The gambler sits staring at the computer screen, adrenaline racing through his body, hoping to win back the thousands of dollars he lost the night before. His pulse races as he loses and places another bet larger than the last.

Paul Wong
An LSA sophomore who wished to remain anonymous stares intently at his computer screen as he participates in an online blackjack game. (JONATHON TRIEST/Daily)

With casinos developing in Detroit and websites making it possible to win and lose in pajamas from the comfort of home, gambling has become easier than ever for University students. Many go to the casinos, while others play friendly card games, bet on sports or lay down money on the Internet.

A University student, who wished to remain anonymous, enjoys visiting casinos and often plays poker with friends. He said when he has gained money he tends to continue gambling because he wants to earn more. When he is down, the urge increases to earn his money back.

A recent study conducted by University psychologists William Gehring and Adrian Willoughby found proof that a loss increases the urge to bet big.

“At some basic, neurological level, losses really do loom larger than gains,” Gehring said.

The study, published in the March 22 issue of “Science,” found that within 256 milliseconds of seeing the outcome of a bet the brain reacts and makes decisions which, in the case of a loss, tend to be more risky.

“The findings suggest that in many situations our brains rush to judgment,” Gehring said.

“After a loss, the brain thinks it’s due for a win. As a result, when we make a quick decision and it turns out to be wrong, we tend to take a bigger risk the next time out than we would have done if our first choice would’ve been right.”

The student gambler said when he goes to casinos he often finishes ahead, but when he plays cards with friends he often loses. He said he does not gamble on a regular basis, perhaps like many students, but he is currently at a loss of about $100.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says Michigan residents spent $5 billion on gambling last year. In addition, a 2001 MDCH survey found that 4.5 percent of Michigan adults are lifetime compulsive gamblers, though this number decreased from similar surveys in 1997 and 1999.

The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services does not offer a formal program for helping students deal with gambling addictions, but has a test on its website which can help students determine if they have a gambling addiction. Most students decline to admit they gamble, and addicts tend to avoid their problem.

Jim Etzkorn, Counseling and Psychological Services assistant director for clinical services, guessed gambling is a big and serious problem on campus, though he does not have many students seeking CAPS help.

“Like a lot of addictive behavior they don’t see it as a problem,” Etzkorn said. “If they were to confront the seriousness of the problem there would be a lot of shame.”

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