Mandarin move worries gambling experts

A plan to boost the number of poker machines at a Chinese community club and shift operations closer to Star City Casino is worrying gambling experts, who warn that Asian people are unlikely to seek help for problem gambling.

After 42 years at the corner of Goulburn and Pitt streets, the Mandarin Club has sold its building and lodged a development application with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to relocate to 1 Dixon Street, in Chinatown.

In preparation for the move, the club has increased its poker machine count by 12 to 150.

The 3300-member club, which recently introduced poker nights, hopes the move will lift falling revenue.

„We think the move will increase membership. There’s a lot more people living down there and hopefully we can get some people from the casino over but it won’t be easy,“ said the licensee, Geoffrey Wong. „Here we are landlocked and can’t build a smoking area. The building is very old, the appliances are breaking down.“

The club’s development application says the new location has „greater social and cultural significance and may also assist in servicing the needs of the local Chinese community.“

The club also provides ballroom dancing and language lessons and supports charities, the application says.

Professor Alex Blaszczynski, from the University of Sydney, said his studies „indicate a two to three times greater rate of problem gambling among people of Indo-Chinese background than the mainstream population rates“.

Professor Jan McMillen, from the Australian National University, said the planned move „certainly raises questions and would be a signal this application needs to be looked at very, very closely. The danger here is of exaggerating things and stereotyping but the indications are that gambling is an inherent part of Chinese culture.“

Research showed problem gamblers of Chinese heritage were not likely to seek help from mainstream counselling services, she said.

„For a lot of Chinese people, you don’t tell strangers your problems. It’s one of the things we really should be addressing with our treatment.“

A spokesman for the Minister for Gaming and Racing, Graham West, said the need for further harm minimisation strategies would be examined in a review of poker machine regulations.