Gambling, simply put, is staking (risking) money on a game of chance.

What is Gambling?

There are many forms of gambling, and you may not immediately realise that some activities are indeed gambling. The Gambling Act 2005 sets out how gambling is regulated in Great Britain, and it covers arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, gaming machines, society lotteries, and online gambling. For most gambling activities, the legal age is 18. However, there are some which do not have any lower age restrictions, like playing on a 2p slot machine or making a private bet with one of your friends on the outcome of a game of FIFA, for example In 2019 47% of people in the UK had gambled in the past four weeks. That number remains at 32% when you take away the national lottery. Gambling Commission 2019
Different types of gambling activity:
  • Arcades
  • Sports betting
  • Bingo
  • Casinos
  • Lotteries
  • Private bets
  • Gaming machines
  • Esports betting

Gambling at Uni

In 2019, YGAM commissioned Red Brick Research to undertake research into gaming and gambling among undergraduate students, with more than 2,000 undergraduates and postgraduates surveyed. YGAM’s survey identifies that 47% of students have gambled in the last 12 months. Of these, 16% can be identified as moderate risk or problem gamblers, meaning about 264,000 students in the UK are at some risk from gambling with around 88,000 already defined as problem gamblers. The survey found that 79% of students reported that they gamed, with 35% gaming most days and 17% gaming every day. Almost half of those who gamed every day felt it had gotten in the way of their academic performance. The findings show that students gamble to try to ease and improve their finances whilst at university. Of the students who have gambled in the past 12 months, almost three-fifths (59%) say they are always worrying about their financial situation while 16% have gambled more than they could afford.
YGAM Students header image


Having a higher proportion of friends who gamble is associated with being at a higher risk of gambling harm (Mazar et al. 2018). We may gamble with friends for a number of reasons- this could be down to peer pressure and wanting to fit in or compete, or as a social activity.


for many families in the UK gambling might be a normal activity. For example, lottery tickets, perhaps the family help to choose numbers. Increasingly, scratch cards have been given as gifts at Weddings, Christmas or Birthdays. Many families have enjoyed seaside holiday and visits to the seaside where they might have visited arcades. Many young people (67%) report having gambled with parents or guardians, and 10% report gambling as a result of their parents gambling.


Many betting sites might offer you a signup bonus or free spins, money back deals the first time you visit (or if you haven’t used the site for a while) this can sound like they’re giving away free money but it’s not that simple and if you read the T&C’s, which most of us don’t tend to do, you’ll often realise that there are many strings attached. E.g. expiration, you have to open an account, or you have to wager an amount first. For some a FOMO of losing that offer can lead to us gambling even if we can’t afford to or don’t really want to.

Free sign-up offers may mean we open lots of different accounts which can all become too much when they all start pinging reminders at you and notifying you of what’s next on offer.  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

VIP Schemes

VIP Schemes are a form of loyalty bonus offered to gambling customers who spend large amounts of money on a regular basis. Designed to keep customers spending on site, they add extra value in the way of bonuses, incentives, bespoke offers and promotions, gifts and prize draws. Under 25s are now restricted from joining or being offered VIP schemes. 


We all know what adverts are; we see them everywhere. We don’t always realise how many there are and the impact they might have. Gambling advertising and sport are closely intwined.  If you watch football you might notice shirt sponsors, backdrops behind managers with gambling brands, radio ads popping up and telling you what the lottery jackpot is this week, all of this normalises gambling to a degree.  For some it may encourage curiosity, it might draw us in without us realising that’s why we’re doing it. The level of gambling advertising in the UK has transformed gambling operators into household brands. There is some regulation around sports for example in what’s called a whistle-to-whistle ban on live TV, but there are lots of other ways we see adverts besides watching TV live. Facebook and Snapchat have recently introduced an opt out for the vast majority of betting adverts on their platform.

GamBLing Related Harm

In comparison to other mental health issues, gambling-related harm is significantly underrepresented at University, in terms of advice available and references to relevant resources. Despite this, gambling is a prevalent and important issue across all universities. Previous research on behalf of YGAM in 2019 found that around half of students had gambled in the past year. Of these students, 24% are at some risk of experiencing gambling-related harms – and 8% already experience harms related to gambling.

Gambling-related harms can include negative impacts on your performance at university or work, finances, relationships, physical health, cultural practices, and emotional or psychological harms. Students may have a range of motivations to gamble. Although those at low-risk of gambling-related harm are more likely to gamble for fun, from our research we know that students who are at moderate or higher risk of experiencing gambling-related harm are more likely to gamble to regulate their mood (23%) and get a buzz (28%).

As student life can be filled with pressures, it is essential students who would like to access support around their gambling are encouraged to do so. Over half of the students who gamble also gamble to try to win money and for students, financial circumstances can be an important issue. University is often the first opportunity to manage your money independently and for many, finances can be a challenge as you may receive a student loan or work to support your living costs.

It can feel difficult to open up about your gambling, which is why YGAM trains university staff about this very issue. It is important to know that your university or students’ union advice service will be confidential and understanding of your situation.

Spotting the Signs of Harm

You may notice changes in yourself or a friend.

  • Preoccupation with gambling
  • Missing lectures/ missing course work deadline
  • Withdrawal from social/friendship
  • Secrecy
  • Changes in mood/behaviour
  • Gambling until you have nothing left
  • Chasing losses
  • Borrowing money
  • Unexplained debt/ new or extra money/possessions
  • Feeling anxious and worried

Talk to someone about your gambling. If you’re worried about your gambling activity or someone else’s, the National Gambling Helpline provides confidential information, advice, and support for anyone affected by gambling-related harm in England, Scotland and Wales. You can speak with advisors one-to-one over the phone or via live chat every day of the year, 24 hours a day. They will be able to listen to what’s going on for you and can talk you through all of the options available to you for support in your local area, online or over the phone.

Call on Freephone 0808 8020 133.

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