Measuring Problem Gambling in Indigenous Communities: An Australian Response to the Research Dilemmas

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper examines evidence relating to harmful consequences of gambling in the Australian Indigenous population and highlights the failure of research to date to define problem gambling from Indigenous perspectives or to tailor research processes to accommodate the cultural beliefs and experiences of Indigenous groups. It advocates for the development of a unique set of measures to assess the function of problem gambling aspects, negative impacts, trends, risks and protective factors. This would be informed by more recent qualitative studies into gambling that are specific to Indigenous communities. Additionally, this paper argues the need to adapt and validate a commonly applied assessment tool, such as the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, to monitor prevalence of problem gambling over time. Targeted research into Indigenous people's experiences of gambling will facilitate the development of culturally based responses and interventions into problem gambling.

Introduction

With the widespread introduction of electronic gaming machines across most states of Australia and the increased availability of casinos and internet gambling, the gaming industry underwent a major expansion in the 1990s (Productivity Commission 2010). There is a growing body of research on the negative impacts of gambling on the wider Australian community, but knowledge of its impact on the Indigenous population specifically is limited. This paper examines the cultural relevance and validity of the measures and processes that have been applied to estimate the impact of gambling on Indigenous Australians and makes recommendations for future research directions.

In reviewing the available literature, the aim was to identify all references to Indigenous gambling in Australia, regardless of date of publication and inclusive of grey literature. Most papers were accessed via electronic databases, including Ovid MEDLINE (R), Scopus, CINAHL, ProQuest, SpringerLink and Google Scholar. Information was also accessed from government websites, the websites of regulatory bodies, and reports from organisations with an interest in gambling and the Indigenous population. Key search terms were either 'Aboriginal' or 'Indigenous' combined with 'gambling', 'problem gambling', 'pathological gambling', 'public health', 'addiction', 'intervention', 'measures', 'treatment' and 'counselling'.

In total, only 32 papers were located that examined the relationship between gambling and the Australian Indigenous population specifically, with the earliest publication dating back to 1946. In contrast, a search restricted to 'problem' or 'pathological gambling' using Ovid MEDLINE (R) produced 3457 articles. In addition to Indigenous-specific papers on gambling, a small number of population studies conducted in Australia made reference to Indigenous people within the study samples. Targeted searches were also applied to track articles referenced within other publications. Given the scarcity of research specific to gambling and the Indigenous population in Australia, non-peer reviewed publications such as conference presentations or other unpublished articles were also considered for inclusion.

A range of studies indicated that Indigenous people have participated in gambling activities for a number of decades, with early reports referring to card playing throughout the nation (Breen et al. 2010; Christie and Greatorex 2009; McMillen and Donnelly 2008; Steane et al. 1998; Young et al. 2007). Since the liberalisation of regulated gambling in most states and territories of Australia, a number of studies have initiated new lines of inquiry specifically into gambling and Indigenous communities (Addy and Richardson 2004; Brady 2004; Breen et al. 2010; Christie and Greatorex 2009; Dickerson et al. 1996a; Foote 1996; McDonald and Wombo 2006; Stevens and Young 2010), suggesting that gambling is a relatively widespread and common phenomenon across Indigenous Australia. …