Anne-Marie Bullock, BBC News, February 20, 2012
British Asian children who gamble are twice as likely to become addicted as white children, new research suggests.
Nine thousand 11-15 year olds were surveyed by the University of Salford and National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).
Of the ethnic groups studied, Asians were the least likely to gamble, but those who did had the highest rates of problem addiction.
Children with the highest pocket money were more likely to become addicted.
Researchers found that only 13% of British Asian children questioned were found to be regular gamblers, compared to 20% overall.
But Asians were proportionately at greatest risk of developing addictive and problem behaviour, such as lying to friends and family or using money meant for other things.
Slot machines and betting with friends on cards were the most popular methods of gambling.
Although some games and arcades are for over 18s only, low payout slot machines are legal at any age.
“I’ve been going to the arcades for 2 years,” said Imran, aged 12 who uses 10p slot machines. “Mostly nothing comes out, but it’s very addictive so we just keep coming back and spend most of our money.”
Kasim, aged 15, said that placing a wager with friends makes computer games more fun.
“What draws me to gambling is the feeling you get when you win money which is different from when you’re normally playing. It adds tension to the game.”
While a small bet or the odd trip to the arcade does not make them addicts, researchers warn that secrecy could be a factor in the higher risk of addiction.
“In the Asian community there is strong social disapproval of gambling in general,” said Prof David Forrest, who led the research. “This means the minority who choose to gamble are already overcoming a barrier — already suffering a cost in terms of social disapproval.”
“So probably a lot of Asians who gamble are people drawn to risk-taking whereas among whites many players are not candidates for hardened gambling because they’re playing for social reasons rather than a driver in their inner self,” he said.
Prof Forrest said that many adult problem gamblers were found to have started young — some at only eight or nine years old.
The Gordon Moody Association deals with adults who have become dependent on gambling, for whom financial pressures have impacted on family finances, or in extreme cases ended in crime or suicide attempts
Ruth Champion, who helps run rehabilitation courses for gambling addicts says that they are seeing younger problem gamblers more frequently.
“In the last 5 years we’ve seen an influx of people getting into trouble younger because gambling has become more prevalent and accessible,” said Ruth Champion, who helps run rehabilitation courses. “We’ve seen our average client age go from late thirties to early twenties.”
She blames the rise of internet gambling and fixed-odd betting terminals in bookmakers, which allow people to bet high stakes on games like virtual roulette.
Asian Network Report spoke to several young Asian men in Birmingham, aged between 18 and 19, who said that they played on roulette machines several times a week, sometimes losing hundreds of pounds at a time.
Some of the men said that they had started gambling years earlier, at the age of around 15 but were now playing regularly and playing with notes rather than loose change.
“Every other day I put in £300-400. I work in Tesco and do overtime. I get paid £700-800 and half of it goes in the machines,” said one young man, who did not want to be named.
“My family don’t know because it’s against our religion.”
Another said: “I put in £100 every couple of weeks. I’ve lost £600-£700 altogether. It eats your money. Say you put in £200, you’ve got to put another 200 in just to win that money back.”
For those who started gambling young, parents may have unknowingly fuelled the problem, said Prof Forrest.
“Nearly every one of the Asian child problem gamblers was in the top 20% of the pocket money league tables. £5-10 is typical but many were getting £20-30 per week. If the average child is given £30 rather than £10 they triple their chances of becoming a problem gambler.”