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Focus on gambling in multicultural communities

30 May 20140 comments

Dice and Poker Chips on Game TableCultural isolation and notions of material aspiration are contributing to high rates of problem gambling among some migrant communities, new research has found.

The study, by Monash University researchers found Chinese migrant gamblers are five times more likely to fall victim to problem gambling than the general gambling population.

Released this week for Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, the study found cultural beliefs in luck and auspicious signs have contributed to higher prevalence of problem gambling in the Chinese-Australian community.

“People talked about testing your luck – it’s really ingrained in the culture,” researcher Dr Harriet Radermacher said.

“Casinos are associated with wealth and class.”

She said Australia’s casinos are taking advantage of the Chinese community’s taste for gambling and glitzy casinos, using language and cuisine to cater to the market.

“People talked a lot about the sense of freedom they felt when they came here and how this could lead to embracing the gambling culture,” Dr Radermacher said.

She said casinos provided a haven for the culturally isolated people.

This, coupled with the difficulty for new non-English speaking migrants to find culturally appropriate social activities, often leads to a dependency on gambling.

Chinese community leader Jim Yang said that in Chinese culture gambling was very much a recreational activity – done when gathering with friends or festival time.

“It’s a fun activity – we call it social gambling,” he said.

“But it’s not legal (in China). We don’t go to casinos, so it’s a transition time when (Chinese people) arrive in Australia and there aren’t the restrictions around what you can or can’t do.”

“It’s sad that people only seek help when their financial issue is at its worst stage, when they’ve lost everything – their house, car, and in serious debt,” she said.

He said the culturally inviting aspects of casinos and the lack of early awareness programs tailored to the Chinese community make it very hard for migrants to avoid gambling.

“Many Chinese people feel they have very low social status in this society but they can go to a casino and feel like they’re important people, and be treated well.

“It is a way of coping, its one thing they can say ‘I’m good at it’,” Mr Yang said.

Dr Radermacher said gambling was well documented in the Australian community, but not within specific ethnic groups.

“The percentage of Australians that gamble is equivalent to Canada or England by the percentage per capita, but the amount people are spending when they gamble is two to three times higher in Australia,” she said.

“That’s why we’re labelled the gambling nation, and it’s quite shocking really.”

She said culturally appropriate support needs to be developed for migrant communities.

“Australia is a multicultural nation and we don’t know enough about the ethnic voices,” she said.

Chinese Peer Support gambling hotline: 1300 755 87
Gambler’s Help line: 1800 858 858.