A Leeds Student investigation has shown that gambling is a serious problem amongst students in Leeds. Our reporter visited several Leeds casinos, and spoke to a number of students.
One second year History student, who had just lost hundreds of pounds and wished to remain anonymous, said: “Gambling is ruining my life – I have had a problem for years, ever since I was about 15, but I just can’t seem to kick the habit. My close friends know about the problem but don’t understand. The casinos and betting shops don’t give a damn so long as I keep spending and I just don’t know where to turn – sometimes I wish I was dead and have considered taking my life.”
Another second-year student told us that he plays poker once a week and “enjoys it a lot”, and whilst he said he doesn’t have a problem, “the worst thing I have seen is students coming in wagering their student loans and just losing it, just crying and breaking down completely. Obviously that’s not a wise thing to do”.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, suggested this was not unusual: “I have seen several students who have dropped out of university because of this, because they start playing poker and get quite obsessed by it – people start living by night, not going to lectures and not handing their work on time, losing money and then becoming obsessed by having to chase their losses – the next thing you know they have then left the university.”
Figures obtained from Leeds City Councils’ licensing department show that there are 137 bookies, casinos, bingo clubs and arcades in the area. According to a Leeds Student survey, over 60 per cent of students said that either they or their friends gambled frequently. A third of respondents were concerned that some of their friends spend too much time or money on gambling.
A spokesperson for William Hill which, according to Council figures, has the highest number of licensed betting shops in Leeds, told this paper it had a responsible gambling policy: “We provide assistance to those people who feel they may have a problem, or people we have perhaps identified as having a problem, and also have a self-exclusion policy.”
He added “we train our staff properly and come up with new measures every year in order to identify these people and help them out in any way we can”. After a night out at the casino for the first time, one first year Geography student said: “Coming down to the casino is fun and it’s good once in a while for a lads night – as long as you’re happy to lose some money and have fun when your doing it then there’s no issue” but added, “It’s a little bit addictive because you always want to win it back”. Students who are concerned about gambling should contact the Student Advice Centre or call Gamcare’s their anonymous advice line on 0808 8020 133.
Words: James Greenhalgh