FREE of parental supervision and rules, international students are often vulnerable to problem gambling. For one student, it took a self-imposed ban on entering the casino to curb his gambling addiction. Jyethe Wong reports.
Chinese-Malaysian student Sean arrived in Melbourne last year to further his education at the University of Melbourne.
He had been a high achiever, he says, involved in many different sports and serving as Head Prefect at his high school.
In his first year studying a Bachelor of Commerce, Sean’s grades started dropping as he spent more and more time gambling. Far from his parents and with no rules to account for, Sean felt a sense of liberation.
“I was free for the first time,” he says.
In his home country Malaysia, gambling was restricted to adults aged 21 years and above. Having just turned 18 in 2012, Sean celebrated with his friends by clubbing at Melbourne’s Crown Casino which involved breaking his ‘casino virginity’ at the blackjack tables.
After a first few wins, Sean began to experience what he called an “itch”.
You don’t feel like leaving because you’re on a hot streak. When you lose, you just want to win your money back.
“You don’t feel like leaving because you’re on a hot streak. When you lose, you just want to win your money back,” says Sean.
The next evening he returned to Crown, hoping to win more money. In the end, he walked home with nothing in his pockets and his credit card at its maximum daily limit.
Sean isn’t the only international student in Australia to face this addiction. According to a report by Swinburne University’s Dr Anna Thomas and Professor Susan Moore, 6.7 per cent of international students have serious gambling addictions.
The report also found that international students who gamble are more vulnerable to gambling addictions than local students. One of the reasons for this behaviour is social alienation – the students find it hard to socialise with their peers, therefore choosing to spend time with other gamblers who they perceive to be on the same ground.
The casino wasn’t Sean’s only problem. Having other gambling mediums such as online gambling and TAB meant that he didn’t have to travel far to ‘scratch his itch’.
“I live about two minutes away from the nearest TAB,” he says.
After a substantial loss in both online and TAB betting, Sean finally decided to ban himself from the casinos. He explained his situation to Crown management, who introduced Sean to the Self Exclusion Program and enabled him to begin recovering from his addiction.
“I don’t regret it, I feel better and so does my bank account,” he says.
The Victorian Government provides many services to help those with gambling addiction access support. Visit Gambling Help Online at gamblinghelponline.org.au for live counselling, email support and self-help tools.