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Today’s 9 year olds - tomorrow’s problem gamblers?

11 September 2012

Today’s 9 year olds - tomorrow’s problem gamblers?

A study of gambling habits in Pasifika families (mothers and children) has revealed children as young as nine are betting with money.

Of the nearly 900 children surveyed, almost all (94%) reported playing housie and/or card games and 27% reported playing for money, says Dr Maria Bellringer, Associate Director of AUT University's Gambling and Addictions Research Centre.

“Housie is a common form of fundraising within Pacific churches; as such it may be considered low-risk. However, the fact is when gambling is perceived as an acceptable behaviour children are more likely to engage in gambling activities.”

“Since 1991, research has shown that Pacific people are at a significantly higher risk for developing problem gambling than the general population,” says Dr Bellringer.

The research is the first of its kind to look at gambling in Pacific children at nine years of age within a family context. The purpose of the study was to investigate linkages between gambling behaviour in children and a range of influences, including family gambling habits. It also considered the long-term impacts of gambling, says Dr Bellringer.

Approximately 17% of children studied reported receiving scratch cards as a gift and another 7% reported buying Lotto, Big Wednesday or Keno tickets.

“The minimum age for buying scratch cards is 18 and it’s an offense to purchase a ticket for someone aged under 18 years. This seems to indicate a number of parents and family members are not aware of the legal restrictions.”

Findings also revealed that boys are more likely to play for money than girls and girls are more likely to prefer housie than boys.

“Children who are involved in a gang are more than twice as likely to participate in gambling. Children with less parental supervision are nearly twice as likely to gamble,” says Dr Bellringer.

The 2009 Mother and Child Gambling research study is part of the larger Pacific Island Families longitudinal study which has followed over 1000 Pasifika children since birth in the year 2000. The wider study examines health, development and social implications for Pacific children and their families. The gambling study looked at a total of 957 mothers and 874 children.

Of the mothers who took part in the 2009 Mother and Child Gambling research study, 46% were Samoan, 22% Tongan, 17% Cook Island and the remainder were of other Pasifika ethnicities.

The Ministry of Health funded study provides a valuable insight into the impact of gambling and problem gambling on child development within a Pacific family, says Dr Bellringer. The study will help establish a baseline to explore the links between parental gambling and child development of gambling behaviours, as well as risk and protective factors for problem gambling amongst children as they progress through adolescence and into adulthood.

A copy of the summary of key findings (Pacific Islands Families Study 2009: Mother and Child Gambling) is available here.

A copy of the full report is available here.

According to the 2006/2007 National Health Survey, over 50% of problem gamblers come from the most deprived 20% of communities. Maori and Pacific people are still about four times more likely to be problem gamblers than other ethnic groups in New Zealand.

A copy of the Ministry of Health - A Focus on Problem Gambling: Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey is available here.

Ministry of Health - Intervention client data, 2004-2011 financial years is available here.

Non-casino pokie machines are found to be more heavily concentrated in deprived neighbourhoods. Research also shows that living closer to gambling venues is associated with increased participation and greater risk of problem gambling. According to Professor Abbott, Director of AUT’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, gambling follows and deepens existing lines of social inequality and increases health disparities across ethnic groups.

The Gambling Harm Reduction Amendment Bill: in May 2012 the Gambling Harm Reduction Amendment Bill received its first reading in Parliament. The bill proposes to give councils the power to eliminate pokies in venues deemed to be harmful. It also proposes the introduction of more robust harm minimisation measures including pre-commitment and player tracking, and a more transparent allocation of gambling proceeds back into the community.

AUT’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre:


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