A recent survey carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS), revealed how students are gambling their loans to keep up with the rising costs of living. Research shows how tens of thousands of pounds are being gambled away, with many ending up with debts of £5,000 or maybe more! The findings which were shared exclusively with media organisation The Independent, show how 59% of students gambled in some way or other in the past year, with almost half; 49%, admitting they gambled in order to supplement their income. Almost 8% used all or some of their student loan to gamble, which is equivalent to roughly 100,000 students. The poll also highlighted more than half of 1,600 students researched, had amassed debts of more than £1,000, with one in five owing more than £5,000 due to gambling.
NUS claim students are relying on gambling more now than ever before, in a bid to help cover the cost of rent and other living costs. Student nurses, midwives and doctors on placements are deemed vulnerable to gambling, what with bursaries being cut. Statistics reveal how 13% will be more than they can afford to lose, and the NUS is blaming the advancement in technology, with mobile gambling becoming more and more accessible to the young through smartphones. The Gambling Commission and the NUS has warned that institutions must do more to raise awareness of unsafe gambling or it could spiral out of control.
Jason Heffron, a student at the University of Birmingham revealed how he turned to gambling when he was cash-strapped. In his second year, he gambled £500 away and as a result, he struggled to pay his rent and his overdraft went into -£1,000, which led him to give up gambling. “At vulnerable times I’d often end up losing money that I couldn’t afford to lose.” He said. “When you are at university, when you are a bit more vulnerable to the benefits financially, you chase that high. You are only living off a few hundred pounds for a few months. A rise in living cost is definitely a problem. Rent prices are crazy for most major cities now. Most student loans don’t cover rent, so you need financial support before you even think about living.”
NUS vice president for welfare, Eva Crossan Jory said;
“Students have said the only way that they can pay rent is to gamble. That is really worrying. I think anecdotally more students are relying on gambling as a means of finance rather than just doing it for fun. I think previously people were not doing it as much as a means of survival.”
“It is so easy nowadays to gamble on your phone and not even realise that you may have a serious addiction. It doesn’t always seem like real money when it is all online. There needs to be a renewed focus on the reasons why some students feel it’s necessary to supplement their income through gambling – which not only land students in even greater debt, but also can lead to feelings of guilt, stress and depression.”
The Gambling Commission’s programme director, Helen Rhodes, who worked in conjunction with the NUS to develop the survey added her comments;
“These results add extra emphasis that there is a significant risk for young adults and for students that needs to be addressed, and we welcome the part the NUS is playing to do so.”
Assistant director of policy at Universities UK (UUK), John de Pury has called on the government to support students who are in need of help with the cost of living and tuition costs!
“Universities are focused on student welfare to support wellbeing and learning. This includes efforts to educate students on risky behaviours and to mitigate the impact of such behaviours on their university experience. Online gambling is an issue that applies more widely than to simply the student population. It needs concerted intervention by government to act on risks of online gambling and addictive behaviours.”