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DHS news release

March 6, 2006

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Jeff Marotta (503) 945-9709

State set to launch initiative aimed at problem gambling on campuses

Timed to correspond with NCAA March Madness, a perennial favorite among college-age sports bettors, state officials Monday said they are launching a new problem-gambling initiative on Oregon campuses.

Assuming schools accept the state's invitation to raise awareness about -- and increase help for -- students with gambling problems, it will be the nation's first coordinated statewide effort to address problem gambling on campus.

"About one college student in 20 has a gambling problem but it's an issue that's very much under the radar," Jeff Marotta, problem gambling services manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), said Monday.

"Most colleges seem to view student gambling as a harmless extracurricular activity, yet we know that for a certain percentage of student gamblers it can lead to serious problems. We are not suggesting campus bans on gambling, but we are saying our colleges and universities should take measures to reduce harm caused by this popular but risky activity."

Marotta said the Lottery-financed state program would provide free technical assistance and resources, acting as a catalyst to interest student residential life programs, student health services, and campus counseling centers in offering information and assistance to students.

Participating campuses will have a menu of program options from which to choose, Marotta said, including a student survey about gambling practices. He said the effort will seek to raise student consciousness in a variety of ways, including distributing awareness materials at campus events, creating an informative, interactive Web site for students and placing mock personal ads in student newspapers such as, "Roommate wanted, last one hocked my stuff to pay off gambling debt," along with resources such as the problem-gambling helpline number (877-2-STOP-NOW).

"The poker craze is alive on campus, the Internet is offering more gambling opportunities than ever, and the current generation of college kids is riding a wave of access to gambling," Marotta said.

"After speaking to a student group on one Oregon campus, a student told me his roommate who gambled a lot was taking next term off because he had to work to pay off his debts."

A 20 percent one-year increase in youth ages 14 to 22 gambling on cards was reported last year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Marotta said college-age problem gamblers lose an average of $30,000 and that 45 percent of male student athletes gamble on sports, for which NCAA March Madness is among the year's biggest gambling draws.

"We are seeking to heighten awareness that this is an activity that carries risk, and that letting gambling get out of hand adversely affects academic success and personal relationships," Marotta said. "Just as we've done with alcohol, we can heighten people's awareness about acting responsibly and getting help when a legal recreational activity crosses the line into a destructive behavior."