At the end of this month, Chandler Bator of Arizona State University will launch YourCollegePokerClub.com, an online poker gaming site aimed at protecting students from losing money through online gambling.
Bator’s gaming site will establish online poker clubs at 160 schools across the nation. Bator said CU’s version will be known as the Buffalos Poker Club, and will be available to students, faculty, alumni and anyone else that wishes to participate, provided they are at least 18 years old.
These poker clubs will be subscription based, requiring a monthly payment of $19.99. Users will not be allowed to contribute any more than this amount to the site, which makes it a gaming site instead of a gambling site.
Bator said that the idea for “Your College Poker Club” came to him while living in the dorms at ASU, where he noticed a number of male students logging on to offshore gambling sites with the hope of getting rich.
“I’m sure a few of them have gotten rich,” Bator said. “But the vast majority have experienced financial hardship because of it. One of my personal friends lost $10,000 that first semester, and ended up having to drop out of school. I thought, ‘there has to be something that can be a uniquely engaging opportunity, that’s safer, and that would take these students away from this exploitation’.”
Your College Poker Club aims to give students the chance to play online casino games without the risk of losing thousands of dollars per month.
“Based on the monthly subscription fees, we’re going to create a prize pool where students will be able to win cash and prizes through different daily, weekly and monthly tournaments,” Bator said. “But just as much as students are interested in money, they’re interested and proud of the schools they go to. I felt that if we could capture that, the site could really be an extension of that experience.”
While Bator’s website seems to have good intentions, gambling addiction has been a problem in recent years. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 6 to 9 million Americans will have a gambling problem in any given year.
“College students, and people in general, can develop habits that are unhealthy, they can do things that they know are damaging them,” Bator said. “At the same time, they feel the impulse, the need, the desire to keep doing those things. With our site, we’re trying to offer an alternative to those desires that is safer and healthier. It’s not going to put you in danger of losing $10,000 in a semester.”
CU has a number of support groups for addiction, but none that focus specifically on gambling.
CU does not have a policy specifically related to gambling, according to Malinda Miller-Huey, a CU spokesperson, but it does require students to abide by state and federal gambling laws. Because the online poker clubs are subscription-based and therefore do not count as gambling websites, most gambling restrictions do not apply to them.
Though the site uses the name “Buffalos,” it does not have approval from the university.
“The site does not use any of the university trademarks, and it does not say Colorado Buffaloes or CU Buffs,” Miller-Huey said. “The word ‘buffalos’ is actually spelled wrong, interestingly enough. But we don’t have a copyright on the word buffaloes, and this is not something that we would pursue because it is not trying to look like an official university site.”
Miller-Huey said that university employees would have to investigate the website further before commenting on its legitimacy.
“We don’t necessarily have to get approval from the schools before we launch,” Bator said. “We’ve gone through this in a very legal and official way, in order to make sure that everything is done correctly. Ideally, in the future, I would like to see more cohesion cooperation between our company and the schools that we’re launching with.”
Bator hopes that his online poker clubs will both employ students and take money away from predatory gambling sites that exploit students. When the poker clubs launch and begin to gain momentum, Bator said he would like to hire campus marketers to promote the sites.
“We’ll be giving the money back to students at each of these schools,” Bator said. “We want students to become a part of this experience. We want them to own it.”
Despite Bator’s efforts to publicize his site and make it appeal to students, most at CU still seem reluctant to pay the $19.99 per month, and few students are even aware of its existence.
Alexa Magrane, an 18-year-old freshman Japanese major, said that she has gambled small amounts with family and friends, but that it is not a major hobby of hers.
“I probably wouldn’t pay for it, but I know people that would,” said Alexa Magrane, 18, a freshman majoring in Japanese. “If that’s what they want to do with their money, then okay.”
Nick Farrow, a 29-year-old fifth-year senior physics and math major, said he does enjoy gambling and has played games such as craps and roulette at casinos in Black Hawk, an old mining town that now houses 18 casinos. A number of other male students also said that they had often visited casinos in Black Hawk.
“I think [the website] is a good idea,” Farrow said. “There are some websites that don’t put a limit on how much you can spend, and you could lose a lot of money if you think you’re really good, and you’re not. Setting a limit would give people an opportunity to have fun, but not lose everything.”
Though Farrow had a favorable view of the website, he said that he would not be willing to pay for online play.
“I don’t think I would ever play online,” Farrow said. “It’s not the same as playing with friends, and you never know who you’re playing against. It could be someone that’s really good.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hadley Vandiver at Hadley.firstname.lastname@example.org.