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Gambling involves risking money or something else of value on the outcome of a game or event when the result involves chance. Many of us have gambled at some time in our lives.
In Australia, there are many forms of gambling available including:
- Poker and other electronic gaming machines (pokies)
- Horse and greyhound racing
- Scratch tickets or other lottery tickets
- Lotto and Powerball
- Roulette and other games at a casino
- Poker and other card games
- Internet gambling
Gambling was brought to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788. A game of toss and spin was popular and evolved to be Two Up which is still played legally every year on ANZAC day. The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861. In 1956 poker machines were legalised in NSW clubs. TAB off-course betting was established. In 1984 hotels were permitted to install gaming machines. By 1992 NSW clubs were required to be licensed to install gaming machines. Following this the Star City Casino opened in 1995. In 1997 a telephone counselling and referral services for problem gamblers and their families was launched in NSW.
In 2018, NSW had 93,618 poker machines installed in pubs, clubs and the casino. (Liquor and Gambling NSW, Gaming Machine Data, 8 May 2020)
In 2017/18 the total gambling expenditure in NSW was reportedly $9.8billion; 88.04% was spent gaming (gaming machines, casino table games, lotto, keno, instant lottery and pools), 10.15% racing, and 1.81% sports betting.
NSW residents lost an average of $1,593.99 per capita in gambling, close to 70% through spending playing poker machines. In the same year the gambling tax revenue collected by the Government reached $2.3 billion in NSW alone. (Australian Gambling Statistics, 35th edition, 2019)
The surge in online gambling continues to grow. In August 2020, the average spend per month on online gambling was $1,130 per gambler, which was $14 higher than July 2020 ($1,116). It’s the fifth month in a row that the average spend per gambler has climbed in the past 12 months. (Finder, Gambling Statistics Australia)
People gamble for a range of reasons. These can include:
- the desire to win money, the jackpot
- for entertainment, to try their luck
- to forget troubles and escape problems and low mood
- to avoid isolation and loneliness
- to try to subsidise low income
There is no single definition of problem gambling. Gambling behaviours occur across a continuum, and there are differences between individuals on when difficulties associated with gambling becomes a "problem" (Australian Productivity Commission, 2008).
When gambling is seen as entertainment or social activity, gambling is not a problem. However, if the person gambling experiences difficulty in limiting the time or money spent on gambling causing problems in other areas of their life, or with their family, friends and community, this can indicate that problem gambling is occurring.
Signs of problem gambling include:
- thinking about gambling constantly
- spending more money and time gambling than intended
- avoiding activities where there is no opportunity to gamble
- missing work or family events to gamble instead
- feeling depressed about gambling
- borrowing or stealing money to gamble
- needing to borrow money to pay for living expenses, including groceries, petrol and other bills
- being secretive and hiding gambling activities from friends
Problem gambling can lead to a variety of problems including:
- psychological difficulties - shame, guilt, anxiety and depression
- financial difficulties - inability to pay living expenses, bankruptcy
- employment difficulties - missing work to gamble
- family and relationship breakdowns
Gambling is an activity that occurs in some form in most communities. However, culturally and linguistically diverse communities can be vulnerable to problem gambling for a variety of reasons.
Migrants can be socially, culturally and economically marginalised making them vulnerable to problem gambling. Due to the popularity of gambling activities in the Australian environment, migrants may view gambling as a way to acculturate to their new community. New migrants may be socially isolated and gambling venues may provide social contact and a recreation activity, and gambling may also be perceived as a way to supplement income.
Alternatively, migrants may be vulnerable as their culture of origin may be characterised by gambling activities. For example, participating in activities such as card games may be viewed as a method to maintain their culture.
However, not all cultures are supportive of gambling activities, therefore, participating in gambling may be an activity that is conducted in secret. Problem gambling can be associated with a great deal of stigma and guilt, making it difficult for people from some communities who are experiencing problem gambling to seek and access help. These problems can be magnified if the person with problem gambling lacks the cultural and language skills to access mainstream gambling support services.
The Multicultural Problem Gambling Service (MPGS) can assist people with problem gambling access culturally and linguistically appropriate counselling services. The counsellors are qualified and experienced, and understand cultural values around gambling and the barriers experienced by people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in seeking assistance. MPGS counsellors speak the language of the clients and understand their culture.
MPGS provides services for problem gamblers and their families from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in NSW.
- Free and confidential telephone counselling
- Specialised face to face / family counselling in many languages
- Telephone information, advice and referral to other services
- Community education programs
MPGS also supports other service providers in NSW, including mainstream gambling counselling and mental health services by offering the following:
- Training on cross-cultural issues in problem gambling
- Accepting referrals from service providers
- Provision of specialist clinical and cross-cultural consultancy and advice
MPGS is a joint initiative of Multicultural NSW and the Western Sydney Local Health District. Financial assistance for the project is provided by the NSW Government through the Office of Responsible Gambling.
MVSE (or self-banning) is a voluntary process initiated by a person who has a gambling concern, to exclude themselves from specific areas of gambling venues, entire venues, or online providers. This can include hotels, clubs and the Star Casino. All gambling venues in NSW must offer a self-exclusion scheme. Working with Clubs NSW, MPGS can assist in making self-exclusion applications from clubs and hotels in NSW.
Visit Gambling Help Online to download self exclusion forms and read more about self exclusion