Boredom and a lack of social connections are some of the triggers to gambling-related problems for people from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) in the Northern Territory, according to new research from Charles Darwin University (CDU).
Researchers from CDU’s Northern Institute and Menzies School of Health Research who investigated the gambling habits of the NESB communities found that anti-social gambling, such as electronic gaming machines (pokies), were popular with some sectors of the NESB and non-Indigenous community.
Lead researcher in the study, CDU Senior Research Fellow Dr Kate Golebiowska said research found that gambling was a problem for many of the communities surveyed.
“We found that it’s the lack of family connections and a lack of suitable, retiree-friendly activities to engage in during the day that contribute to the gambling issues in Darwin,” Dr Golebiowska said.
Dr Golebiowska said that when seeking help, people in NESB communities would prefer informal help, rather than utilising the formal help of a gambling counselor.
“Community leaders reported that people experiencing problems with their gambling did not seek help until there were serious impacts,” she said.
“Usually, a family member would notice something. They (the family member) will approach them and say, ‘maybe you need to take a break’ or maybe seek some help”.
Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) researcher and co-author of the study, Dr Himanshu Gupta, said many people with NESB suffered from boredom and a lack of opportunities for social interaction with their traditional cultures.
“These opportunities for social interaction are mechanisms that many new migrants use to blend within their own community as well as the broader Australian community,” Dr Gupta said.
The researchers conducted 75 interviews in Darwin and Alice Springs.
Dr Golebiowska said that there were differences in the triggers in the two locations that led to problematic gambling.
“In Darwin, the main trigger that led to gambling was isolation from social networks, while in Alice Spring it was boredom because of a lack of activities that would enable social interactions after work,” she said.
Menzies Senior Research Fellow Dr Matt Stevens said the research showed that better regulations and harm reduction policies were required by the gambling industry.
“The online gambling market is growing and further regulations to limit accessibility and to allow gamblers to monitor money and time spent gambling are required,” Dr Stevens said.
“Good social connections for these communities can lead to better peer support to prevent gambling from being passed on to other family members and peers and discontinuing the cycle.”
Dr Gupta said raising awareness of gambling as a problem to these communities could also go a long way.
“Creating TV and social media advertisements featuring local community leaders talking about gambling harms could be a good way of addressing the issues,” Dr Gupta said.
Northern Territory Department of the Attorney-General and Justice funded the scoping study into the NESB community’s relationship with gambling.