UNLV is one of ten universities in the United States that has on campus help for problem gamblers. The Las Vegas Strip is a short 10 minutes from the campus and poses a unique situation for students, as many venture to the strip for excitement, concerts, nights out and yes, gambling.
A study done by a psychology PhD student Edward Crossman found that approximately 10 percent of UNLV undergraduates who participated scored at pathological levels in his gambling related personality test. Numbers, which he said, are higher than national averages. “For some reason it’s a lot higher here,” he said.
In August of last year, Counselor Education Secretary Larry Ashley started a program to treat problem gambling. The campus-based program is state funded and is open to all area residents, not just students.
Ashley said he is “surprised by the fact that not a single student has come to him for treatment. It’s amazing how many people there are who we don’t know have gambling issues, but younger folks like that edge – they like the rush.”
“That rush,” Ashley said, “has been largely glamorized by the explosion of things such as… televised poker matches.” Things like the televised poker events, Ashley said, “(make) such behavior exciting and more appealing to younger people.” Ashley went on to say, “this can be dangerous, especially when considering how the brains of young people differ from that of their older counterparts.”
Ashley reaches out to local high schools, adding addiction prevention as part of the health curriculum in their classes.
“In all the addictive disorders the developmental factors are critical. Adolescence goes into the mid 20’s for males and the early 20’s for females. The traditional college student is still in that phase. During that time, any of those addictive behaviors can usually impair you faster and more severely,” said Ashley.
Laney College journalism professor and author Burt Dragin, told stories of drinking winning and mostly losing in various casinos. “Gambling was really an emotional thing for me,” Dragin said. “It can be this reward, its really telling you something positive about yourself. But then when it starts going the other way it can be very painful.”
“The emotional investment,” said Ashley, “is something that is common among many compulsive gamblers. We find that most people with problem gambling are escape gamblers; video poker is kind of the ideal thing. It is your own machine; it does not give you any backtalk. You can get hypnotized by it.”
If you are in the Las Vegas area and want more information on the Problem Gambling Treatment Program or the compulsive gambling minor, contact Larry Ashley at 702-895-3935.