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Publish date: May 7, 2013

Latest wagering study shows decrease in gambling activity

Preliminary results from the latest NCAA study of college student-athlete gambling behaviors and attitudes reflect hopeful news in overall rates of gambling within the student-athlete population but raise concerns in the ever-changing technology that influences gambling behaviors among young people.

Overall rates of gambling among male NCAA student-athletes have decreased, according to the 2012 NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes study. Fifty-seven percent of males in the 2012 survey reported gambling for money within the past year, compared to 66 percent of respondents in the 2008 study. As in the general population (college-aged and otherwise), male student-athletes engage in nearly all gambling activities at much higher rates than females.

“The decrease in the rate of gambling among male student-athletes is encouraging,” said Rachel Newman Baker, NCAA managing director of enforcement. “However, the explosive growth of sports wagering has caused a noticeable increase in the number and severity of sports wagering cases investigated by the NCAA. Wagering on sports can be a serious threat to the well-being of our student-athletes and can result in the permanent ineligibility of a student-athlete.”

While the decrease is good news, not all student-athletes follow NCAA rules that prohibit  gambling on sports in which the NCAA conduct championships. In the most recent study, 26 percent of male student-athletes reported violating NCAA rules by wagering on sports for money. These rates are similar to those seen in the 2004 and 2008 surveys. About 5 percent of female student-athletes wagered on sports in 2012. While the NCAA already offers extensive educational outreach regarding the negative consequences associated with sports wagering, including loss of eligibility, the increased acceptance of gambling behaviors socially continues to pose challenges for educators.

“Above almost anything else, a typical student-athlete does not want to negatively impact his or her team,” said Newman Baker. “Considering that roughly 40 percent of males think their coaches see sports wagering as acceptable, such programmatic efforts to educate need to involve not only student-athletes, but also coaches and administrators.”

Additional findings include:

“In addition to educating about NCAA sports-wagering rules, enhanced and innovative forms of programming need to be developed and implemented specifically for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators,” said Newman Baker. “To be maximally effective, this programming needs to go beyond simply telling these groups not to gamble, given the deepening normative nature of gambling and sports wagering in our society.”

The report’s co-author, Jeffrey Derevensky, the director of the International Center for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University, advocated for programming to help 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, and even promote strategies for discussing perceptions and normative expectations associated with gambling.

“It is clear from the data that any wagering educational efforts need to better leverage the influence of both coaches and teammates,” Derevensky said.

In that regard, the study shows that roughly two-thirds of student-athletes believe teammates would be aware if a team member was gambling on sports and more than one-third believe that coaches would be aware. Both groups were rated as significantly more likely to impact a student-athlete not to gamble compared to receiving materials from outside entities like the NCAA staff.

The findings are from the 2012 NCAA Study on Collegiate Wagering and Social Environments, which is administered every four years. About 23,000 current student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions were surveyed during the spring of 2012 about their attitudes toward and engagement in various gambling activities, including sports wagering. Nearly two-thirds of NCAA member schools participated in the study.

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