By Kelly Mahaffey / Staff Writer

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month and among the growing number of people suffering from the uncontrollable urge to wager are college students ages 18-24.

According to UCLA’s gambling studies program, college students have a greater likelihood of having a pre-disposition to gambling due to several factors. College students have a higher percentage of increase in risk-taking behavior typical among young adults and the growing number of legalized gambling establishments nationwide now target the age group.

Along with those factors, advancing technology allows easy access to online gaming, similar to the video games played as adolescents, and the ability to download hundreds of for-wager casino applications right onto their smartphones.

Donovan Pierce, 20, a liberal arts major, said, “When a friend of mine showed me the casino app on his phone, I downloaded one just like it and am on that thing all the time.”

Donovan admits to losing more than he has won, but does not think he has an addiction. “It’s not like I’ve lost everything I owned,” he said.

CollegeGambling.com reported that 75 percent of college students gambled last year either legally or illegally.

Another survey, done by Ken C. Winters, Ph.D., and Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., licensed psychologists from the University of Minnesota Medical School, estimates 6 to 7 percent of young adults now have a gambling addiction.  And the number is on the rise, they said.

Young adults are now the largest group frequenting casinos, making up 78 percent of the people found inside the establishments that have adapted to target the large market.

Until the mid-1990s, gambling was considered socially acceptable and little research had been done on the more serious, and rarely diagnosed mental disorder emerging,  known as pathological gambling.

Unlike drug or alcohol addictions that are easier to detect physically, a gambling addiction is mostly invisible and often kept hidden for many years. By the time the addiction is exposed, it has become pathological and much more difficult to treat.

According to childhoodtraumarecovery.com, not everyone who gambles habitually will progress to the point of mental disorder, but the financial, emotional and social devastation caused by letting the betting get out of hand are absolute consequences if help is not sought at the first signs of trouble.

In all, one hundred LBCC students were asked if they have gambled at least one time in their lifetime.  Of the students 89 said yes and 36 admitted to using Financial Aid to make the bet.

If people are concerned about their gambling or someone else’s, they may call 1-800-Gambler.