An international student from west India, claims to have lost nearly $250,000 in the past two years after being drawn to Melbourne’s casinos by the glamour, goods times and an expectation of easy winnings.
Deepak*, 24, a post-graduate student in accounting and finance is an example of a growing gambling addiction estimated to be affecting about 10 per cent of seven overseas students, many of whom are lonely, vulnerable and lacking guidance because they are away from home for the first time.
Students claim to have been forced to borrow from friends and family after losing all their living money, tuition fees and savings after their social gambling got out of control.
“On several occasions I lied to my parents about earning extra money earned from my job when it had actually come from gambling,” said Deepak, who comes from the Indian state of Gujarat where alcohol and gambling are prohibited.
“I was a very dedicated gambler who recorded how much I played, won and lost with date and place in my diary,” said the 24 year-old who plays most games offered by the casino, particularly poker.
According to recent research by the Australian Gambling Research Centre, international students recently arrived from overseas countries where there is not a gaming culture are vulnerable to the casino culture, especially those that are not integrating into Australia’s mainstream lifestyle.
Rajiv, 23, from a region in India where all forms of gambling expect for lottery tickets is banned, said he quickly became addicted from trying to repeat a $1500 casino win.
“Exposure to luxurious casinos, financial stress and greediness to win more made my life a nightmare,” he said.
“Give me $500 today and I will give you back $700 tomorrow,” he claimed to have said to his friends in a bid to get more money to gamble.
“I was not only borrowing money from friends but even gambled all my University fees,” he said.
International students, particularly those from countries where gambling is banned, are seven times more likely to become addicted than local students, the gambling research centre warns.
It often puts their families back home under severe financial stress because they have had to make big financial sacrifices to send children, or relatives, to overseas’ institutions to complete tertiary, or professional, qualifications.
Rashmi, 28, who arrived in Melbourne from India, to study commerce and network engineering at La Trobe University in 2013, said he started gambling $1000 a day within months of being introduced to Crown Casino by his friends soon after arriving.
“After a few wins I became greedy to play more and more and that led to addiction to gamble almost everyday,” he said.
“I began lying to my parents back home that I needed $10,000 because I had an accident,” he said.
He also told of his friends’ hardship stories to borrow their credit cards, which he would then use to gamble at Crown.
“I wasted my all fees money on betting and lost approximately $80,000-90,000, which I now regret at today’s date. I was out of control at that time and hurt my friends and family a lot.”
*Names have been changed in this report.