(U-WIRE) STILLWATER, Okla. – With football season in full swing, many college students may be participating in friendly bets on their favorite college football teams. While betting on a game once in a while may be fun and exciting, gambling can cause problems in a person’s life if taken too far. Making bets linked to college football has opened a wide variety of gambling for some teen-agers and adults.
"Sports betting is a major problem, and it is getting worse," said Ed Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Inc., on the council’s Web site, www.800gambler.org. "Betting pools available in high schools, colleges and offices throughout America will nearly match the amount of money generated on Super Bowl Sunday."
While one bet a year doesn’t mean a person has a problem, little bets may give the person a taste of the world of gambling that is available.
"Seemingly innocent office pools many times are catalysts for some people to get involved in sports betting," Looney said. "Many of these pools are illegal."
Many people are using other means, such as the Internet, to place bets and gamble.
"Internet gambling has increased from one site to 1,400 in the past six years," said Kevin O’Neill, deputy director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc., on the council’s Web site. "Easy availability and opportunity to make bets are the key essentials for young people to move into problem and compulsive gambling."
Many young adults said they prefer Internet gambling for its easy access.
"I think college students feel out of place in casinos like the one I worked at because a majority of the gamblers are older," said Emily Wenninger, athletic training junior. "On Internet sites they can gamble at home and listen to their own music and television — it’s convenient, and the world loves convenience."
Students said they also prefer Internet gambling because of the location of the casinos.
"People who live in Oklahoma or away from real casinos can still have fun by playing slots on the Internet at home without the hassle of traveling," said Pascha Franklin, psychology graduate student.
Although there may be many obvious benefits to gambling on the Internet, some people said the disadvantages outweigh them.
"I think a person would lose track of their money a lot quicker by using their credit card on an Internet casino," Wenninger said. "In a regular casino, a person knows how much money they are spending because it is in their hand."
While an Internet casino may know how much a person is spending, it may not know who is spending it.
"Normally a person has to be 21 to gamble in a real casino, but there is not a lot of control on the Internet," Franklin said. "A person fills out the information and gives the casino their credit card number, but a person could easily let someone else gamble for them in the privacy of their own home. There is also the issue of someone else finding your credit card and using your number to gamble online."
While Internet gambling is popular among several age groups, teenagers have shown a special interest in the sites.
"Statistics prove that teen-age Internet gambling is the fastest growing addiction of the day, akin to drug and alcohol abuse in the 1930s," said David Robertson, former chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, on the Web site www.cnn.com. "It’s pernicious, it’s evil, it’s certainly one that feeds on those who are the weakest members of society — and that’s the young and the poor."
If gambling continues to be abused by teenagers and young adults, it may lead to compulsive gambling.
"Compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested," according to the Web site GamblersAnonymous.org.
Although many people may be reluctant to admit to a problem with gambling, there are signs to spot the illness.
"A major sign that leads to compulsive gambling is that it is causing a problem in your life," said Suzie, a member of Gamblers Anonymous in Oklahoma City, who asked that her last name not be used. "Another sign, in my opinion, is that many gamblers are compulsive liars. They lie to cover up the gambling."
Compulsive gamblers who have joined Gambler’s Anonymous tell them that their gambling binges are periodic, according to the Web site. Symptomatic of these periods were nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued breakdown in personal relationships.
The results of long-term compulsive gambling can be just as frightening as the symptoms.
"Compulsive gambling has the highest rate of suicide," Suzie said. "There are usually three options if a compulsive gambler doesn’t abstain one day at a time and that is prison, insanity or death. Gambling can really cause problems in a person’s life."
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