March Madness entices many student gamblers

by Beacon Staff • March 22, 2006

With everyone from the cast of Desperate Housewives to celebrities like Ben Affleck on The World Series of Poker throwing down their cash in televised games of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em, gambling has become a widespread pastime and one of the most popular activities amongst college students.

The Massachusetts Center on Compulsive Gambling released a report in 2005 that showed students have a "problem gambling rate" that is two to three times higher than that of the general population.

At Emerson, March is a particularly busy time for student gamblers, who may be drawn in by everything from the legal and money-free Student Government Association (SGA)-sponsored Casino Night 2006, hosted March 15, to the lure of betting on NCAA Division I Men's Basketball games throughout the month.

Senior new media major Joseph Langmuir said he and his friends enjoy the adrenaline rush of wagering on teams during March Madness.

"When your money is at stake, the games become much more exciting," Langmuir said. "My friends and I usually create a pool for each different season of our favorite sports games."

Langmuir experienced the element of chance involved in betting when his Michigan State Spartans lost in the first round to the George Mason Patriots, a loss he had not expected.

"While I'm not out yet, my other friends now have more points than me, which is going to put me at a disadvantage," he said. "I'm not concerned about it, though; part of betting is accepting that, at some point, you are going to lose money."

Although many students may not realize it, gambling is prohibited on the Emerson campus, because it is illegal in Massachusetts without a permit.

According to Dean of Students Ronald Ludman, the college's Code of Conduct strictly prohibits the "sale of tickets of chance or any other form of gambling."

Emerson College Police Department Lieutenant Scott Bornstein said that in his 16 years at the college, he has not had any issues involving students and gambling.

The NCAA also has a set of rules concerning gambling and college athletes, which the Emerson Athletics Department upholds. NCAA rules bar any Athletic Department member or student athlete from placing bets on any sports games. The penalty for violation of this rule for athletes is a loss of athletic eligibility.

Emerson Coordinator of Athletic Operations, Roger Crosley, says that the harshness of the penalty depends on the extent of gambling a student is involved in.

"Students can be banned from joining a team for anywhere from a year to a permanent loss of eligibility," he said.

Crosley said that he was not aware of any Emerson athlete who had broken the rule.

He also noted that a recent survey of NCAA Division II athletes revealed that 76 percent of the males and 51 percent of the females engaged in gambling in some form. Emerson College is a Division III school.

For non-athletes, like senior Nathan Peters, gambling seems a low-consequence, year-round affair.

"While I'm a TV/video major, I minor in poker," joked Peters. "I'm obsessed with the game, I play anytime I can."

Peters said he frequently engages in games of poker with friends off campus, and so far he says he has won more than he has lost.

Other students have gambled for money in the Emerson dorms as well, with small poker tournaments occurring at night in Little Building common rooms.

"I used to play on campus a lot last year," said senior film major Brandon Thornton. "The buy-ins weren't for more than five or ten dollars, but it was still fun."

SGA Treasurer Katie Caponera, a senior organizational and political communication major, acknowledged that for Emerson students who feel they may have a gambling addiction, Casino Night 2006 showed that card games and even betting can still be fun without the use of real money.

"The point of Casino Night was for students to meet and have fun," she said. "It was a social event and a way for us to get out information for the upcoming SGA elections."

As for avid card game players like Peters, the Casino Night 2006 was yet another way to pass the time with his favorite hobby.

"Even though we aren't playing for real money, I always enjoy a good game," he said.