March 29th, 2011

Gift Horse or a Good Idea?

Inside Higher Ed

Should colleges treat gambling like alcohol, writing campus policies that control for abuse while acknowledging that gambling can be healthy in moderation?

The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), a charity funded by a powerful casino lobby, says yes—and it wants to help walk college officials through the process. It plans to unveil a new Web-based resource center on Tuesday that supplies information about the dangers of gambling addiction and how colleges might go about formulating thoughtful policies on student gambling.

Meanwhile, a prominent group opposed to what it calls “predatory” gambling says colleges would be wise to look this gift horse in the mouth. The center’s campaign for a more progressive administrative stance on college gambling, the group contends, is little more than an attempt to manufacture goodwill while the casinos and slot machine makers that fund the center lobby for permissive laws that would allow online casinos to infiltrate college dorm rooms.

The new website is an extension of a 2009 report from a task force of the responsible gaming group that depicted a policy landscape in higher education in which gambling and its attendant threats to student well-being were being largely ignored by colleges. As of 2005, the center said in the report, only 22 percent of the 119 colleges it sampled had written gambling policies. The center does not have any more recent scientific data, but it has no reason to think things have changed dramatically since then, says Christine Reilly, a senior research director there.

The site is supposed to be a step toward changing that, Reilly says. It offers a “toolkit” for campus administrators who want to make the case for a gambling policy on their campuses that includes templates and talking points for PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets, and suggestions for whom to invite to the table (a long list that includes deans, student groups, and various officials from the academic, athletics, student activities, and health services departments).

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