Survey: 59% of UK Students Have Gambled to Supplement Their Loans

Students gambling

30-second summary:

  • One in five students end up £5,000 ($6,600) in debt from gambling
  • 59% have gambled in the past year
  • 8% have gambled all or part of their student loans

A new survey has found that tens of thousands of British students are using their student loans to gamble to boost their funds.

Gambling their loans away

The survey, undertaken by the National Union of Students (NUS), a group of students’ unions in the UK, found that many students who gamble their loans end up in debt by £5,000 ($6,600) or more, according to a report from the Independent.

The study looked at over 1,600 students. Around three in five, or 59%, have gambled in the past year, and 48% gambled in order to boost their income. Nearly 8% of students have used all or part of their loans to gamble. Around half had amounted a debt totaling £1,000 ($1,300) while one in five owed over £5,000.

According to the NUS, more students are turning to gambling as a way of paying their rent.

Students lose out

Jason Heffron, a student at the University of Birmingham, reportedly turned to gambling when his money was tight. During his second year at university, he lost £500 ($658) over a matter of weeks, and he struggled to pay his rent once he had gone into his £1,000 overdraft.

“A rise in living costs is definitely a problem,” Heffron said. “Rent prices are crazy for most major cities now. Most student loans don’t cover rent so you need financial support before you even think about living.”

According to Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice-president for welfare, the fact that students are turning to gambling is a worrying turn of events.

She said: “I think anecdotally more students are relying on gambling as a means of finance rather than just doing it for fun. I think previously people were not doing it as much as a means of survival.”

She added that the use of phones nowadays makes it easy to gamble without the person gambling realizing that they have a problem. The research was published at a time when it was reported earlier this week that gambling apps were once again called more addictive than crack cocaine.

Renewed focus

Jory added that there needs to be a “renewed focus” on why students feel it necessary to resort to gambling to supplement their income.

However, according to a Department for Education spokesperson: “Students from the lowest-income households who started their courses this year have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for their living costs.”

The UK government is currently undergoing a review of post-18 education and funding, which is designed to look at how the system can work fairly for everyone.

The issue of online gambling

Online gambling is not a problem that solely affects students; it’s something that doesn’t discriminate and can have an impact on anyone’s life.

So much so, that in Ireland Sinn Féin politician Louise O’Reilly has called for stiffer regulation to tackle the country’s gambling problem. According to the report from early February, Ireland is ranked third with the highest number of gambling losses per person, ahead of the US.

Of course, while measures are being taken to reduce the impact of problem gambling, a recent report shows that 90% of American casino players practice responsible gambling.