Cultural norms, practices and beliefs related to gambling can be passed to an individual in different ways and at different stages of life – often starting in early childhood in person’s country of origin.

Some religions – such as Islam, Jehovah’s Witness, Hinduism, Buddhism and Seventh Day Adventism – consider gambling to be morally wrong. This may prevent people who have a gambling problem from seeking help. In some religions, concepts such as luck and fortune are interwoven with some formal religious teaching. It is important to acknowledge the complexity and influence of religion on gambling behaviours.

In addition to religious beliefs, there are a number of cultural games associated with gambling such as camel wrestling, rooster fights, bull-fighting, dog races and horse racing. People from religious groups with gambling problems often feel the burden of shame and guilt associated with going against their religious norms. Religious affiliation can make it more difficult for some people to acknowledge and discuss gambling problems.

Some traditional types of gambling currently practised by the Afghan community in South Australia, include card games, kite-flying, animal-fighting (dog and cock), pigeon-flying, kamsahee (a dice game), button games, marble games, and shir-o-khat (coin flipping). Betting a meal out at a restaurant (friendship betting) is also common practice among young people. Gashtak is the practice of going from one home to another to play board games. Other popular types of gambling in the Afghan community include lotteries, slots at casinos and the traditional Afghan card games, falash and charwali.

Gambling is common during certain Hindu celebrations such as Diwali (the night before the New Year) – believed as a particularly favourable time to gamble. It is commonly believed that throughout the coming year the Goddess Lakshmi will favour those who win at cards on the night of Diwali. Card playing is popular and there is a perception that gambling within the home is recreational and a family pastime. More formal games of chance such as playing the lottery or casino games are equated with gambling. Young people are more likely to engage in the types of gambling they are exposed to among their peers, such as lotteries, slot machines, sports betting, and internet gambling. Also, gambling seems to be a more popular and acceptable pastime for men than for women.

Gambling in the Italian community is seen as an enjoyable recreational activity and pastime. Often when family and friends come together for celebrations or during festive times such as Christmas, card games and tombola (a form of bingo) are played with wagers of small amounts. Casino games, including electronic gaming machines and lotteries are also common. Sports betting, in particular betting on soccer games, is almost a tradition amongst Italian-Australian households. Card playing has been the recreation of choice for more than a century in Italy, and immigrants have continued this recreational activity wherever they established themselves throughout the world. It is particularly popular among seniors who play in social clubs.

Gambling is seen as a social and recreational activity within the Greek community and is not necessarily restricted by gender, age or income levels. Popular types of gambling within the community include casino games, card games, lotteries, racetrack betting and bingo. Playing cards at family and social gatherings are popular in the community. Women do not usually participate in this type of gambling, but do frequent casinos.

The process of settlement can be challenging – sometimes simple behaviours that were considered just a game in a person’s culture of origin, can turn into addictions. It is important that communities provide healthy activities which are not focused on money and gambling. Building community connections in a new country is vital for good health and wellbeing. This could include socialising with neighbours, attending local community events, joining a gym and/or going to the local library.

Remember, you are not alone.

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