Betting bad odds

Gambling can be an innocent habit, but when it takes over a person’s life, it can be as bad as any drug.

Amid growing concern for alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases and stress among college students, gambling addiction is sometimes overlooked.

Gambling can be the root of all evil for college students. It’s everywhere: NCAA brackets in newspapers, inviting Web sites and even in twice-a-week card games among classmates. A small bet isn’t a big deal, but getting into the habit can be a painful thing, especially for college students.

According to a 2007 study performed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, 40 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds reported having a monthly gambling habit. About 5 percent gambled weekly and had severe financial problems. Though that percentage is lower than statistics reported by the center in 2006, the change has more to do with a federal law restricting Internet gambling than youths passing on making a bet.

So what drives students to gamble? Is it the prospect of winning big or simply the love of the game?
South Jersey resident Domenick Cucinotta has been perfecting the art of gambling since he was 15.

“I don’t like to gamble as much as I like to play blackjack,” the junior film and media arts major said. “I got started…playing poker in my basement, you know, [Texas] Hold ‘em, like everyone else. And then my buddy told me about blackjack and the strategies behind it. I bought a shoe and six decks, and we would play in my basement with no money, just with chips for practice.”

Cucinotta is now 21. Having been of age for eight months, he realized practicing for “the real thing” has come in handy. Atlantic City, N.J., is a location he prefers for gambling because he lives an hour away.

Keeping a chart on his computer, he has tracked his winnings since his birthday. The most he’s ever won in one night was $450, and the most he’s ever lost in one sitting was $200. He goes into the casinos with nothing less than $100, and when it’s all gone, he’s done.

“Only put down what you’re willing to lose,” Cucinotta said. “Somebody has to win, but honestly, the only reason I wanna win is because I want to stay there longer. The more you win, the longer you stay, the more fun you have.”

But gambling can be addictive and easy to fall into. For college students who already bear the burden of debt, wishing their money away without a full-time job can become costly.

I find one common denominator in gambling: getting even.

Students just want to cover their losses for peace of mind. Even though they’re aware they lost, they didn’t lose more than they had to.

Gambling can be fun, but when you go beyond your means, you lose more than a good time.

The money you bring into the casino should be your fun money. The second you start betting with grocery money is the moment gambling becomes addictive.

Tom Rowan can be reached at


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