Gambling and gaming

Coming to university is a big change in routine and environment, which can cause lots of uncertainty. Some students seek distraction and escapism through gambling and gaming or see it as a way to relieve financial pressure.


We recognise that some people may treat gambling as a one-off fun activity and bet within their limits, however, it can quickly transform into an addiction and lead to serious issues.

What is gambling?

Gambling is a broad term and covers all activities that involve risking your money on an unguaranteed outcome, in the hope of getting more back. This ranges from buying scratch cards or playing the lottery, to online betting, going to casinos or placing sport bets, amongst other activities.

How to recognise gambling addiction?

Signs that gambling is becoming a problem can include noticeable changes in mood, personality, or behaviour. For example, becoming secretive and uninterested in other activities, unexplained absences, frequent lateness for commitments, or taking an unusually long amount of time for simple errands. Financial warning signs could include being regularly short of money despite having a regular income, unpaid bills, or the need to borrow money on a regular basis. These can lead to involvement in criminal activity, debt, breakdown in relationships with family and friends, anxiety, or decreased academic and work performance.

The effects of gambling and gaming on wellbeing

YGAM conducted research in 2019 into the attitudes and behaviours of students around gaming and gambling.  

Gambling is a popular activity, with nearly half of the students surveyed having gambled in the last 12 months. However, it is understood that gambling and gaming are recognised issues that can cause stress, upset and feelings of guilt that can affect your wellbeing and academic performance. 

Of the students who had gambled, nearly 60% reported that they were “always worrying about their financial situation”.  

Whilst a lot of students use gambling and gaming to reduce stress and increase social interaction, it can affect your university experience in other ways. 48% of those who game said that it had got in the way of their academic performance at university, and 36% said it has got in the way of their social life.

What support is available?

If you feel gambling is affecting your life or you are concerned for someone you know, there are self-help resources, university services, and external organizations that can offer confidential advice and support.

University services


You can ask a gambling provider to exclude you from gambling with them for a period of time. This is called self-exclusion and prevents you from gambling. All gambling providers in the UK must provide customers with the option to self-exclude. 

  • You can find more information about the self-exclusion practice from Be Gamble Aware. They also provide guidance on how you can limit gambling ads that you see on social media
  • GAMSTOP lets you put controls in place to restrict your online gambling activities
  • GamBan allows you to block access to online gambling on all your devices

External support

There are organisations and charities that offer support and treatment for people with gambling, gaming, mental health or financial problems or concerns.

  • GamCare is the leading UK provider of free information, advice, and support for anyone affected by gambling harms. They also offer a number of resources to help you understand gambling, including a self-assessment tool to help you find out your motivations behind gambling. 
  • Krysallis is a private counselling service offering GamCare counselling for both gamblers and family members affected by gambling in Sheffield. You can self-refer on their website and the service is free. Sessions are offered face to face, over skype or by phone.
  • BigDeal can help you recognise gambling problems and access support. They offer a live chat and a national helpline you can call. 
  • Be Gamble Aware also provides support resources if you are worried about your own or someone else’s gambling and would like to talk to someone for support. You can chat with an advisor via live chat or call their helpline. 
  • NHS Northern Gambling Service provides specialist addiction therapy and recovery to people affected by gambling addiction, as well as those with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal feelings. 

The National Gambling Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call them on 0808 8020 133. 

If you need urgent help, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. 


Gaming has understandably become a dominant leisure activity among students, especially through the lockdown. Whilst it is undeniably a great way to unwind after a long day and escape from stress or an opportunity to connect with friends and meet strangers from all over the world, it can also become problematic and have a detrimental impact on one’s life. 

When is gaming considered problematic?

Gaming-related harm is not as easy to identify as a gambling addiction. However, it is concerning if one feels social isolation when not gaming or one’s academic performance suffers at the expense of becoming the next esteemed gamer in the eSports arena. Even more concerning is that under the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) there is a correlation between the use of loot boxes and problem gambling behaviour. Both have similar underlying principles, you spend money without knowing exactly what you will get (randomised content in loot boxes); a desire to keep going if you are getting what you want (keep unlocking top football players); or feeling unfairly treated and frustrated when not getting what you desire. 

What effect can gaming have on finances?

The negative effects of gaming on the financial situation can be very similar to gambling. It may sometimes become difficult to control the in-game purchases, such as buying a superpower, unlocking a certain level, etc. These costs may seem negligible but eventually, they accumulate to large amounts, which in turn may get you into debt.

What support is available?

It is best to be a step ahead and not let gaming become a problem. YGAM for students offers tools to test what you can look out for if you are worried about yourself, or a friend’s gaming habits. You may also find advice on staying safe at university helpful to find alternative ways to improve your wellbeing. 

Suggested Blackbullion learning

Blackbullion is an online learning platform that you can access for free with your Hallam email address and improve your money skills through pathways, articles, and tools. We recommend that you complete the risk pathway which is designed to help you identify the risks involved in gambling.

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