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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Know the Score: Lessons Learned from 10 Years on Campus

by Jennifer Iveson, Manager of Web, Communications and Social Media | Sep 21, 2012 11:56 AM

Newscan (Vol 14, Issue 37)

For over a decade, RGC has been showing students at colleges and universities how to avoid the risks associated with gambling through the Know the Score (kts2) peer-to-peer problem gambling awareness program. This year, the program is building on past success with a tried-and-true approach with a couple of additions to its online presence.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the key components that make this program work.

Getting campuses on board takes time

Colleges and universities are home to one of the most sought-after mass audiences in society: young adults who are just formulating their identities as independent consumers, thinkers, and decision makers. For that reason—and rightly so—campus administration is cautious about just who it allows through the doors.

So you have to do your research. Connecting with the right professionals in counselling, health services, student services and administration takes perseverance and a clear idea of what value your program provides. And every campus works a little differently. So be prepared to put in the time to build the right relationships.

This is important. Pay attention!

This program, like any other that addresses young adults, has the challenge of trying to get attention and draw students in. The strategies that have been most successful for Know the Score are:

  • Hire students to talk to their peers
  • Take an informal, non-confrontational approach
  • Keep the messages short, practical and simple

“After visiting hundreds of campuses over the last 10 years, what I can tell you is that your most important tools are your eyes and ears,” says Lisa Couperus, Manager of Special Programs at RGC and creator of Know the Score.

“What students are talking about, what their interests are, has to inform your messages,” Lisa says, “and you have to listen closely to know what’s going to resonate.” This year, for example, we’ve added the risks associated with internet gambling as a topic in part because feedback indicated it was on students’ minds.

Incentives help

Some kind of contest or draw will always help garner attention. As Jon Kelly, CEO at RGC, discussed in Contest or No Contest, problem gambling prevention programs need to be aware that contests can be viewed as “a form of gambling.” While this isn’t strictly true, since gambling requires money (or something else of value) to be risked, making the contest a quiz or other learning tool can mitigate this viewpoint.

For Know the Score, students can enter a draw for an iPad and a scholarship. But they have to answer a few questions about gambling. Because they have to stop and think for a minute, this quiz is a very effective way to encourage participants to connect with the students staffing the display.

Take it online

The face-to-face nature of Know the Score is a huge part of the program’s success. But we can’t see every student at every campus. So, over recent years, more and more of the program is available online. The scholarship draw, for example, is open to all students in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, whether or not Know the Score is visiting that year.

And, of course, when trying to reach 18- to 24-year olds, social media tools like a Facebook page and a Twitter profile are great ways of getting the word out.

But, when a student completes the quiz online, there is little opportunity for interaction. The feedback form, the Facebook page and being on Twitter do help keep the channels open, but (as much as the social media gurus might beg to differ) these forms of communication have their limitations.

Be where they are – metaphorically

That’s why one approach we’re trying this year is the introduction of a student success blog. Its aim is to get into the mindset of the students we’re trying to reach by taking a look at what their issues are. The reason is simple: so many of the program gambling prevention messages we have (such as planning ahead, setting a limit or taking breaks) are exactly the same tips students need for academic and general lifelong success.

So we have decided to write some short articles that leverage the rich content in these areas that so many college and university websites have, and using this material as an entry point for our prevention message. Here, for example, is the latest post, Manage Your Money.

Not only will articles like this strengthen our connection to the on-campus professionals we work with, we believe that this interweaving of messages will contextualize the real risks of problem gambling and reinforce our problem gambling prevention message.

Know the Score is currently touring campuses across Atlantic Canada and will be in Ontario starting at the University of Windsor on September 26. See the tour schedule.

Since its introduction in 2002, Know the Score has been delivered to more than 310,000 students. Student feedback indicates the program made them stop and think about gambling differently and made them aware of where to get help locally. Get background on Know the Score.