Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Almost 30% of our population was born overseas, and nearly every single country from around the world was represented in Australia's population in 2020.
Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.
Harmony Week (March 21st – 27th) encourages us to celebrate this diversity, and highlights the importance of respect, inclusivity, and creating a space where everyone belongs. This Harmony Week, we’ve teamed up with Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast (MCCGC) and cultural leaders from around the world to share insights on gambling in different countries, and what gambling looks like in Australia within culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
Gambling Around the World
It’s amazing just how differently gambling is viewed in different cultures.
While it may be considered a positive social activity in some countries, it’s strictly prohibited in others, such as Poland, Singapore, Cambodia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Whether it’s accepted or not, gambling is a part of many cultures around the world – and Australians are widely reported to be the world’s biggest gamblers.
“With gambling being so prevalent in Australia, particularly Queensland, many people who move here from other countries can perceive gambling as a big part of Australian culture,” explains Gambling Help Services Community Educator Amy.
“These individuals may engage in gambling as a way to integrate into the Aussie lifestyle.”
We spoke to some cultural leaders to learn about the attitudes toward gambling in their country of heritage compared to their experience of gambling in Australia.
Ping – China
“It’s a good thing. It’s accepted. But there are limits.”
Ping explains that China has a very big gambling culture – especially during Chinese New Year.
She says card games are very popular in China, with everyone knowing how to play cards but not always gambling for monetary value. She also notes that it’s common for seniors of the Chinese community who live in Australia to go to the casino.
“It’s seen as a positive thing for seniors for social engagement. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing,” Ping explains.
“It can be a positive thing – especially for seniors – as long as you have the right education. It’s very important to educate people about limits.”
Ping stresses the importance of educating the next generation about safe gambling.
“It’s important for our leaders to educate and guide in the right way – especially with kids gaming online,” she says. “Start with teenagers in high schools and universities.”
Antonella – Argentina
“We have a big and powerful gambling industry.”
Antonella explains that gambling is a big issue in Argentina, with a lot of casinos in the country.
“I never thought that it would be a very safe place for community groups to be in,” she explains.
Antonella also notes that in Argentina, the casino is a popular place for international students and refugees to meet.
Yasuko – Japan
“We need more support for the mental impacts.”
Yasuko describes how gambling is viewed in a negative light in Japan. There currently aren’t any bright and flashy casinos like in Australia, and generally, only men participate.
“Gambling seems to be more appealing and positive in Australia, with bright lights, conversation, dressing up and drinking. It’s a social thing here,” she says. “Japanese people don’t dress up for the horse races like Australians do.”
Yasuko explains that in Australia, she has worked in aged care, where she has taken clients to the casino. “They really enjoyed it. It’s positive for entertainment. But more education and support is needed.”
Frederik – Netherlands
“Once poker machines arrived, hell broke loose.”
Frederik reminisces on life before casinos opened and gambling became more common in the Netherlands.
“Before the casino opened, family relationships were positive. We enjoyed outdoor activities. Once poker machines arrived, hell broke loose.”
He explains how gambling and drug issues brought more crime to the country, and that “drugs and gambling go hand in hand.”
Maria – Hungary
“Gambling is hidden in Hungary, but it’s really in your face in Australia.”
Maria highlights that gambling must be really sought out in Hungary, while it’s extremely accessible in Australia in comparison.
“It’s very hidden in Hungary, and it’s very much in our face in Australia,” she says. “It’s very casual to go somewhere and find pokie machines, for example. It creates a different norm and coping methods for people. The lights and noises are designed to get you in. And once you get high on winning, it’s hard to walk away.”
Maria states that in Hungary, casinos are associated with criminal activities and the upper class. “It’s a hidden world,” she says.
“I believe education is needed regarding the odds and how these games are set up to create compulsive behaviours, taking more reality into this “glamorous” world.”
Maria explains that she believes gambling is a dangerous hobby, and it’s very easy to lose control.
“Most people who participate in gambling in Hungary are vulnerable people who cannot really afford to play or lose big,” she says.
“It would be nice if staff were trained at pubs, where they recognise problematic behaviours. The 24/7 helpline is also a good idea.”
Gambling and CALD Communities in Australia
Research funded by the Office of Responsible Gambling found culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are vulnerable to increased risks of gambling-related harm.
Individuals from these communities generally participate in gambling less than the overall population but when they do, they’re more likely to experience problems.
“These communities may have existing stressors such as learning another language and integrating into a new culture, feeling disconnected from community groups, and not knowing who to reach out to for help,” Gambling Help Services Community Educator Amy explains.
“These can all contribute to higher risks of gambling harm.”
Gambling Support for CALD Communities
If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with gambling, free, confidential, and culturally appropriate help is available. You can talk to a counsellor by calling the 24/7 helpline on 1800 858 858.
Gambling Help Queensland can provide translator services and help connect you with your local multicultural services. The website can be translated to six other languages and offers information about problem gambling and where to access help.
“The Gambling Help Service can help you explore options and ideas, support you to get through the hard times, and work with you to achieve positive results,” Amy says.
If you need to connect with your local organisation or community group representing your culture, Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast can help.
There are a lot of different perspectives and experiences of gambling around the world. Coming to Australia where gambling is common and normalised may contribute to increased risk of gambling harm. It’s important for us all, as a community, to be aware of these risks and to know where to get support.