Written by Rosie Neill

Head of marketing

Gambling and gaming was the focus for part 5 of our CPD-accredited webinar series for university and college staff, all about how best to support students with financial risk.

We were thrilled to welcome expert speaker Kev Clelland, Operations Director at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM). YGAM provides the tools and information to build resilience, inform, educate and safeguard young people about the potential harm of gaming and gambling.

Kev covered:

  • What we know about students’ gambling and gaming behaviour
  • Gambling and gaming risks for students
  • Signs of gambling-related harm in students
  • How university staff can support students with gambling and gaming
  • Signposting and support for students

Here’s a summary and the recording of the session.

What we know about students’ gambling and gaming behaviour

In 2019, YGAM worked with Red Brick Research to conduct first-of-its-kind research into the risks associated with gambling and gaming for university students. Findings show:

Student behaviours

  • 47% of university students gambled in the last 12 months
  • 1 in 4 students are at risk of developing a problem (concerning as this is far higher than the figure for UK adults)
  • 1 in 12 are already ‘problem gamblers’
  • 56% ‘seriously considered’ dropping out
  • 79% of university students gamed in the last 12 months 
  • 36% say gaming got in the way of their social life
  • 1 in 2 say gaming got in the way of their academic performance
  • 92% say their digital device is the last thing they look at at night

Students’ thoughts and feelings

The research also looked at why students chose to spend money on gambling while at university and found:

A changing world: gambling and gaming risks for students

It’s important to acknowledge that like most things, we’re living in an ever-changing world when it comes to gambling and gaming. 

A review of the Gambling Act is currently being undertaken; the main reason being because the last piece of major legislation on gambling came out in 2005 – back when we were all playing ‘Snake’ on Nokia phones! 

Thinking about the games available now on smartphones, it’s safe to say that things have changed dramatically and with this change, new risks emerge for students. Rather than discouraging students to gamble and game altogether, what’s needed is that they have an understanding of the potential risks that could lead them to gambling-related harm.

Ease of access

A multitude of different apps are now available at our fingertips. These include free gambling apps, as well as gambling style games with gambling style mechanisms built into them. 

Over the years, these apps and games have become infinitely easier to access through our digital devices and this is particularly worrying when we remember that the majority of students say their phone is the last thing they look at at night.

The influence of others

The ease of access to gambling apps and games is particularly risky when paired with the influence of social media and platforms like Twitch – a video live streaming service. 

Not only can young people talk to others about gambling and gaming on these platforms, but they can also be influenced and given the false impression that it’s a quick way to make money. 

In fact, more and more ‘finfluencers’ are appearing on places like Twitch, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Patreon and this is something students need to remain alert when it comes to credibility.

Esports and esport betting

Esports’ is the term used to describe competitive video gaming. It  isn’t exclusive to just sports related games and often takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams. There is frequently a cash prize for the winner.

The NUEL and the NSE British University Esports Championship are two of the most popular esports communities for university students. The NUEL, for example, has over 147 groups, clubs and societies amongst it’s membership, as well as sponsorship from platforms like Twitch.

Regular forms of sports betting were temporarily removed due to COVID-19 lockdowns, while esports continued. Consequently, the popularity of esports has grown immensely during the pandemic with a huge YOY increase in esports betting of over 2,700%! Many of the main gambling operators now carry esports as one of the key options on their websites and apps.

Loot boxes

‘Loot boxes’ are in-game mechanisms and micro-transactions that are a mystery to the buyer until they’ve purchased. They’re used widely in popular games, such as FIFA 21.

The odds of receiving the most sought-after items amongst loot boxes are far greater than the chance of getting the items that the player doesn’t want, but this is one reason why loot boxes have been linked to problem gambling.

Matched betting and spot betting: the idea of ‘easy money’

Matched betting involves placing multiple bets on each possible outcome, believing a profit will be made regardless of the result. 

Spot betting focuses on certain outcomes within a game. Take tennis for example, a spot bet would be placing a bet on who wins a single point rather than the overall winner of the game. Spot betting can seem attractive as the odds look good at 50/50 – you either win or you don’t.

Both matched betting and spot betting carry risk though, as they can result in spiralling gambling by placing more and more bets. In this case, the risk isn’t necessarily on the stake that’s being placed but on the frequency of the gambling behaviour.

Signs of gambling-related harm in students

Not all students who gamble and game will experience harm, but it’s important that staff know signs of harm to look out for. These can be grouped into 5 categories:


  • Self-neglect
  • Poor diet
  • Low mood
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Hand pain
  • Obesity


  • Poor budgeting
  • No money for essentials
  • Borrowing
  • Fraud
  • Theft


  • Easily bored
  • Quick to anger
  • Blame
  • Fear
  • Isolation
  • Mistrust
  • Deception


  • Limited interactions
  • Social development skills eroded
  • Digital world is all consuming


  • Poor attendance
  • Lack of focus
  • Decline in standards
  • Tiredness

How university staff can support students with gambling and gaming

Only 15% of university staff report that they feel confident enough to talk to students about both gambling and gaming. 

YGAM offers support for staff, so they can feel better equipped to have these conversations with students. YGAM also recommend the following five principles:

  • Find space to discuss the issue
  • Focus on the behaviour
  • Be curious and understanding
  • Understand their privacy and networks
  • Reassure them through points, policies, and pathways

The key piece of advice YGAM would give to staff is that you don’t need to be an expert on the topics of gambling and gaming. 

What’s important is being able to spot the signs of potential harm in students and then being able to open up a discussion to address the issue, while also showing the student some compassion.

This is true for mature students and other cohorts too. And in terms of which university staff should initiate conversations about gambling and gaming with students, YGAM suggests this lies within wellbeing teams.

Signposting and support for students

If a student needs extra help, they can be signposted to:

  • GamCare National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133 – with live chat also available)
  • NHS National Centre for Gaming Disorders and the National Gambling Treatment Service (0207 3817 722)
  • GAMSTOP – free service that helps restrict online gambling activities
  • RecoverMe – an app to support problem gamblers or those at risk of suffering from gambling addiction

YGAM can also help; they offer:

  • A student team and a Student Hub, which provides advice and support that is written by students for students 
  • Staff training for university staff
  • Support with events on campus
  • Regular insight from students

Get in touch for more information.

Watch the recording

If you have any questions or comments for Kev, you can contact him via YGAM on their websiteTwitter or LinkedIn.

This session was part five of our 6-part series for university and college staff, all about how to support students with activities that carry financial risk. Check out our final session and register your free place now. The series has been CPD accredited – simply attend at least 4 of the 6 sessions to get your certificate.

And don’t forget to sign up to our staff email newsletter to find out about upcoming staff webinars and get free financial wellbeing resources to share with students.

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