Survey reveals effects of gambling

Felix Lo

A 50-year-old housewife wiped away tears yesterday as she told how she had lost more than $1 million gambling in the past 15 years - and how her daughter refused to lend her money to repay loansharks because 'she wanted to keep enough to buy me a coffin'.

Ms Wong, who lives in Tsz Wan Shan, said she had been lured into gambling by playing mahjong with neighbours.

Feeling forsaken by her husband and family, she had once started to burn charcoal in a suicide attempt but was saved when her son came home.

She is one of the 534 people who visit the Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre, which yesterday released the results of a survey revealing the impact of pathological gambling.

Some 352 problem gamblers who use the centre were interviewed between October last year and September this year.

The results follow a series of gambling-related tragedies and family violence this year.

More than 80 per cent said they had argued with their families about gambling and 73 per cent said they suffered emotional distress. Almost 39 per cent suffered insomnia, 24 per cent suffered bodily distress, 24 per cent had lost their motivation to work and 15 per cent had suicidal thoughts.

The survey was jointly conducted by the centre and the department of psychology at Chinese University, to help draw up programmes for public education, prevention and early intervention programmes for problem gamblers.

The South Oaks Gambling Screen Instrument, a popular questionnaire used in English-speaking countries based on a scale of 0 to 20, was used to gauge the severity of the problem of the 352 gamblers.

Catherine Tang So-kum, a professor of the department, said 26 per cent had scored 15 to 20 meaning they were severe pathological gamblers, 57 per cent had scored 10 to 14, meaning they were pathological gamblers, and 17 per cent scored five to nine, rating them as problem gamblers.

Professor Tang recommended the government allocate more resources to public education.