[happy]As spring break comes again, many students look for a way to escape from the mundane routine of school, and no matter where they choose to go, there is probably a casino only a dice roll away. There are casinos at almost every vacationing hot spot, including Panama City, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Las Vegas, and on most cruise ships. For the students who will be bracing the cold weather in Michigan, there is Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant and Casino Windsor just across the border.
Even when spring break is over, images of gambling will still be everywhere, and the money will still be flying out of students’ pockets. With the flashy casino ads plastered on billboards, the lottery tickets shining under the glass counters of convenience stores and the glitz and glam of watching pro poker players on television, it’s easy to see why people love to gamble. These images, in combination with the need for money, could entice even the most indomitable of people to gamble, even though a payoff is far from guaranteed.
In high school, many students start playing cards for money and to perfect their poker faces, thinking they could be the next poker legend. As soon as these card sharks graduate and arrive on MSU’s campus for their first years, they are most likely old enough to go to any nearby casino to try to win it all. This thought is what tempts students to gamble away their textbook money waiting for that big hand. At Soaring Eagle casino in Mt. Pleasant, the gambling age is 18; at Casino Windsor, it is 19.
“I work the doors every Friday and Saturday night, and I see tons of college kids coming in here, especially during school breaks. Some I even start to recognize because they come here so often,” said a Casino Windsor security guard, who asked to remain anonymous due to casino rules. “About 80 percent of the college kids I see coming in are from Michigan and Ohio.”
According to a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Internet gambling in males between the ages of 17 and 22 rose from 2.3 percent in 2005 to 5.8 percent in 2006. Only 1 percent of women ages 17-22 have gambled online. The same study also showed 25 percent of 18- to 22-year-old males gamble at least once a week.
“I play online during my study breaks to relax,” supply chain management senior Dave Commiskey said. “I watch my money though – I never bet more than I can afford to lose.”
Online gambling is illegal in the United States, leading online gambling companies to deposit billions of dollars into offshore accounts every year. Web sites such as partypoker.com and pokerstars.com, where poker legend Chris Moneymaker deposited $40 and ended up winning millions as a World Series of Poker champion, can very well be a main contributor to the 1.6 million college students who admitted to gambling online last year, according to the Annenberg study. Online gambling has become a $60 billion industry, two-thirds of which comes from the United States.
[poker]Despite being illegal, Internet poker is arguably one of the most addicting forms of gambling for college students. A heavy dependence on Internet gambling could lead to missed classes, lower test grades and loss of sleep and money. “I definitely lose sleep playing online poker. Some tournaments I enter last for hours, and I don’t end up going to bed until 5 a.m.,” premedical sophomore Eric Bloink said.
According to the Online Poker Center, one hour of online poker is equivalent to two hours of live poker, and players can also play at more than one table at a time online. These ideas lead to the taglines of many online poker sites, promising to “Double your winnings faster” and claiming “More hands equals more wins.”
“Gambling is a convenient ‘drug’ in the sense that you can be alone in your dorm room and all you need is a computer and credit card to start gambling,” said Judy Herriff, executive director of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling.
[card1]Gambling among college-aged people is becoming so prevalent, casinos are starting to house programs to help young addicted gamblers. The Responsible Gaming Information Centre has had an office on the second floor of Casino Windsor since September 2006. The RGIC, which is open every day for 24 hours, is a free service to help young adults who seek it. “We have had people come in from all over the spectrum: students who are in a lifetime of debt and have hit rock bottom, students who have dropped out of college to gamble and haven’t told their parents yet and people who are worried that their gambling isn’t just for entertainment anymore,” said Michelle White, service coordinator for the Responsible Gaming Council.
What usually starts out as a fun thing to do on weekends can quickly turn into something addictive after a few winning experiences. The thrill of winning is remembered, and many players think they’ll hit it big again after just one more hand. Compulsive gambling is described by the Council on Compulsive Gambling as a progressive illness, which starts out as a recreational activity and ends up being destructive to both the gambler and his or her family and friends. The main symptom of this addiction is denial and the major characteristic is loss of control. There is also a tendency to take bigger risks as time goes by. According to the Responsible Gaming Council, common signs of an addicted gambler include spending more time and money on gambling than one can afford, neglecting school, work or personal needs for gambling and thinking gambling will become under control as soon as there is a big win.
“I gamble about once a month or so,” physiology junior Craig Meisner said. “I usually bet around $40 when I play cards and about $400 if I’m going to the casino. I sometimes gamble more than I planned, too, and I definitely lose more often than I win. My total losses are probably around $5,000.”
[center]The week of March 5-11 has been labeled National Problem Gambling Awareness Week for this year – the fifth time that a week dedicated to problem gambling has existed.
“I think the first week of March is perfect for Gambling Awareness Week because it’s right around the time people start betting for (men’s NCAA) basketball’s March Madness,” psychology sophomore Ashly Markowski said. “My boyfriend and his fraternity all put money in a pool and fill out brackets. My boyfriend never wins; I don’t know why he even wastes his money like that.”
According to sportsbook.com, March Madness is the second most popular gambling event in the country. It is estimated that more than $3.5 billion is wagered on March Madness games throughout the country.
[cards]Entertainment, time with friends, and winding down are all reasons mentioned by MSU students for gambling. Forming a quick pick-up game of poker can be as easy as knocking on the doors in your hall, creating a chat forum on allmsu.com or logging onto a poker Web site. No matter what the game of choice is, there are plenty of ways to “test your luck.”
“As long as you don’t spend more than you can afford, gambling can be a fun thing to do with friends,” White said. “Just make sure you only bring the money you are willing to lose, and set a time limit.”
The sound of clay poker chips clinking together, the cards being shuffled and the laughter of other gamblers all work to draw people in, and the rush of winning can seal the deal. Gambling is a form of entertainment: a fun thing to do for a night on the town, and something that seems to be becoming more popular as time goes on. With this increase in popularity, it is necessary to set limits and to know when to quit – after all, the house always wins.

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