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Money Problems Drive Gambling Habits

23 February 2005

Money Problems Drive Gambling Habits

The need to win money, and the feeling of being close to winning, as a way out of financial problems have been identified as key factors that cause people to develop gambling problems, a study into why people gamble has shown.

And many of those who took part in the study indicated they felt that they were being specifically targeted by gambling operators because of their low incomes.

The study, the Problem Gambling Research Initiative, is a joint initiative in problem gambling research funded by the Problem Gambling Committee and administered by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Led by Dr Samson Tse of The University of Auckland's Centre for Gambling Studies, part of the School of Population Health, it set out to identify why people gamble, and what then causes the progression from social gambling to problem gambling.

"By identifying what triggers that progression, we can develop strategies and interventions to both prevent it and to help individuals with the problems," he said.

Dr Tse said the pilot study indicated that a larger nation-wide study was needed to get an even clearer understanding of the nature of gambling problems in New Zealand.

The study was conducted in Auckland and included a questionnaire answered by 345 adults and interviews with131 people in focus groups from four ethnic backgrounds - Maori, Pakeha, Pacific Island and Asian.

Dr Tse says the study shows a combination of factors influence gambling behaviour and makes some people more vulnerable to gambling problems. These include financial hardship, social isolation and boredom, stress and troubles, family and peer influences.

"Many problem gamblers start gambling for social reasons to meet financial needs and obligations, but continue for personal reasons and needing more money to cover losses. For them the urge to win, the feeling that they are just about to win becomes very strong."

The potency of the gambling environment and the abundance and accessibility of gaming machines contributed to problems, he says.

The study showed Maori people, encouraged by stressful city living, tended to gamble for money to meet their every day needs. Also, their social venues tended to have gambling activities and it has become part of Maori social/community activity.

Many Pacific people hoped to raise money to meet their 'gifting" obligations to family church and community.

Asian people in the study saw gambling as a way to fit into New Zealand culture, ease the loneliness and boredom of being a new immigrant and for those without work a way to gain easy money.

Pakeha people gambled for the money and as a way of coping with stress and boredom.

Dr Wiremu Manaia, of the University of Auckland' School of Population Health, who also took part in the study, said that for many Maori people their low social-economic status made them particularly vulnerable to gambling problems.

"There is a feeling that low socio-economic areas are targeted, particularly with the gaming machines. Until recent legislation was introduced, extra 'pokie' machines were being moved into parts of South Auckland at specific times of the week to coincide with benefit days.

"And with the proliferation of gambling machines what began as gambling being symptomatic of low socio-economic factors has shifted so it is now a cause."

Dr Tse says gaming machines or pokies are the most common form of gambling associated with problem gambling.

"The proliferation in social environments, the immediate and continuous gratification they offer and their appealing design and presentation make them very addictive," he says.

Dr Tse says the study shows that the influence of advertising and the accessibility of the machines and access to money in those environments also contributed to problem gambling, and these factors needed to be carefully considered in regulation of the industry.

The other members of the research team were Professor Max Abbott, of the Auckland University of Technology, Dr David Clarke of Massey University, Sonia Townsend of The University of Auckland and Pefi Kingi, of The University of Auckland and the National Pacific Gambling Project.


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