Australia

'Urgent need' to tackle gambling problems of risk groups including migrants

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Gambling can become a problem for many Australians, including isolated migrants, and there are calls to address it as a priority.

The Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria says there is an urgent need to tackle gambling problems in Australia.

The call was made at a gambling harm forum in Melbourne on Thursday, which discussed the issue of problem gambling.

National figures show Australians spend about $24 billion on gambling every year.

Gambling
Gambling can become a problem for many people.
Unsplash/Chris Liverani

The Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria's Deputy Chair Dr Sundram Sivamalai said many people are at risk, including older migrants who are socially isolated.

"There is an urgent need as we've seen the harm from gambling has affected a large number of communities, particularly communities from a culturally linguistic diverse background."

He said often the problem is hidden and many people in rural areas are especially vulnerable.

"They feel lonely at home, isolated if they don't have other support services ... They feel going to the venue gives them an opportunity. It's warm particularly on a cold day."

But the forum heard many younger people are also at risk.

Like many Australians, 23-year-old Melbourne student Bayu Pratama was exposed to horse racing and gambling through his friends but his habit escalated.

"And all of a sudden when my friends don't want to go anymore, I started to go by myself. It becomes kind of like recreational gambling again. It kind of let me think I do gambling just for the sake in my own time. It kind of leads me to believe I could make money out of it."

Kempton Races
Problem gambling affects people of all ages.
Getty Images

Mr Pratama, who has an Indonesian background, started working in the racing industry and said there is a stigma attached to problem gambling.

"It's a shame for your family. Myself as young people have a lot of international students who are young as well, they don't have a platform to talk about it. There's such a shame. It's a shame culture essentially."

One local council in suburban Melbourne with a large Italian community is trying to change young people's perceptions and society's normalisation of gambling.

The Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie said it’s a problem that affects people of all ages, including young children.

"You know we used to have ten-year-old kids running around with the name of a pokies venue on their soccer tops and now those kids are running around with a different sponsor." 

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation told the forum gambling rates are decreasing and fewer people are putting bets on the annual Melbourne Cup horse race.

But the Ethnic Communities' Council said any responsible gambler has the potential to become addicted.

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