March Madness: Don’t bet on it

March marks the beginning of spring for most Americans, but for die-hard college sports fans, there’s more than pollen floating in the air – it’s March Madness.

March Madness describes the National Collegiate Athletic Association single-elimination basketball tournament that invites students, employers and sports fans to participate in creating brackets to showcase their skills to predict the outcome of the tournament.

Some fans place wagers and bets to prove who reigns supreme in choosing the top winners in each division.

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 67 percent of all college students bet on sports-related activities. However, only 22 percent of colleges have problem gambling-related educational materials to supply to students.

Florida A&M is among the universities with limited resources to educate students on the harmful effects of gambling.

“I haven’t heard too much about gambling here on campus,” said Stancil Dougla-Khan, a licensed mental health coach at FAMU.

Research shows college students who gamble are exposed to the activity as early as the age of 10 from family members in games seemingly innocent, such as card games. Students who gamble are also at high risk for developing behavioral, substance abuse and academic problems.

“Usually students who abuse substances, who have any form of addiction, are using it as a coping mechanism,” Dougla-Khan said.

In an effort to curb the 6 percent of college students that are dangerously addicted to gambling, the National Center for Responsible Gambling launched a new campaign to educate and promote responsible behavior during competitive tournaments. The College Gambling Awareness Campaign provides free online tool kits, videos, surveys and promotional material to improve students’ and administrators’ perception of gambling and its risks.

In addition, the NCRG provides the BetOnU College Survey, a chance for students to confidentially assess personal gaming habits and compare their statistics with other students around the country.

Some students support providing necessary material on campus to teach gamblers about the risks involved.

“Schools should teach us about gambling,” said O’Carl Robinson, a third-year engineering student from Miami. “It’s a part of life. If students are suffering from it, then they need help, too.”

Each year March Madness is responsible for an estimated $2.5 billion of illegal bets, according to the FBI.

College students a have better chance of becoming professional football players, 3,000:1, than winning some of the larger consolation prizes, like investor Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar prize for correctly guessing the winning teams that will advance to the next phase of the tournament.  

Researchers believe students become too fixated on the potential winnings that they forget how much they are spending in an effort to obtain a large sum of money based on probability.

“The problem with gambling is greed,” said Brittney Coulanges, a second-year nursing student from Pompano Beach. “You’re losing your money, first-off, and it’s all based on luck, just like the lottery and scratch-offs.”

The billion-dollar payout is no longer available after brackets everywhere were busted after only the second day of games.

The BetOnU survey and College Gambling Awareness Campaign are available on