Fall of 2008, until the end of Spring 2010.  At the conclusion of the project Lane County commissioned a second survey of University of Oregon students and their gambling behavior, attitudes towards gambling, and knowledge about gambling information and resources.  The goal of the second survey was to replicate the first survey and see if there were detectable changes from 2007 to 2010.


For this survey, potential respondents were selected at random from the email address list of all University of Oregon students, with the exception of law students.  Community education students (local residents taking a class, but not pursuing a degree) were not included in the survey.  Potential respondents were sent an email containing a survey introduction and an invitation to visit a secure website and take the survey.  A total of 1,600 invitations were sent out and the survey was closed after 450 people initiated taking the survey.  Of the 450 respondents who consented to start the survey, a total of 439 respondents completed the survey.  For those respondents who wanted to supply a mailing address (recorded separately from the survey results) a $5 gift certificate to Dutch Brothers Coffee was mailed to them by Lane County as an incentive.

For this survey of 439 respondents, the margin of error is + 4.6%.  This means that for any result the true answer, if generalized back to the entire population of University of Oregon students, will be within 4.6 percentage points above or below the result reported here.  For answers in which a large percentage of respondents all have the same opinion, the margin of error will be smaller.  For example, a result in which 85% of people have the same opinion, the margin of error is only + 3.3%.

Survey Results

The students who participated in the survey represented all four undergraduate classes, plus graduate students.  All five of these groups of students were well represented, with participants numbering from 48 to 119, depending on the group.  More women than men took the survey, 69% vs. 31%.  In general, survey respondents typically number more women than men.  Additionally, the University of Oregon has more women than men enrolled, 52% vs. 48%.

In addition to the results discussed in this report, see the Topline Results section for the exact wording of each question and the raw score for each possible response.  The narrative responses to questions that allowed respondents to write additional information are also included in this section.  Readers may also look at the 92 cross-tabulation tables in the Banners Section for detailed information on specific questions and comparisons between men and women, those who gamble frequently and those who do not, and those with specific gambling problems.

Types of Gambling
The survey began by asking respondents about 13 types of gambling that they might have participated in during the last year.  Twenty-four percent of University of Oregon students had never gambled for money and a substantial majority of university students had not participated in each of the 13 types of gambling during the previous year.  However, there were six types of gambling that 10% or more of university students had participated in at least once during the previous 12 months.  Of these six types of gambling, one stood out as by far the most common, with 37% of students purchasing lottery tickets.  Another two forms of gambling, playing card or board games for money and betting on games of personal skill, such as pool, were fairly common, with 29%  and 22% of students respectively having placed such bets during the previous year.

In 2007 the percentage of students participating in all six of these forms of gambling was higher.  In 2007 almost half (49%) of students purchased lottery tickets, and another 49% played board games for money.  In addition, two forms of gambling that over 10% of student participated in in 2007 (the stock market and commercial bingo) in 2010 have only 7% and 8% respectively of students participating.

See Figures 1 and 2  below for the percentage of students participating in each of the six most common types of gambling in 2010 and 2007.

Types of Gambling, University of Oregon (2010)

Types of Gambling, University of Oregon (2007)

As you can see from Figure 1 and 2, most types of student gambling are something that students do less than once a month, or in some cases monthly.  It is very rare for a student to participate in a gambling activity on a weekly basis.  See the Topline Section for the exact percentage of weekly participants for each gambling activity.

Whether or not students participated in gambling activities, the amount of gambling varied significantly between men and women.  While 79% of male students had gambled within the last year, for women the figure was 59%.  Similarly, over half  of the men who gambled (55%) participated in three or more types of gambling, while only 30% of women gamblers participated in three or more types of gambling.  See Banner Table 76 for more information.

Compared with 2007, the number of students gambling in 2010 was approximately the same for both men and women.  However, the number of students who participated in three or more types of gambling had reduced significantly for both men and women between 2007 and 2010.  This information fits with the earlier discussion on the number of students participating in each of the 13 types of gambling asked about in the survey.  Every gambling behavior has fewer participants now than in 2007, not primarily because fewer students are gambling, but because students are limiting how many gambling behaviors they participate in.

The Amount of Money Spent on Gambling
A majority of student gamblers (55%) have never placed a bet for more than $10 on any one day.  However, a very large percentage (34%) have placed bets from $10 to $100 on a single day, while 10% have placed bets in the range of $100 to $1,000 on a single day.  In addition, 1% of student gamblers have wagered more than $1,000 on a single day.  Women gamblers were more likely to have placed small wagers than were men who gambled.  Sixty-five percent of women have never bet more than $10 on a single day, while only 36% of men have limited themselves to these small wagers.  It was most common for men (41%) to have bet between $10 and $100 on a single day, and 79% of all bets over $100 were placed by men, even though the survey gathered information from more than two times as many women as men.  All of these results are identical with the 2007 results, or well within the margin of error of the survey.  See Banner Table 52 for more information.

Attitudes Toward Gambling
After being questioned about gambling behaviors, students were shown a series of statements about gambling and asked for each if the statement was true or false.  The results of these questions show an interesting set of beliefs.  Very few students (17%) were opposed to gambling for moral or religious reasons.  Most students (79%) disagreed with the idea that gambling is more a matter of skill than luck, although perhaps it is more interesting is that 21% of students thought gambling was about skill.

A majority of students (62%) thought problems with gambling could be changed through “will power.”  At the same time, an even larger majority (87%) agreed that gambling is an addiction similar to a drug or alcohol addiction.  Nevertheless, most students (64%) thought treatment for problem gambling was usually successful.  This set of beliefs is consistent with the idea that addictions can be cured, but that individuals have the ability to effect or influence these cures themselves, hence the importance of “will power.”

All of the attitudes toward gambling are very close to the same as they were in 2007.  Although the percentage of students answering true or false changed slightly for each question, all of the changes were all insignificant and well within the margin of error for the two surveys combined.

Gambling Behavior and Debts
Students were next shown a list of 10 possible behaviors or attitudes related to problems people sometimes have with gambling and asked if they had done or felt any of them during the last 12 months.  Four problem behaviors or attitudes were experienced by moderate to small numbers of student gamblers, 2% to 8%, although 13% of student gamblers had at least one of the problems. The remaining 6 problems were experienced by very few student gamblers or by no one who participated in the survey.
Male students were much more likely to hold the attitudes or report behaviors associated with problem gambling than were women gamblers.  Among male student gamblers, 23% had experienced one or more of these problems, while for women gamblers the problems were experienced by 7%.

See Figure 3 below for the overall rate at which these problems are experienced in 2007 and 2010.

Top Four Problem Gambling Behaviors, University of Oregon (2010)

The most common problem, experienced by 8% of student gamblers, was the attempt to recoup gambling losses by returning to gamble another day.  This behavior, which is a form of personal expression of the “gamblers fallacy” (the idea that current losses will be balanced by future gains, or that the past and the future are somehow linked together) usually leads to gambling losses beyond what a person originally was willing to accept.

The next most common problem, experienced by 5% of student gamblers, was spending lots of time thinking about past gambling, planning for future gambling, or trying to think of ways to find the money to gamble.

The third problem experienced by student gamblers was to lie to family or friends in an attempt to hide their gambling behavior.  This problem was less common than either of the first two problems, and was experienced by 3% of student gamblers.

The final problem behavior in this group was the need to gamble with ever increasing sums of money in order to achieve the same level of excitement.  Two and a half percent of student gamblers claimed that this had happened to them.

In 2010, all of the problem behaviors were much less common than they were in 2007.  In particular, thinking obsessively about gambling and lying about gambling had decreased by 50% or more.  This result fits well with the observation that overall gambling has also been reduced.
See Banner Tables 28-38 for more information.

Paying for Gambling Debts
Students were also questioned about another set of gambling behavior problems: borrowing money to pay for gambling debts.  Fortunately, only 6 percent of students who had ever gambled claimed that they had borrowed money for gambling debts.  For those who had borrowed money, it was most common to borrow money from household money or other relatives, followed by borrowing from significant others.  It was almost three times as common for male gamblers to have borrowed money than for women who gambled, 11% vs. 4%.  See Banner Tables 39-51 for more information.

Gambling debt behavior is almost identical to what it was in 2007.  The only change is a slight decrease in the percentage of women with gambling debt problems.  However, the change in women’s gambling debt behavior was not large enough to be significant.

Students were also questioned about the use of financial aid money for gambling.  Although two-thirds of the students surveyed (66%) received some type of financial aid, only 2 students (2% of those who received aid) had used any of their financial aid for gambling during the past year.   Among the students who had used aid money for gambling, they had typically used 10% or less of their aid for this purpose.  These results are identical with the 2007 results.

Toward the end of the survey students were asked about behaviors around athletics and sports betting.  Although 5% claimed to know of a coach or teammate who had placed a sports bet, 1% , or less, of the  respondents had personally been involved in behaviors around fixing sports games, dealing with student sports bookies, or known of teammates who had been involved in sports fixing activities.  These results are unchanged from 2007.

Interestingly, when asked if they had ever had a problem with gambling, 97% of respondents said that they had not.  Of the 3% who claimed to have a gambling problem, all but one of these respondents said that the problem was in the past and was not a current problem.  This result is identical with the 2007 result. See Banner Table 55 for more information.

Although most students did not feel that they had any problems related to gambling, a much larger percentage (21%) claimed to know someone with a gambling problem. Most frequently this person was a parent or relative (29%), although 24% of the people they thought had gambling problems were other University of Oregon students.  These results are identical with the 2007 results, with the exception that the 2007 respondents claim that a larger percentage of those they know with gambling problems were relatives (38%).  See Banner Tables 26 and 27 for more information.

Reasons for Gambling
Students who have ever gambled were asked for their three main reasons for gambling.  By far the main reason students claimed they gambled (91%) was for “fun and social activity.”  The next most common reason picked first for why the respondents gambled was “to win money” picked by 50% of gamblers.  In addition, smaller numbers of students picked “excitement” or “competition” as their  reason for gambling.  See Figure 4 below for a comparison of these reasons.

Reasons for Gambling, University of Oregon (2010)

Although both men and women picked “fun and social activity” as one of their main reasons for gambling, there were some differences between men and women on their reasons for gambling.  For women “fun and social activity” was by far the main reason they claimed they gamble, with 100% of women gamblers picking it as one of their main reason, followed distantly by the desire to “win money” (50%).  For men, “fun and social activity” was also the most common reason (83%), followed by the 50% who want to win money.  However, another major reason men gambled was because it was competitive (25%).  For women, the competition aspect of gambling was only picked by 16% as a major reason for gambling.  In other words, men were one and a half times as likely as women to gamble because it could be seen as a form of competition.  For more information see Banner Table 53.

In 2007 both men and women were just as likely to pick “fun and social activities” as reasons for gambling, but were more likely to pick “winning money”, “excitement”, or “competition” as reasons for gambling.  This change from 2007 to 2010 may be further evidence in a shift in gambling behavior away from more dangerous behaviors, and also reflect the reduction in the number of gambling activities discussed above.

Gambling Information and Resources
The last major section of the survey asked a series of questions about resources for information or help with gambling problems.  Students were first shown a list of 14 sources where information about how to get help with problem gambling might be shared.  They were then asked to pick what they thought were the three best ways to share such information.  All information sources had some students who thought that would be the best way to share information about getting help with problem gambling.  However, 60% of all students chose among just five sources, with “internet website” as the most common choice (55%), followed by “friends” (31%), and “class discussion” (28%), and “posters on campus” (27%).  See Figure 5 below for the top eight choices.

Ways to Share Problem Gambling Information | University of Oregon Student Survey (2010

As you can see from Figure 5 there is very little change from 2007 in how students think information on problem gambling should be shared.  The most interesting change is the more than doubling in the percentage of students who think e-mail is effective way to share information, from just over 10% in 2007, to 24% in 2010.  See Banner Table 56 for more information.

Students were also asked to select from seven possible resources the two that they would turn to if they themselves, or a friend, had a gambling problem.  The most common source students would turn to was the internet (54%).  This was followed by a “parent or guardian” (47%), with women slightly more likely than men to pick this choice (47% vs. 43%).  The third choice was again “student health services (32%), and “Gamblers Anonymous” fourth with 25%.  The major change from 2007 was the doubling in the percentage of people who picked the internet as resource.  See Banner Table 57 for more information.

Students were almost evenly split (53% vs. 47%) on whether or not they thought they knew where to go for information about problem gambling treatment.  However, a smaller percentage (36%) claimed that they had ever seen either of two common gambling hotline numbers.  For those who did think they had seen gambling hotline numbers, 51% thought they had seen them on television.  These results are almost identical to the 2007 results.  See Banner Tables 22 and 58 for more information.

Student Characteristics
The survey concluded with a series of questions about personal characteristics and behaviors.  In addition to asking age, gender, and year in school, students were also asked about their use of drugs and alcohol, and about credit cards.

When asked about drugs and alcohol, the only substance used by a majority of University of Oregon students was alcohol.  Eighty-three percent of students use alcohol, with 42% using it at least once a week.  Students who drank alcohol at least once a week were slightly more likely to engage in more forms of gambling, and to have gambling problem behaviors or problems with gambling debts.  For more information see Banner Table 70.

Cigarettes and illegal drugs had almost similar use patterns, with approximately 82% of students never using cigarettes and 77% never using illegal drugs.  Frequent use was also uncommon, with 7% of students using illegal drugs at least once a week and 10% using tobacco at least once a week. In addition, 8% of students use prescription drugs that are not prescribed to them.  Only alcohol use has any relationship to gambling behavior.  All of these results are almost identical to the 2007 results.  See Banner Tables 70 – 74 for more information.

When asked about credit cards, it was revealed that 60% of students are responsible for credit card bills.  Most students (49%) have one or two cards, while 11% have three or more.  Additionally, almost all students receive credit card solicitations, with 20% receiving solicitations at least once a week.  In 2007, 35% of students received solicitations at least once a week.


Gambling is a common behavior for University of Oregon students.  In the past year, over half of all students have engaged in some form of gambling, most commonly the lottery, board games, or skill games.  Although gambling is fairly common, it is rare for students to gamble more frequently than once a month.  It is also rare for students to bet large sums of money, with the majority of bets less than $10 and with bets over $100 being very rare.  It is also rare for students to engage in a wide variety of gambling behaviors, with only half of male gamblers and one-third of female gamblers engaging in three or more types of gambling.

Since 2007 the percentage of students who gamble has remained close to the same, but the percentage who participate in multiple forms of gambling has reduced significantly.

Some students express attitudes and have engaged in behaviors that would indicate gambling problems.  Thirteen percent of student gamblers have one gambling problem or another, although it is rare to have multiple gambling problems.  Fortunately, student gamblers at the University of Oregon rarely borrow money for gambling debts, a sign that most student gambling is for relatively small stakes and is not imposing a serious economic hardship.  In addition, gambling problem behavior is significantly reduced from what it was in 2007, with the number of students with gambling problem behavior and attitudes only half as common in 2010.

Students primarily gamble for fun and excitement, with monetary reward as a minor goal.  This is probably a further indication that gambling is not a serious behavioral or economic issue for students for very many students.

Students are generally unaware of the community resources available for help with problem gambling.  They think that gambling can be a type of addiction and that it can be treated.  If they were looking for resources on gambling they would be most likely to look first at the internet.

Other than gender, no other demographic variable, including age or year in school, had any significant effect on gambling behavior.  Alcohol consumption had a minor negative effect on gambling behavior.

Although these college students do not exhibit large amounts of problem gambling behavior, other Lane County populations in the same age group may have more problems in this area.  Lane County might consider investigating a non-University population in this age range in order to more fully understand gambling behaviors of young adults.

Most University students still remain unaware of the resources available to them to help with gambling problems.  With the internet as the primary source that University students picked as their source for help with problem gambling resources, Lane County may want to look for other internet sites to link with their services, and monitor internet search engines to make sure Lane County sources come up easily on problem gambling searches.

Category: College Gambling

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