The Extent and Nature of Gambling Among College Student Athletes


o Table of Contents
o Executive Summary
o Introduction
o Review of the Literature
o Methodology
o Results
o Discussion
o Conclusion
o Bibliography
o Biography
o Acknowledgements
o Contact Information
o Purchase Copy

Review of the Literature

Prevalence of Gambling Behavior

There is limited research on the prevalence and types of gambling behavior by young adults in general and college student athletes in particular. Many of the conclusions must be extrapolated from research on similar populations, on activities related to gambling, or from expert opinion.

The present study follows this pattern of research and was developed using many of the materials that were contained in these earlier research efforts.

In general, there appears to be a growing consensus regarding some trends related to young people and their gambling behavior. Ladouceur, Dube, and Bujold (1994) presented an excellent summary of the research on adolescents. While many college student athletes are no longer in their teens, there is reason to believe that the general findings apply to a traditionally aged college student. In their study of almost 1500 Canadian college students using the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), Ladouceur, Dube, and Bujold found that 89.6% had gambled and that 21.7% gambled once a week or more. Almost 3% of the respondents were classified as pathological gamblers. In addition, pathological gambling was significantly correlated with tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and criminal offenses. The key points contained in Ladouceur, Dube, and Bujold were:

  • The percentage of teenage pathological gamblers is higher than that of the adult population at large.
  • The preferred games of teen gamblers are those that are most readily available (e.g. lottery tickets) and lack legal constraints for minors.
  • Gambling problems are more prevalent in males than in females.
  • Gambling in the adolescent population is linked to such practices as missing classes, dropping out of school, psychotropic drug abuse and engaging in criminal activities.

Browne and Brown (1994) reported similar rates of gambling behavior among college students. Focusing narrowly on lottery games, they found that almost 80% of respondents had purchased lottery tickets at one time or another. Sixty-three percent reported that they were occasional players; 2% characterized their play as frequent. Males were found to have higher rates of gambling behavior than females.

Lesieur et al. (1991) conducted a well-known study of 1771 students from six colleges and universities in five states. They found that 85% of the students had gambled and 23% gambled once a week or more. In terms of popularity, students reported that they played cards for money (51% of respondents); casino games (49%); numbers or lotteries (46%); games of skill such as pool, bowling, or golf (44%); bingo (43%); bet on horses or dogs (31%); and bet on sports (29%). Males consistently gambled more than females on all activities except bingo. The researchers found that gambling behavior had effects on students other than just monetary gains and losses. Respondents reported that gambling interfered with their relationships, jobs, and education. Small percentages of respondents stated that they had been criticized for their gambling; had argued with someone with whom they live about gambling, cut classes or missed work; and hid evidence of their gambling behavior from others.

Several other studies confirmed these basic findings. A three-year study of students attending a college close to Atlantic City and its casinos found that between 56% and 78% of each year's respondents had gambled within the past 12 months (Frank, 1990). Almost 75% of respondents who had gambled in casinos also played the lottery and a similar number wagered on sports. Winters, Dorr, and Stinchfield (1998) reported that 88% of college students in their sample had gambled at least once in the last year. While 36.5% of the total sample had bet on sports in the last year, there were large differences between the sexes. Fifty-six percent of men reportedly wagered on sports while only 18% of the women engaged in sports gambling. Lumley and Roby (1995) found that 3.1% of the university students in their study could be classified as pathological gamblers on the SOGS. Recently completed dissertation research on college students drawn from NCAA Southeastern Conference institutions (Rockey, 1998) revealed that 81% of subjects had gambled, including 70.2% who did so before they were of legal age. This study also found that 28.5% of respondents reported they gambled on sports. Nearly 4% of the total sample was classified as pathological gamblers according to the SOGS; the rate of pathological gambling for athletes was higher (6.2%).


Chronology of Gambling Incidents Involving Student Athletes

The litany of gambling incidents involving college student athletes is long and detailed. In the last forty-five years, as many as one hundred student athletes representing dozens of colleges and universities have been caught for such gambling-related activities as point shaving, betting, providing inside information to bookies and other gamblers, and not playing up to their potential or "throwing" games. Few of the participants have been famous; not all of the sports programs have been traditionally strong. Of course, not all of the gambling activities that involve student athletes have even been uncovered. One could make the observation that only the unsuccessful gambling schemes and activities are ever brought to light; there are likely many more such gambling incidents for every one that is publicized and documented. Still, the common denominator linking these individuals and institutions over time is that all of the incidents have brought negative attention on the people and institutions involved, and threaten the integrity of intercollegiate sports.

What follows is a brief chronology of the major, publicized gambling incidents involving college student athletes over the past forty-five years. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; rather, it is a sampling of a broad range of gambling incidents that span more than four decades.

1951: Thirty-two players from seven institutions are implicated in a gambling scheme designed to fix 86 games. Co-captains of the Manhattan College basketball team were arrested for attempting to fix a game against DePaul. Three members of the CCNY basketball team that won the NCAA and NIT Championships, along with several other individuals, were arrested in a game-fixing scandal that involved a number of teams. In this same year, basketball players from Long Island and Bradley Universities were caught taking bribes from gamblers.

1961: The NCAA forced St. Joseph's (PA) to relinquish its third place finish in the NCAA basketball tournament because of alleged student athlete involvement with a gambler.

1962: Thirty-seven players from 22 institutions were implicated in a major gambling scandal that resulted in the arrest and conviction of three gamblers charged with fixing college basketball games.

1981: A Boston College basketball player and four others were found guilty of shaving points during the 1978-79 basketball season.

1985: Four members of the Tulane basketball team were accused of point shaving. In the aftermath of this incident, the University suspended the program for five years.

1989: Four football players from the University of Florida were suspended for betting on football games. That same year, nine athletes from four different sports at the University of Arkansas were suspended for betting on college football games.

1992: Nineteen University of Maine athletes from the football and basketball teams were suspended for their participation in a gambling operation reported to be worth $10,000 a week. That same year, a gambling operation involving student athletes from the University of Rhode Island and Bryant College was uncovered.

1994: A starting running back from Northwestern University was suspended for gambling; he denied that he intentionally fumbled the ball on the goal line in a game against Iowa.

1995: Football and basketball players from the University of Maryland, including the starting quarterback, were suspended for betting on college sports.

1996: Thirteen members of the Boston College football team were suspended for betting on college football as well as professional football and baseball games. Three of those suspended were alleged to have bet against their team.

Two Holy Cross student athletes, one from the football team and one from the basketball team, voluntarily admitted to wagering on sports and were suspended.

1997: A point shaving scandal was uncovered at Arizona State University when two former members of the basketball team admitted to shaving points on four home games in the 1993- 94 season. Two students from Arizona State were reported to have bet $250,000 on a game against Washington State.

Also, an investigation into an alleged point shaving scandal at Fresno State University started after the team beat the point spread only eight times in 30 games.

1998: Former Northwestern University basketball players were indicted on charges of shaving points, conspiring to fix games, and accepting bets during the 1994-95 season. Attention from this case has expanded to include former football players from the Universities of Colorado and Notre Dame who were allegedly involved in the ring.

Four former Northwestern University football players were indicted for perjury after allegedly lying to grand juries that were investigating sports betting at the school.


Table of Contents | Executive Summary | Introduction | Review of the Literature | Methodology | Results
Discussion | Conclusion | Bibliography | Biography | Acknowledgements | Contact Information