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Underage gambling a problem in Pacific homes - study

Published: 9:13AM Tuesday September 11, 2012 Source: ONE News

Pacific children as young as nine are picking up a gambling habit from their parents, a new study has found.

Auckland University of Technology researchers surveyed 900 Pacific Island children as part of the Mother and Child Gambling study, with the purpose of analysing linkages between family gambling habits and the long-term impacts of gambling.

The study revealed that of the children surveyed, 94% regularly played housie or other card games, while 27% of those children played for money.

AUT's Dr Maria Bellringer attributes the high percentage of children participating in "low risk" card games, such as housie, to such games being played as a common form of fundraising within Pacific churches.

"However, the fact is that when gambling is perceived as an acceptable behaviour children are more likely to engage in gambling activities," she said.

Also, approximately 17% of children studied reported receiving scratch cards as a gift and another 7% reported buying Lotto, Big Wednesday or Keno tickets.

"The minimum age for buying scratch cards is 18 and it's an offense to purchase a ticket for someone aged under 18 years. This seems to indicate a number of parents and family members are not aware of the legal restrictions," said Bellringer.

According to Bellringer, the research is the first of its kind to look at the gambling habits of Pacific children within a family context.

"Since 1991, research has shown that Pacific people are at a significantly higher risk for developing problem gambling than the general population," she said.

Findings also revealed that boys are more likely to play for money than girls and girls are more likely to prefer housie than boys.

The Mother and Child Gambling research study is part of a wider investigation that examines the health, development and social implications for Pacific children and their families, since their birth in the year 2000.