One in five students use their student loan to gamble, survey suggests

‘It took over my life – I wasn’t studying, I was just sitting in my halls gambling,’ says one student

One in five students use their student loan to fund their gambling habit, according to the findings of new research commissioned by the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) and GAMSTOP, a national online self-exclusion scheme.

It was also revealed that on average students spend £31.52 on gambling per week, with 18 per cent of students spending £50 weekly.

One KCL student testified on gambling harms by saying: “It took over my life – I wasn’t studying, I was just sitting in my halls gambling.”

Running from December 13th to 20th last year, the new research included survey responses from 2,000 uni students across the UK.

Key findings show that 80 per cent of students have gambled, and 41 per cent admit to a negative impact of gambling on their uni experience, causing them to miss lectures, deadlines, and time with friends.

As for motivation, 46 per cent of students who gamble do it to make money and 25 per cent for the risk.

Excitement and happiness associated with gambling were reported by 52 and 33 per cent of students, respectively, compared to 21 per cent experiencing anxiety with it.

Virtual gambling is also becoming more popular. Online sports betting and bingo only ranked behind the National Lottery in popularity, and 36 per cent of students who gamble revealed to have invested in cryptocurrency compared to just 17 per cent of those who don’t.


Bray Ash, a current KCL student who had experienced gambling harms during his time at Leeds, described how easy it is to get into and be harmed by gambling. “When you go to university for the first time and you have student finance, money from your parents and other financial support you can be tempted to gamble recklessly.

“It took over my life – I wasn’t studying, I was just sitting in my halls gambling. At my second year of university, I ended up gambling away my student loan in the first 24 hours,” he said.

Problem gambling can often start with seemingly harmless games like scratch cards. Harri told The Tab how the “stakes get bigger and you start risking more” before it started to “affect his life in every way possible.”

“When I was working full time, it was easier to cover up because I was getting paid monthly and getting cash in hand from football each week as well. But at uni I couldn’t cover it up,” Harri said.


Speaking from his experience of recovery, Bray thinks it’s “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.”

Fiona Palmer, CEO of GAMSTOP, also said the rise in online gambling showed by the research emphasises the importance of their product.

“Gambling-related harm on our campuses is a subject that is rarely addressed, but for any students experiencing problems with their gambling, self-exclusion can give them valuable breathing space whilst they seek additional help,” she said.

With a spike in registrations during the pandemic, more than 250,000 people have already blocked all online gambling sites with GAMSTOP. Bray also described “being blocked from all online gambling sites [as] a massive barrier in place that I didn’t have before and massively reduced my urges or desire to gamble.”

“It was like the gambling switch in my mind had been switched off. For anyone who is struggling with their gambling, putting as many barriers in place as possible is something I would highly recommended. I also self excluded from all of my local betting shops and shops in other areas I might go to. This again has helped me and is another barrier in place for me,” he said.

If you or someone you know struggle with problematic gambling, help is available. The National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) can be accessed 24-7  for direct emotional support. You can also check out YGAM for support resources for students and GAMSTOP for a free self-exclusion tool. 

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