Indigenous Australians and gambling

Indigenous Australians and gambling

Nerilee Hing and Helen Breen

AGRC Discussion Paper No. 2 — November 2014
Indigenous australians and gambling

Key messages

Gambling is part of the social and cultural fabric of many Indigenous communities.

Gambling rates are much higher among Indigenous Australians than in the wider Australian population, especially on "pokies" or electronic gaming machines.

Positive consequences for Indigenous Australians who gamble include social engagement and social acceptance, reduced isolation, pleasure, physical comfort, an opportunity to win money, and some reduced alcohol consumption.

Problem gambling and gambling-related harms are much more common among Indigenous Australians than in the wider Australian population.

Cultural expectations to gamble and to share resources with relatives results in gambling-related harms stretching across whole Indigenous communities.

Intergenerational transfer of gambling culture compounds ongoing gambling problems among Indigenous Australian communities.

Risk factors common to Indigenous Australians include exposure to gambling as a child, high gambling expenditure, drinking alcohol and using drugs while gambling, and gambling to escape life concerns.

Help-seeking rates are as low as in the wider population. To avoid shame and stigma, Indigenous persons first try to help themselves, they then turn to family, friends and community members. Family and friends struggle to assist problem gamblers, however, due to social norms approving gambling and low problem gambling recognition.

This paper synthesises information published about Indigenous Australian gambling,1 and summarises issues and implications for key stakeholders. It is relevant for raising awareness and promoting community education about gambling for Indigenous Australians. It is also relevant for policy-makers and service providers interested in reducing gaps in health and wellbeing between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

1 Being aware of the debate around titles used to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, in this paper the terms Aboriginal, Indigenous, Indigenous Australian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ATSI) are used interchangeably depending on the information source.

Authors and Acknowledgements

In addition to the research funding sources identified earlier, the authors would like to thank Ashley Gordon, Alex Russell and Associate Professor Jeremy Buultjens of the Centre for Gambling Education & Research for their major contributions to our publications cited in this paper.

Publication details

AGRC Discussion Paper
No. 2
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 2014.
Suggested citation:

Hing, N., & Breen, H. (2014). Indigenous Australians and gambling (AGRC Discussion Paper No. 2). Melbourne: Australian Gambling Research Centre.


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