Be aware of gambling

Twenty percent of young people in Macau may have a gambling-related addiction. Quitting addiction is even more difficult in a land where it is everywhere (even online). 

MB April 2020 Special Report | Youngsters living on a keyboard


Different surveys found that young people in Macau are more at risk of gambling addiction.  

Bosco Youth Service Network (BYS) produces opinion polls periodically on the gambling situation amongst Macau’s young people. Using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and DSM-V (the latest version since 2015) to assess to what extent a respondent is likely to suffer from a gambling addiction. 

The results showed that those at the zero point, meaning their gaming behaviors do not affect their studies, family and interpersonal relationships, was around 80 percent. 

But those that are, on that same scale, between point 1 and point 3 (gambling has a serious effect on their studies, family and interpersonal relationships), are around 17 per cent.  With 4 points or above (gaming addiction…) are close to 3 per cent. 

It means, over 20 per cent of local young people’s gambling problems may affect their studies, relationships with their families and interpersonal relations; with boys more likely to attain a higher score. However, the 2014 survey found that the number of girls classified between 1 and 3 points rose from 7.5 percent in 2013 to 13.5 percent in 2014 (see more results on these pages). 

These results, which represent the most systematic effort to understand the relationship of young people in Macau with gambling, are confirmed by other studies, such as the case of the investigation carried out by Irene Lai Kuen Wong. 

She examined 422 Macau students (240 male; 182 female) aged 12-22, who were recruited from 6 schools. Results indicated that 6.6 percent of the participants had gambled online in the past year, wagering on soccer matches (50 percent), mahjong (35.7 percent), and casino games (14.3 percent). 

Internet gambling: A school-based survey among Macau students (2010) shows that those young people were attracted by the operators’ acceptance of low wagers (39.3 percent), anonymity assurance (28.6 percent), and convenience and accessibility (25 percent). 

Irene Wong used the Massachusetts Gambling Screen model to conclude that between 10.7 percent and 25 percent of the Internet gamblers could be classified as problem and pathological gamblers. 

Vincent Yp, executive director of BYS, understands that family has a main role to play in extreme situations: “When young people have the space to develop and activities to participate in, there is less chance for them to gamble. From the young people we have encountered, especially those who were addicted to gambling, many of them only had very few [extra-curricular] activities, [with most of them staying] at home by themselves. Therefore, it would be helpful for the family and the school to encourage students to take part in other activities, which can serve as alternatives [to gambling].” 

Yp concedes that, like other addictions, it is not easy to quit gambling: “We also see that people will return to gambling after quitting. After all, even if a person can quit gambling for a short time, it is easy for them to return to the addiction if it has become a habit for them.” 

Dr Mark Ng, of the Hong Kong Shue Yan University Enterprise and Social Development Research Centre, who has assisted in the survey, has the same opinion: “If a person quits gambling and goes to a place where they cannot gamble, then the chance of picking up the habit again will be smaller,” he said. 

 “If a person quits gambling and goes to a place where they cannot gamble, then the chance of picking up the habit again will be smaller” – Mark Ng 


22 percent at risk 

The following information is quoted from Bosco Youth Service Network 10-year youth gambling trend report (2008-2017) and provided to Macau Business by BYS: 

(1) young people in Macau who are not affected by gambling dropped from 86 percent in 2009 to 74 percent in 2017; 

(2) those who are at risk (1-3 points) increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2017, with the highest in 2015 (23 percent); 

(3) 1-2 percent of participants are categorized as having a gambling addiction or currently renamed as a gambling disorder (with 4 points or higher) during the 10-year period, but up to 3.8 percent in year 2017.  


Triad gang association 

“Triad gang association and negative peer influences were found to be the second and third strongest predictor of violence for both [Macau] school students and youth offenders,” stated  a scientific paper called Predicting Effects of the Self and Contextual Factors on Violence: A Comparison between School Students and Youth Offenders in Macau, published in 2018 by two researchers from the Department of Applied Social Sciences, City University of Hong Kong. 

“There was a very strong and significant correlation between triad gang participation and negative peer influence. If youths fail to gain acceptance and satisfaction through the family and school systems, impaired self-concepts would emerge,” wrote researchers T. Wing Lo and Christopher H. K. Cheng. “Similar to previous studies where the influence of age and gender was more robust, male and older students committed more violence than female and younger students,” they add. 

“Family conflict had the strongest direct effect upon violence, and it also mediated the effect of self-esteem and self-efficacy on violence for school students,” the paper concludes.