Pacific focus for new gambling research

02 Sep, 2013
Dr Maria Bellringer

The most detailed study to date of Pacific people’s gambling and the impacts of problem gambling in New Zealand has been carried out by AUT University researchers.

The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Health to improve understanding of the impact of gambling on Pacific people, inform risk factors and better understand causes of problem gambling.

Lead researcher Dr Maria Bellringer, Associate Director of the AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, says: “We found that attitudes and behaviour were influenced by a lack of gambling opportunities in Pacific island countries as well as deep-rooted cultural, religious and church influenced views.”

Researchers conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with 112 participants from the major Pacific ethnicities living in New Zealand: Samoan, Tongan, and Cook Islands. They also extracted previously unanalysed data from nearly 2,000 Pacific participants from three earlier studies.

Key findings:

  • Religion and the church were very important factors in whether Pacific people gambled, based on whether the church denomination endorsed any gambling, no gambling, or only gambling for fundraising purposes.  Church leaders had different views on their role in guiding or intervening around gambling issues.
  • Migration issues influenced gambling behaviour, with New Zealand offering more gambling opportunities and more free time than Pacific Island countries.
  • Gambling was perceived by focus group and interview participants to be an easy way to make money.
  • Lottery products were the most popular gambling options followed by non-casino and casino electronic gaming machines at a substantially lower level.  The frequency of gambling depended on the mode of gambling and the more frequent the participation, the more modes of gambling were generally involved.
  • Generally, more negative impacts of gambling were noted than positive impacts.  Negative impacts could be extreme including relationship breakdown, loss of accommodation and belongings, child neglect and suicide. Financial problems were sometimes masked by other family members ‘helping’ a problem gambler’s family by providing essentials such as food.
  • Changes in life circumstances, such as marital status as well as co-existing behaviours including drinking alcohol, tobacco smoking and other mental health behaviours, impacted on gambling behaviour and expenditure.
  • The study found ethnic and gender differences in relation to gambling behaviours and impacts.  Some Cook Islands participants appeared to have more pressures to provide money for family obligations and turned to gambling in the hope of winning money.  Samoan fathers were the least likely to gamble compared to the other ethnicities.
  • There was limited awareness of gambling help services.

Pacific people have consistently been reported at higher risk for developing problem gambling than other ethnicities. But until now there has been little gambling-related Pacific-specific research.

Dr Bellringer says: “This study has significantly increased our knowledge of why Pacific people do or do not gamble, and why some are at higher risk of developing problem gambling. More work is needed to raise awareness of the potential destructiveness of problem gambling to Pacific families and communities.”  

Media enquiries or for a copy of the executive summary:

Esther Harward
Communications Manager, AUT University
09 921 9688
021 632 309

For more information:

Dr Maria Bellringer
Senior Research Fellow, AUT University Faculty of Health & Environmental Sciences
Associate Director, Gambling and Addictions Research Centre
DDI: 09 921 9999 extn. 7232

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