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Migrants at higher risk of problem gambling: report

Foreign-born Australians are in far greater danger of developing a destructive gambling addiction, research reveals.

A report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found the stress of moving to a new country, and the shame associated with gambling in some cultures, increases the risk of new arrivals becoming problem gamblers.

Migrants have a higher chance of risky gambling, research shows.
Migrants have a higher chance of risky gambling, research shows.  Photo: Peter Braig

It cites research that gamblers from Arabic, Chinese and Greek communities are up to seven times more likely than Australians to develop a severe gambling problem.

Almost half the Australian population is born overseas or has at least one parent born outside the country. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the most common birthplaces of recent migrants are China and India.

Casinos offer culturally specific food, drink and entertainment to appeal to people of different cultures.
Casinos offer culturally specific food, drink and entertainment to appeal to people of different cultures.
 Photo: Bloomberg

While people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities gamble less overall than the general population, those who do have a higher chance of risky gambling, the report finds.

Stress factors linked to migration, including the loss of support networks, difficulty communicating in a foreign language, boredom and lifestyle changes increase the risk of slipping into dangerous gambling habits.

Australians have the highest per capita gambling expenditure worldwide and migrants may view it as a way to integrate, the study finds. The wide availability of gaming venues compared with those of some Asian and Muslim countries can also play a part. 

Australian Gambling Research Centre manager Anna Thomas said a lack of culturally appropriate entertainment venues might be driving some migrants to gaming venues.

“Many casinos, for example, offer culturally specific food, drink and entertainment and special games that are inexpensive and designed to make people from a wide variety of minority cultures feel welcome,” she said.

“These venues may be particularly attractive to those who have recently arrived from a country with a distinctly different culture or those who have not integrated well into the majority culture.”

Dr Thomas said beliefs about luck and good fortune took on added significance in the gambling context. In the Vietnamese and Chinese cultures, luck was linked to a person’s good character, but the research found beliefs about luck – such as gambling on certain numbers or colours – created a distorted view of winning, which could lead to riskier betting.

For some cultures, shame and stigma was attached to gambling, meaning people could become more vulnerable as they tried to hide their problem from family and friends until it reached crisis point.

Dr Thomas said culturally specific gambling help services were needed so new arrivals understood the risks.

For assistance, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 (free interpreter services are available).

ATTITUDES TO GAMBLING BY CULTURE

Not accepted

  • Russian: a “reprehensible pastime” „
  • Tamil: not part of the culture, a sin

Somewhat accepted

  • Arabic: a source of entertainment and refuge but also of shame, a source of quick money „
  • Caribbean: not universally accepted but seen as part of one’s status, considered manly „
  • Italian: an individual pastime (apart from cards, which is seen as a social activity) and not generally shared with the family „
  • Latin American: not universally accepted but seen as part of one’s status, considered manly „
  • Macedonian: an enjoyable activity, which sometimes results in feelings of shame

Accepted

  • Aboriginal (Australia): a source of pleasure and fun, a way to make money „
  • Chinese: positive, part of the culture, a way to “test one’s luck”, and a source of quick money „
  • Croatian: traditional pastime, a source of personal entertainment „
  • Greek: traditional pastime, an enjoyable form of social contact and entertainment shared with family and friends, a source of quick money „
  • Hispanic: a pleasurable hobby or social activity, part of one’s status, considered manly „
  • Korean: a way to escape, a pleasurable and social activity „
  • Maori: not historically part of the culture but a common pastime currently „
  • Pacific/Samoan: an enjoyable, sociable activity „
  • Vietnamese: an enjoyable activity, a source of quick money, a game of luck and skill

Source: Australian Institute of Family Studies

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