Gambling: Work, Not Leisure For Students

MARTINA VASSILEVA
El Vaquero Staff Writer

You arrive at school in the morning, and as you rush to your first class you walk past a group of people huddled around a table playing cards. Whether they do it to pass the time or to practice their skills is irrelevant; they are still there when you walk past them on your way home. Nevertheless, most students say gambling is a strictly off-campus activity.

Although not acknowledged as the mainstream target group, students play a significant hand in gambling.

“I started gambling at 14,” said GCC business finance student Gor Karapetian, 19. “I played blackjack and craps in Vegas because I looked old,” he said.

Since then Karapetian has won as much as $15,000 in one night. “I won it in 2002, playing blackjack in Caesar’s Palace.” Karapetian would not disclose his losses.

Some students, such as GCC communications major Arno Madathian have started gambling as a secondary source of income. “The most I’ve won in a single sitting is $500,” said Madathian.

Another form of gambling that students partake in is sports wagering. Although only legal in the state of Nevada, its popularity is mainstream.

“The most popular place to do it [sports wagering] is online,” said 20-year-old GCC math major Ogi Wallin. “I bet $500 online on the Shane Mosley fight a couple of weeks ago, but he lost.”

But students can also choose to go through a bookie in Los Angeles. “You can call somebody in L.A. and they place the bet for you,” Wallin said. “You don’t know where he puts the bet and if you lose the bet, you have to pay him, and if you don’t pay, you get f***ed up.”

This second method of wagering is of course, illegal in California.
However, that does not stop people from doing it. In the United States, 48 out of 50 states have legalized gambling. The estimated illegal sports book averages $80 to $100 billion a year for sports wagering outside the state of Nevada. This number is staggering compared to the Las Vegas sports book which averages on $2 billion yearly.

“What’s good about a bookie is that you can bet and not have the money upfront,” Wallin said. “So you can win and the money is yours. But if you lose you have to find the money to pay him.”

This is the reason the Internet may not be a preferred choice next to illegal wagering; when placing a bet online the money has to be put up upfront using a credit card, Wallin said. “I’m underage, so when I do that I have to register under somebody else’s name.”

Support organizations such as the California Council for Problem Gamblers and Gamblers Anonymous have been developed to assist gamblers in overcoming their habits.

Students think that the possibility of becoming addicted is an impossibility for them; or worse, a show of weakness.

“Most ‘players’ think that gambling is an overnight success or a quick money kind of deal but just like a lot of professions, it takes work; it’s very gradual,” said Madathian. “It’s important to remain controlled and know when to back off. Gambling is to be taken seriously and it is to be controlled.”

GCC students who partake in gambling apparently control the activity well. “In 4 1/2 years I have not had anybody tell me it’s been a problem,” said GCC nurse Carmita Veliz.

Although there is no one who specifically would deal with something such as a gambling addiction at GCC, the mental health interns in the Health Center can refer students with such a problem to a specialist who will be trained to handle it, said Veliz.

“I think with gambling, it’s compulsion or obsession. A person needs to come in and deal with it as a problem. As with anything, until a person recognizes it as a problem and seeks help, there’s really nothing we can do.”

The students who partake in card games on campus, keep it on friendly terms in school and get down to business outside of school. Karapetian agrees that gambling should not become a part of a person’s everyday life.

“If you make it a habit, it can become unhealthy. If you let it interfere with school, it will definitely interfere with school. It will control your life if you let it. You have to control your indulgences and limit yourself to your own budget.”