Task Force to Colleges: Treat Betting Like Booze

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LAS VEGAS (Associated Press)- Colleges and universities should take more steps to curb problem gambling by piggybacking outreach efforts onto campaigns against alcohol and drug abuse, a national gambling task force said Tuesday.

The Task Force on College Gambling Policies said in a report that schools should treat gambling as a health issue, and establish policies to restrict wagers on campuses and treat students who develop addictions.

While nearly half of college students surveyed reported gambling during the past year, a 2005 report shows only 22 percent of colleges have written gambling policies, said the group, which was established last year by the Cambridge Health Alliance and funded by the National Center for Responsible Gaming.

"It is important, we believe, for schools to send a clear, unified message about acceptable behaviors," said Christine Reilly, a task force member and executive director of the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders in Beverly, Mass.

"It's very common for schools to have different rules for alcohol use ... and for gambling, and so we think this is an issue that colleges should think about," Reilly said.

Among the 10 recommendations outlined in the report, the task force said universities should establish clear, written gambling policies that comply with laws, actively campaign against problem gambling, and help treat students if they develop gambling disorders.

"If a student presents himself to a university health service with a physical problem such as kidney disease or a fractured hip, the college will bend over backward to assist the student," said Peter Emerson, the task force's chairman. "Addiction is in a different category."

Task force members said colleges should survey their campuses to gauge gambling activities and find out what types of betting are occurring. Reilly said nationwide data is not recent enough to determine how online gambling - which is technically illegal though still accessible for many - and states that have recently allowed gambling affect student gambling habits.

The American Gaming Association, which funds the National Center for Responsible Gaming, said in its 2009 annual report that 37 states had some type of casino in 2008, including commercial casinos, American Indian casinos, racetracks, card rooms and electronic gambling devices. The industry group said commercial casinos took in $32.54 billion in gambling revenue last year.

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