The purpose of this study was to examine both the overall and the sports
specific gambling activity among athletes and non-athletes enrolled in
a Southern, regional National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division
II university. The findings were contrasted to the results of a 2003 NCAA
Sports Wagering study. The instrument utilized in this particular study
was an adaptation of the survey used in the NCAA 2003 study. Gambling
by athletes at NCAA member schools is a growing concern, and there are
indicators that gambling by college athletes may be more prevalent today
than described in the 2003 study as gambling activity among student-athletes,
male and female, in Division II seems to have increased dramatically from
2003 to 2006.

Specific to this study, respondents from a Southern, regional, NCAA Division
II college, the University of West Georgia, indicated a much higher rate
of gambling as contrasted to the 2003 overall NCAA II findings. Interestingly,
the prevalence of gambling activity among the subjects of this study seemed
to be most prevalent within two sports: women’s basketball and men’s
football. The reported activity among the other nine sports was practically
non-existent. The increase in gambling activity reported by the 2006 student-athletes
as contrasted to the 2003 student-athletes might reflect a change in recreational
lifestyle, ease of access to gambling via the intranet, a rapidly changing
set of sports morays, or an aberration associated with one particular
NCAA II college.


Gambling of all types is on the rise in the United States. In 1999, thirty-seven
states and the District of Columbia had lotteries, as compared to thirteen
in 1976 (Claussen & Miller, 2001). In this same year, Nevada hosted
142 bookmaking sites (National Gambling Impact Study Commission, 1999b).
Casino growth has paralleled this expansion of gambling. The approval
rate for using gambling as a way to raise state funds for government programs
and/or education has also dramatically increased. A Gallup Poll conducted
in 1989 indicated that 55% of Americans approved of this type of fund
raising. Ten years later, Goldin (1999) noted that the approval rate grew
to 92% of Americans.
Early acceptance of widespread gambling was evident in The United States
as early as the late 1980s through the passing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act (IGRA). This law gave American Indian Tribes the right to host gambling
activities on reservation grounds as long as the activities were not against
state or national law (Goldin, 1999). Since the passing of this regulatory
act, revenue from gambling has grown from $212 million in 1988 to $6.7
billion in 1999 (NGISC, 1999b). This growth has continued despite disasters
such as “911” and Hurricane Katrina. According to the Mississippi
Gaming Commission (2006), three Gulf Coast casinos alone were able to
generate net revenue of sixty-four million dollars in January of this
year, even after the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Both private business and governments associated with gambling have responded
to the above phenomena by creating additional opportunities for involvement
with gambling. These include allowing water-based casinos to relocate
to land-based operations; a growth in state lotteries, animal racing,
charitable gambling, video poker machines, sports betting, and internet
gambling (Claussen & Miller, 2001).

Improved technology has created an opportunity for the formation of internet
gambling sites, which lures today’s internet savvy students. Lowry
(1999) reported there were approximately 280 online sites that offer internet
gambling. These online sites generated 1.5 billion dollars revenue in
the year 2000 (Woodruff & Gregory, 2005). Revenue from this type of
gambling will continue to increase as the internet becomes more accessible.
Internet opportunities, along with an increased public acceptance of gambling,
make activities such as betting on an athletic competition more appealing
and much easier (Doocey, 1996; Udovicic, 1998). In fact, sports gambling
has grown to a greater than $100 billion industry (Udovivic, 1998). This
is partially due to the fact that more information (via the Internet)
is available describing sports teams, which allows people to feel more
informed in predicting outcomes.

According to a meta-analysis of gambling habits among university students
by Labrie, Shaffer, LaPlante, & Wechsler (2003), it was reported that
41.9% of students indicated involvement in gambling activity within the
past year, while 23% indicated participation in the activity within the
past week. Additionally, 5.6% of these students met the criteria for pathological
gambling as compared to the rates of 0.2 to 2.1% for the general population
(Labrie, Shaffer, LaPlante, & Wechsler, 2003). This was the result
of a study of college students which utilized findings from the South
Oaks Gambling Screen study (Lesieur & Blume, 1987).

Another study by Engwall, Hunter, & Steinberg (2004) reported similar
findings to the Labrie, et al (2003) meta-analysis. They found that 42%
of college students reported at least one gambling episode in the past
year and 3% of the respondents gambled at least once a week. Labrie, et
al (2003) found that playing the lottery was the most common gambling
activity reported among college students. He found that gambling activity
among college men was significantly greater than college women. Engwall,
et.al (2003) also noted that gambling appears to be related to behavioral
characteristics in college students such as (a) increased television viewing,
(b) computer use for non-academic reasons, (c) spending less time studying,
(d) earning lower grades, (e) participation in intercollegiate athletics,
and (f) binge drinking.

Ironically, alcohol use is a strong predictor of college student gambling
behavior, regardless of gender. Labrie, et al (2003) reported that college
students who had used alcohol within the past year were 2.4 times more
likely to engage in gambling behavior than those who had abstained from
alcohol. It also appears that the variables associated with gambling vary
by gender. For example, among Caucasians, being a male was a strong predictor
of gambling, as contrasted to being a female (Labrie, et.al, 2003). Labrie,
et al (2003) also noted that college female gamblers were more likely
to work for wages, be single, and view community service as less than
very important. Unlike the female gamblers, males who gambled were more
likely to view sports and physical activity as very important.

College students who participated in sports gambling in particular were
more likely to gamble on golf than any other activity according to the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) study (Petr, Paskus, &
Dunkle, 2003). Perhaps this is due to the extensive history of gambling
in golf that involves players betting with large sums of money. This has
been documented as far back as 1870 (LeCompte, 2005). The United States
Golf Association (USGA) does not object to gambling that does not interfere
with the game (LeCompte, 2005). This is in contrast to the NCAA policy
that prohibits any type of gambling in the context of athletics.

In a statement to the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator John McCain
noted that college gambling was “reaching epidemic proportions”
(McCain, 2003). Senator McCain made this statement after results from
the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report (NGISC) indicated
that college students spend more money on gambling activities than alcohol
(NGISC, 1999b).

Gambling on sports by amateur athletes has been added to the list of
behavioral issues addressed by the NCAA. Even though the NCAA prohibits
sports gambling in general, the primary concern has been with participating
athletes betting on games and then shaving points to influence outcomes.
Point shaving has been defined as the deliberate refusal of an athlete
to score in exchange for monetary resources from a book master or “bookie”
(Petr, et al, 2003).

The NCAA utilized the Petr et al. (2003) study to examine the gambling
behaviors of student athletes from all NCAA divisions. The majority of
the activities in which these athletes admitted gambling activity included
playing cards or board games for money, betting on games of personal skill,
purchasing lottery tickets, using slot or electronic poker machines, trading
sports cards, and entering football pools (Petr, et al., 2003).

The overall prevalence of gambling among NCAA student athletes was reported
to be 35 % among males and 10 % among females. Division III athletes were
found to have the greatest prevalence of gambling (Petr, et al, 2003).
In Division I, point shaving was more prevalent among football players
than male basketball players. Just over 1% of football players reported
that they had played poorly in a game in exchange for money, compared
to ½% of the basketball players (Petr, et al., 2003). Golf had
the highest percentage of participants reporting gambling behavior: 8.4
% for females and 48.6% for males.

There appears to be an inverse relationship between knowledge of the
NCAA policy on gambling and the frequency of the behavior. Athletes in
Division III had the highest overall rates of gambling and the least reported
knowledge concerning the NCAA policy on gambling. Only 43.5% of male athletes
in Division III were aware that the NCAA had rules and regulations that
discourage gambling (Petr, et al., 2003), despite the release of the NCAA
publication, Don’t Bet on It. This suggests that this NCAA publication
and the information contained in it may not be disbursed by all member
schools to athletes.

The personality characteristics that produce excellent athletes are also
present in pathological gamblers. These characteristics include feeling
in control of situations and outcomes, a large ego, and optimism (Naughton,
1998). Just as a great athlete is confident in his or her ability to win
competitions, a pathological gambler is confident in accumulating wealth
from gambling. This link alone may account for some of the gambling activity.

There will always be athletes who engage in gambling behaviors despite
being forewarned of the repercussions. The motives have been widely documented;
however, the top stated reasons for gambling by student-athletes have
been reported as “for fun,” “to win money,” and
“for excitement” (Petr, et al., 2003).

Prior to the NCAA sports wagering study conducted in 2003, no data had
been collected specifically looking at the gambling habits of non-Division
I NCAA athletes (Copeland, 2004). The majority of the research on gambling
among athletes has focused on the activities of NCAA Division I men’s
football and basketball players. However, the results of the 2003 NCAA
sports wagering study indicate that additional research on gambling should
be expanded to include athletes in classifications such as Division II
and III. The NCAA study found that 66.5% of Division II athletes, as compared
to 63.4% in Division I, had participated in some form of gambling within
the past year (Petr, et al., 2003). Furthermore, 33.5% of Division II
athletes, as compared to 28.8% of athletes in Division I, admitted participation
in sports wagering within the past year. This is significant, as sports
wagering is prohibited by the NCAA, and results in an athlete losing one
year of eligibility to compete in his or her respective sport if convicted.

While the NCAA (2003) study noted the prevalence of gambling among Division
II athletes, it did not provide data on the specific gambling preferences
of this group nor did it segment the various types of Division II colleges,
such as small-private, large state, or other strata. Therefore, the purpose
of this study was to reexamine the NCAA findings and collect additional,
more current information on the gambling preferences of NCAA Division
II student athletes and non-athletes, with a focus on a NCAA II regional,
rural, state university.


The subjects selected were all enrolled at the University of West Georgia
(UWG), a NCAA Division II college, during the spring of 2006. This particular
university is a regional school within the University of Georgia System.
The enrollment at the time of the study was approximately 10,800 students.
The subject pool was divided into two groups: non-athlete students and
student-athletes. From each of these two groups a random sample was identified
using alphabetical ordering and then a selection of a predetermined number
of participants based on the total subject pool. The number of athletes
selected was 141 and a 63.1% response rate was obtained thus yielding
fifty-one female and thirty-eight male respondents. The number of non-athlete
students in the initial random sample pool was 220. Eighty-nine or 40.5%
of the subjects agreed to participate, thus yielding a response pool of
fifty-three females and thirty-six males. The predetermined numbers for
the initial subject pools were obtained using the recommendations of Magnani

Both student-athletes and non-athlete students completed the survey instrument
in the presence of research assistants. Complete anonymity was guaranteed
and names were not associated with the collected questionnaires. Permission
to conduct the study was granted by the IRB at the University of West

The number of NCAA Division II student athletes participating in the
NCAA Wagering Study conducted by Petr el al (2003) was 1798 females and
2957 males. This data were frequently used for comparison with the findings
of this particular study.

The instrument utilized in this particular study was an adaptation of
the survey used in the NCAA Wagering Study in 2003. The instrument took
between ten and fifteen minutes for the subjects to complete. The survey
instrument identified the prevalence and extent of gambling behaviors
among students within the most recent twelve-month period. Survey items
not completed were labeled by the researchers as “not stated”.
The definition of “not stated” therefore implied the refusal
of the respondent to answer a particular question. In addition to examining
habits, the instrument also identified problem and pathological gambling
behaviors using the South Oaks ten item screening tool as a guide (SOGS).


The findings of this study were tabulated consistent with the format
of the 2003 NCAA wagering study. This allowed for comparisons between
the various categories of respondents. The results were quantified and
examined for observed differences among NCAA II female and male athletes,
UWG female and male athletes, and UWG female and male non-athletes.

As seen in Table 1, among both athletes and non-athletes and females
and males alike, the UWG population in this particular study reported
a higher rate of total gambling activity than the findings in the NCAA
II (2003) female and male athlete population. The UWG population was 18%
to 31% more active in gambling activity in general. However the specific
rate of gambling on college sports at UWG was less than the NCAA II rate
for both females and males.

Table 1

Involvement with Gambling in the Past 12 Months

Any Gambling On Collegiate Sport
Female Male Not Stated Female Male Not Stated
NCAA Division II athletesc 51.0% 66.5% 15.5% 5.8% 21.0% 73.2%
UWG student-athletesb 70.6% 97.3% NA 2.0% 7.9% NA
UWG students (non-athletes)a 67.9% 86.1% NA 1.9% 8.3% NA

Note. All NCAA statistics are from Petr et al (2003).
an= 51 females, 38 males.
bn= 53 females, 36 males.
cn= 1798 females, 2957 males.

The findings presented in Table 2 reinforced the sports gambling prevalence
of UWG students and student-athletes. This was particularly true when
wagering on all sports, not just college sports, was considered. Both
UWG females and males were twice as likely to gamble on sports as contrasted
to the total population of NCAA II female and male athletes.

Table 2

Students and Athletes Who Wagered on any Sport by Gender

Category Female Male Not Stated
NCAA Division II athletesc 10.6% 33.5% 55.9%
UWG student-athletesa 21.6% 60.5% NA
UWG studentsb 15.1% 61.1% NA

Note. All NCAA statistics are from Petr et al. (2003).
a n= 51 females, 38 males.
b n= 53 females, 36 males.
c n= 1798 females, 2957 males.

The findings in Table 3 depicted a wide array of gambling activity by
UWG students and student-athletes. This diversity of gambling activity
was evident in the overall NCAA II athlete population as well. Specifically,
non-athlete, female UWG students reported a higher degree of gambling
using card games, whereas male non-athlete UWG students were more likely
to utilize casino table games for gambling purposes. Both female and male
UWG non-athletes were more likely to be involved with craps and dice games
than athletes. The prevalence of gambling activity involving personal
skill was higher among both UWG male and female athletes as contrasted
to non-athletes. Male UWG athletes were twice as likely as any group in
this study to utilize internet gambling options. Utilizing on campus bookies
was three times higher among UWG male athletes as contrasted to all other
groups. The use of off-campus bookies was similar among all groups, except
UWG non-athlete males, who were twice as likely to use an off-campus bookie
compared to the other groups. Female and male UWG students, athletes,
and non-athletes were twice as likely to purchase lottery tickets compared
to the total NCAA Division II group.

Table 3

Students Engaging in Specific Gambling Activities in the Past 12 Months

Males Females
Gambling Pursuit
NCAA Division IIc UWG Student Athletesa UWG Non Athletesb NCAA Division IIc UWG Athletesa UWG Student Athletesb
Played card or board games for money 42.5% 81.6% 66.7% 19.2% 27.5% 34%
Table games at casino 19.1% 34.2% 11.1% 9.3% 2.0% 5.7%
Games of personal skill 35.1% 73.7% 61.1% 16.3% 27.5% 18.9%
Stock market/commodities 9.1% 15.8% 16.7% 3.6% 5.9% 1.9%
Commercial bingo 6.9% 7.9% 8.3% 6.7% 9.8% 20.8%
Played dice/craps 12.2% 36.8% 27.8% 3.8% 13.7% 7.5%
Internet gambling 7.2% 23.7% 13.9% 2.0% 7.8% 5.7%
Sports cards, football pools, or parlays 19.0% 52.6% 52.8% 7.0% 13.7% 9.4%
Bet on horse or dog races 8.9% 26.3% 13.9% 4.8% 9.8% 7.5%
Bet on intercollegiate games with campus bookie 2.4% 7.9% 8.3% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0%
Bet on intercollegiate games with off-campus bookie 4.6% 2.6% 8.3% 0.9% 2.0% 1.9%
Lottery tickets 37.0% 76.3% 72.2% 31.9% 52.9% 62.3%
Slot or electronic poker machines 20.0% 34.2% 33.3% 14.6% 15.7% 26.4%
Some other type of gambling 22.8% 44.7% 38.9% 8.0% 19.6% 15.9%


Note. All NCAA statistics are from Petr et al. (2003).
a n= 51 females, 38 males.
b n= 53 females, 36 males.
c n= 1798 females, 2957 males.

As seen in Table 4, both UWG female and male athletes were nearly twice
as likely to say they had no knowledge of the NCAA gambling rules as contrasted
to the overall NCAA II population responses.

Table 4
Athletes Knowledgeable of the NCAA Rules Concerning Gambling:

Males Females
Know Rules NCAA Division IIb UWG Athletesa NCAA Division IIb UWG Athletesa
Yes 50.1% 15.7% 39.1% 9.8%
No 19.6% 26.3% 20.4% 43.1%
Not sure 30.3% 57.9% 40.6% 35.3%

Note. All NCAA statistics are from Petr et al. (2003).
a n= 51 females, 38 males.
b n= 1798 females, 2957 males.

As seen in Table 5, both female and male athletes at UWG expressed a
similar frequency of problem or pathological characteristics as compared
to those in the NCAA II 2003 study. However, there were a disproportionately
high percentage of non-athlete UWG students whose responses were consistent
with potential problem gambling issues. This group was four times as likely
to indicate potential problem gambling characteristics.

Table 5

Students Who Indicate a Problem or Pathology Concerning Gambling:

Males Females
Screening Outcome NCAA Division IIc UWG Studentsb UWG Athletesa NCAA Division IIc UWG Studentsb UWG Athletesa
Non-Gambler 35.3% 27.8% 26.3% 60.1% 41.5% 47.1%
No problem 48.3% 30.6% 50% 35.7% 45.3% 37.3%
Potential problem gambler 11.3% 41.7% 10.5% 3.8% 9.4% 13.7%
Pathological gambler 1.7% 2.8% 7.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Not stated (but still gambles) info not provided 0.0% 5.3% info not provided 0.0% 5.9%

Note. All NCAA statistics are from Petr et al. (2003).
a n= 51 females, 38 males.
b n= 53 females, 36 males.
c n= 1798 females, 2957 males.

The authors found that sports gambling athletes from only two sports
among the UWG population displayed significant gambling activity of any
type during the recent twelve months. The sports were women’s basketball
and men’s football. The reported prevalence of gambling activity
among the other nine sports at UWG was not significant.

As previously noted, gambling by athletes at NCAA member schools is a
growing concern. The NCAA obviously senses a problem as evidenced by their
focus on the issue. There are indicators that the problem may be larger
than described in the 2003 NCAA study. For example, the fact that 73.2%
of NCAA II athletes in the 2003 NCAA Wagering Study refused to make a
statement about their gambling activity a matter of concern. This could
indicate a fear of being forthright due to concerns about retribution
and conviction.

Also, this study found a much higher rate of gambling among UWG students,
as contrasted to the 2003 overall NCAA Division II population. This could
be more than an aberration associated with one NCAA Division II college.
It could reflect a rapid growth of gambling among college students which
could be related to the widening social acceptance of gambling, the expansion
of internet gambling, or perhaps other issues. However, there is always
the possibility that the limitation due to the smaller number of respondents
among the 2006 UWG population groups, as contrasted to the 2003 NCAA Division
II group, could have skewed the data.

At this point in time however, the UWG population of both athletes and
non-athletes appeared to have a comparatively high rate of gambling involvement.
If one were to assume the rate of involvement among NCAA Division II athletes
has remained constant over the three years since the NCAA study, then
one would have to question whether a regional, rural, relatively large,
state university might have a consistently higher rate of gambling involvement.
This issue alone might merit future study.

Interestingly, the prevalence of gambling activity among UWG athletes
in particular seemed to reside exclusively within two sports, women’s
basketball, and men’s football. The reported activity among the
other nine sports at UWG was practically non-existent. This finding may
be inferable or it might have been the result of a reluctance of athletes
from other sports to express activity among teams. This question also
merits further investigation.

Several other questions associated with gambling among college athletes
merits future study. Is there a link between expressed gambling activity
among student-athletes and graduation rates? Are there athletes from specific
sports that have higher gambling activity rates as indicated in this particular
study? Do non-athlete students actually have a higher gambling activity
rate than the student-athlete population?

Obviously, if gambling becomes an interference with fair
sports competition, the development of the student-athlete, graduation
rates, or the integrity of any aspect of higher education, it deserves
attention. At this point in time, it appears that this determination is
still in question and thus deserves additional research. Additionally,
other universities might consider replicating thus study in order to provide
a basis for comparison and analysis.


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  2. Claussen, C.L. & Miller, L.K. (2001). The gambling industry and sports gambling: A stake in the game? Journal of Sport Management, 15, 350-363.
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  12. Hearing on Sports Gambling and S.2267, the Amateur Sports Integrity Act.
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  14. Naughton, J. (1998). Why athletes are vulnerable to gambling. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 44 (32), A51.
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