In their paper Gambling in Asian Communities in Great Britain, David Forrest, Professor of Economics at the University of Salford Business School, and Heather Wardle, Research Director at NatCen, reported that, while only around 49% of Asian males had gambled in the last year, compared to 75% of white males, the prevalence of problem gambling among Asian men who had taken part in gambling was more than double that for white men who had gambled, at approximately 3.4% and 1.6% respectively.
In fact, this made the proportion of Asian males classified as problem gamblers higher than the proportion of white males classified as problem gamblers even though far fewer gamble.
For women, the pattern was even more marked. Again, although a much lower proportion of Asian women (33%) had gambled in the previous year in comparison with white women (71%), the prevalence of problem gambling was still much higher: 1.3% of all Asian females were problem gamblers, compared with only 0.2% of white females.
Among children aged 11-15 years the same pattern emerged again. In the sample of 9,000 young people, participation in gambling was less common for Asians. But those Asians who did gamble were extraordinarily likely to be experiencing gambling-related problems, with nearly 19% of them classified as a problem gambler. This was so high that the prevalence rate of problem gambling amongst all Asian youths was, at 2.9%, far higher than that for white people in this age group.
Several surveys have confirmed that Asian attitudes to gambling are more negative than those in white communities, and Professor Forrest believes that this could be one of the reasons why the incidence of problem gambling is higher in the Asian population.
“There is a much greater stigma attached to gambling in the Asian community compared to the white community,” he said. “While gambling can be performed relatively casually by white people, Asian gamblers need to be more committed to their pursuit in the first instance, so those who gamble have already overcome a significant barrier. This means that, as a group, they are much more likely to be people driven to gambling and, therefore, more likely to develop a gambling problem or addiction.”
Professor Forrest also suggests that Asian cultural negativity towards gambling could result in fewer opportunities for gamblers to get support to tackle any problems. “As gambling in the white population is well entrenched and relatively little stigmatised, there is likely to be more informal advice and support for those whose behaviour may become problematic,” he explained.
“Yet, as participation in gambling is much less common among Asian people, the community as a whole is less likely to have knowledge or experience of it and is therefore not well-equipped to recognise the signs of potential problem gambling, or to know how to address them.”
The paper also argues that provision of education, information and treatment services for these communities may be inadequate. Concluded Professor Forrest: “There is perhaps a need for agencies involved in tackling gambling addiction and problem gambling to look at improving access to services for Asian people. This could include provision of information in Asian languages and a more proactive approach to reaching communities where prevalence may be high.”