Some students have run up gambling debts of £10,000 or more, a Gambling Commission director has told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Ben Haden said his organisation was concerned about the impact gambling was having on undergraduates.
Former student Matt Zarb-Cousin told the BBC: "One day I lost about £2,500 just on [gambling] machines. I came very close to taking my own life."
The National Union of Students said action was needed to minimise risks.
Mr Haden added: "Clearly with the raft of new students heading to uni at this time of year we should do more for the student population."
The Gambling Commission is calling for more advice and guidance to help prevent students from becoming hooked.
It wants universities to provide the same level of information and support about the risks from gambling as they do for drugs, alcohol and safe sex.
A government review due this autumn will look at fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) - now common on high streets - and children's access to gambling.