By CeCe Hylton-Dei, PEACE Multicultural Services (RASA)
“Who is stupid enough to waste money on gambling?”
“I don’t go to the Casino.”
“I don’t know of anyone who gambles, so it’s not really my problem.”
It is fair to say that we have in one way or the other come across some of these comments. To some of us, gambling is a distant issue and, as far as we are concerned, it is not relevant to us, not happening within our communities.
So what is gambling anyway? In its simplest form, gambling is the act of participating in a game of chance for money or other stakes; it is taking a risk in the hope of gaining some kind of benefit. Gambling comes in many variations. Most people are familiar with casino gambling games like poker or blackjack, but possess minimal knowledge of the other types of gambling such as slot machines, electronic games, sports betting, scratch cards and bets on games of personal skill (for example video games).
For most people, gambling is recreational. However, when people spend more time and more money gambling, it tends to have a negative impact on them and also on the people around them. This is what is often referred to as “problem gambling”. Furthermore, problem gambling affects many aspects of an individual’s life, such as their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, finances, work, study and relationships.
It is well-documented that the feelings of isolation during post-settlement, accompanied by discrimination, racism and other acculturation issues, often make culturally and linguistically diverse groups more susceptible to developing problem gambling. In addition, our experiences suggest that gambling never presents itself as the issue, but rather is hidden under other issues, such as family breakdowns, mental health issues, financial debt or bankruptcy, domestic violence and an array of others.
For some, gambling acts as a coping mechanism, a way to escape certain issues they face; others simply get carried away by the thrill of it. The most important message that we all need to understand is that anyone can fall into the trap of developing gambling problems at some vulnerable point of their lives – regardless of their cultural, educational or professional backgrounds. Yes, some people are more susceptible than others to developing problem gambling-related issues; however, without the appropriate information, education and support, anyone could be affected by problem gambling.
The second message that we need to get across, is that people need to seek help as early as possible and not rely solely on self-help and control as this often does not work without the help of professionals. A person experiencing problem gambling-related issues may not always be aware of the severity of the situation and its consequences on their overall wellbeing or on others connected to them. People experiencing these issues often seek help at a crisis point where they are losing their home, or in trouble with the justice system, or are just about to lose the family. Therefore, the first step to seeking support in addressing problem gambling, regardless of its severity, is the acknowledgement and recognition that problem gambling is indeed a problem. It is important to be aware that not every financial issue experienced by a person is always related to problem gambling.
A lot of people endure their complex situations simply based on the fact that they fear becoming the subject of ridicule, or being stigmatised and discriminated against by family members or other members of their communities.
As community members, we can play a part in addressing this issue of problem gambling within our respective communities by being non-judgmental, reducing stigma and shame and offering our support to fellow members affected by the problem.
To do so, everyone in the community needs to be informed and play a role in mobilising the community to take collective actions in addressing this issue.
As members of our culturally and linguistically diverse communities and the wider Australian Community, we could contribute towards addressing this issue by:
- Becoming knowledgeable about existing gambling support services that are able to provide further information on the issue,
- Actively engaging in volunteer opportunities that aim to improve our knowledge base and equip us with the necessary skills in community engagement and empowerment,
- Challenging negative stereotypes that result in prejudice, and Making a conscious effort to educate others through simple day-to-day conversations.
For more information or support, kindly contact any one of the following services:
PEACE Multicultural Services (RASA) – (08) 8245 8100 or 1800 182 325 (Country Callers)
Statewide Gambling Therapy Service – 8182 4911
Gambling Helpline 1800 858 858
Relationships Australia South Australia – 1300 364 277 or 1800 182 325 (Country Callers)