Are the reasons for Ethno/Multicultural Communities and gambling different?

Whether people belong to ethno-multicultural communities or the mainstream culture, the reasons for gambling and the problems that can develop by it, are the same.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), people from different cultural backgrounds gamble:

· To socialize

· To escape problems and isolation

· To socialize with members of cultural groups

· To regain social status

· To celebrate religious festivals

In many ethno-cultural groups gambling is a way to socialize. However, many ethno-cultural communities have unique social and recreational activities as well as preferences for games. In the Italian community for example, card playing is very popular, whether at home or at social clubs. Children of Asian cultural background are taught to play the game Mahjong, or Fan-Tan, which is a traditional and very simple pebble-counting game. “Fan” means “to turn over” an object, which could be a cup or a bowl, and “Tan” means “spread out” the stones.

When talking about gambling and ethno-cultural groups we have to mention the issue of immigration –life in transition- This extra stress on newcomers and refugees may put them in a more vulnerable position to develop a problem with gambling. They may use gambling as an escape from feelings of loneliness, homesickness, sadness and anguish, and the effect that   these issues may have on every family member as well as the whole family as a unit.  It is also important to take into consideration the family roles and behaviours in their own culture and their own family, as well as their attitudes and  beliefs about gambling and luck.

It is also important to note that within the same ethno-cultural communities, many differences exist, mostly due to the following factors:

  • Type of Immigration Status
  • Time of Immigration
  • Level of Acculturation
  • Level of Education
  • Socio-Economic Status
  • Ability to get and feel involved in the :new” community
  • Social/Community  support

As cited in the 2006 report “The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada”, Statistics Canada, (p34), all immigrants face resettlement stress or the challenge of settling in a new country.  Possible stressors include unemployment, poverty, isolation, language barriers, differing societal values, racism, and, in general  knowing how various systems-such as credentialing, employment, workplace, education and health-function.

People from different cultural backgrounds may use gambling to try to regain lost status, to feel part of the new community or part of the crowd and to feel that they belong. However, the social stigma that might be attached to gambling, within their own communities, may prevent gamblers who develop a problem from admitting that there is a problem and seeking professional help. As a result, there is greater stress on family members to deal with this problem and also to provide necessary health, financial and legal care, and what is consider cultural ly appropriate in regards looking for outside help e.g. counselling or t treatment.

The following are a few smart strategies to help family members to cope with issues of gambling and problem gambling

Smart strategies to prevent and protect family members:

  • Get Informed
  • Don’t Hide the Problem
  • Find the Right moment to talk about it
  • Support the family member or relative in making positive change
  • Find Professional Help and Family Support for yourself
  • Remember that change takes time

(Adapted from Within Limits, 2006 publication, Responsible Gambling Council of Ontario)

There may also be the issue of conflict of values between one’s own religious and cultural practices and the modern-western practice of gambling as entertainment, which is very common here in Canada.

Please see COSTI  Immigrant Services  publication “A Reference Manual on Problem Gambling for Newcomers Service Providers”, as an  example of  how perception about gambling, problem gambling and where to seek help are different for members of ethno-cultural groups.

Since gambling is a tourism attraction, many times there may be more opportunities for multilingual people to be employed within the gaming industry (Casinos, Bingo Halls, etc.). However, due to the availability/accessibility of gambling venues, there is also a high incidence of problem gambling within the gaming industry staff.