Thousands of student gambling addicts are spending an average of £30 a week on betting, racking up debts and missing out on university life to fund their habit, research has found.
In a survey of 2,000 students, 80% said they gambled, with 35% of those who did admitting using their student loan, bank overdrafts, borrowing from friends or taking out payday loans.
Of those who gambled, 41% said it had led to them missing lectures, assignment deadlines or social activities.
There are about 2.5 million students in the UK, indicating that hundreds of thousands are suffering financial or social harm due to gambling.
Students reported spending £31.52 on betting in a week on average, while almost 20% admitted to spending more than £50. They were asked how much they spent on gambling, without a distinction being made between deposits and losses.
The most popular product was the National Lottery (32%), including casino-style instant win smartphone games, followed by online sports betting (25%) and online bingo (18%).
The report, by the YGAM youth gambling charity and Gamstop, the national tool for gamblers who want to bar themselves from online betting and gaming, built on previous research that found that 88,000 students have a problem.
Martin Jones’ son, Josh, took his own life in 2015 after becoming addicted to gambling while doing his A-levels and later getting into financial difficulty at university.
“He went up to halls of residence and within 10 days he’d blown his first term’s loan, which was about £1,200,” said Jones.
Jones and his wife, Kim, ended up having to manage their son’s finances for the duration of his time studying maths at the University of Surrey.
He got a job with the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers shortly after leaving university but was unable to escape the gambling addiction. He took his own life aged 23 after running up debts of £30,000.
Bray Ash, 29, who is studying mental health nursing at King’s College London, having previously studied at Leeds University, also blew his student loan.
“It took over my life – I wasn’t studying, I was just sitting in my halls gambling,” he said.
“[During] my second year of university, I ended up gambling away my student loan in the first 24 hours.
“It is important that students have access to organisations, such as YGAM, to educate them about gambling and provide support and that they are aware of essential tools such as self-exclusion if they are experiencing problems with their gambling. I know that it would have benefited me when I was at my lowest point.”
A spokesperson for the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) said the majority of gambling among young people was on scratchcards, the lottery and private betting, not with BGC members.
“The BGC also funds the £10m Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, delivered by leading charities YGAM and GamCare, which is being delivered to every 11- to 19-year-old in the UK, and those working with them,” said a spokesperson.