St Hilda's is flush as poker bet pays off

August 5, 2005

Gambling is rarely a safe bet when it comes to making money, but the women of St Hilda's College, Oxford, are quids in thanks to the boom in online poker, writes Claire Sanders.

St Hilda's, one of the three female-only Oxbridge colleges, has emerged as an investor in Party Gaming, an online poker company that was launched on the stock market in June with an initial value of about £5 billion.

The rise of online gambling, with some 300 poker websites alone worldwide, has been widely criticised.

The National Union of Students is among the critics. It is worried by press reports of students seeking to pay their way through college through gambling.

Veronica King, NUS vice-president, welfare, said: "With current levels of student debt so high, it is easy to see why some individuals may be tempted into what could be seen as an easy loan top-up, but it's a very dangerous way to supplement income and could result in great financial loss."

There are fears that online poker is proving particularly attractive to women.

A poll by YouGov, a market research company, found that women account for up to a third of online poker players and are by far the fastest growing group of competitors.

This week St Hilda's, which voted narrowly to remain an all-female college in 2003, said that the selection of shares was left entirely to its asset managers at HSBC, who acted on behalf of the institution.

Janet Howarth, vice-principal of St Hilda's, said: "The college has a socially responsible investment policy that was agreed by the fellows of the college after discussion with student representatives."

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