Problem Gambling Impacts Family Relationships in Macau

Problem gambling is a delicate matter anywhere you go. While the stigma associated with this behavior has mostly dissipated, owing to clinical trials that prove it is a serious medical condition, numerous studies have found it necessary to reiterate the societal impact the higher prevalence of problem gambling plays – not least to help alleviate some of this burden. 

People Continue to Bear the Burden for Family Members with Addiction 

A new study by the Sheng Kung Hui (SKH) Macau Social Services Center interviewed 124 participants who had been affected by a family member’s gambling addiction. The survey took place over the phone and was conducted from July through October. Macau, which all but shuttered its gambling industry in 2020 and 2021, has been in the process of reviewing its existing gambling laws.

According to SKH, the survey focused on establishing the emotional and psychological distress experienced by family members and those experiencing problem gambling. More than 60% of respondents confirmed that they had helped a family member with a gambling addiction, whether they paid off their debts or had to cover the bulk of household expenses. 

The SKH is not stopping with just establishing the numbers of people affected by “second-hand” gambling. The organization is also setting up an online counseling working group to help those participating hone the financial skills they would need to keep their budgets in check.

Outdated Understandings about Handling Relatives’ Gambling Debts 

One interesting finding cited by the study was that most respondents were actually good with their finances in terms of managing money but had a dated understanding of how problem gambling in the family should be handled. Many of the respondents– 40% in fact – argued that they had to take it upon themselves to pay off those gambling debts. 

This pointed to an ingrained misunderstanding of how such situations ought to be handled. Another 33% said that they should not interfere with their family gambling addiction because they feared that by doing so, they might end up damaging their relationship with said members. 

According to the SKH, Macau could benefit from better educational responsible gambling campaigns that could lead to better awareness among community members about the dangers of this behavior and how to deal when the issue arises. There have been 22,000 requests for assistance placed with the SKH between 2014 and the end of 2021.