A recently published study of the card game and gambling habits of Northern Territory’s remote Indigenous communities discovered “incredibly social card games”. Dr. Marisa Fogarty, who has published several papers on Australian gaming habits, conducted a new research project that dug into the everyday gambling habits of NT’s indigenous communities.

What Dr. Fogarty found was remarkable. Card games are an everyday part of domestic life among the Indigenous Peoples, especially among females.

Fogarty said in a recent media interview, “We knew that card games were fairly prevalent, but the extent to which they are has been quite eye-opening.”

The gambling turns out to be involve games similar to Chinese card games than those played by Makassan or Australian-majority games. Also, the two most popular games have parallels with poker and blackjack, respectively. The social nature of the gaming is perhaps their most remarkable feature, though. The Northern Territory gaming activities, which are a daily part of the routine, act as much as a swap meet as a card game.

Dr. Marisa Fogarty’s Gaming Research

Gambling long has had a big impact on Australian Indigenous families and communities. The recent research is only beginning to uncover the level of impact, though. The Indigenous peoples’ have a wide variety of gambling practices.

Dr. Fogarty focused her research on the Tiwi Islands and in two Central Desert communities. The researcher, who works out of the Australian National University, shows that card games have been the main gambling activity in these remote communities. Fogarty believes they are indicative of a pattern throughout Australia.

Research will continue, because much is left undiscovered, according to the doctor. Australian National University’s Centre for Gambling is leading a new project, which will extend over the next three years. Dr. Fogarty and her team work in partnership with Amity Community Services and the Menzies School of Health Research.

Indigenous Card Games: “Incredibly Social Activity”

In most cases in life, for as many people that there are that win, there are the people that lose. Dr. Fogarty’s research demonstrates just that. She says that the research reveals that there were both social benefits and potential harms due to people’s gambling.

Dr. Fogarty said, “It’s an incredibly social activity, so families, the broader community sit down and play cards, [and] speak in their own language. It’s also an opportunity to top up household finances. It’s where a lot of community discussion goes on and it’s an opportunity to buy perhaps larger items, like a fridge or a car.”

Card Games’ Winners and Losers

Not everything is different from westernized card games. One cannot escape competition. While many as gain financially from the games, others are greatly hurt. The “higher stakes” games, which can many times last hours, can bring hardship onto families and create an unforgiving situation.

The researcher said the local residents are concerned about the impact of gaming on their communities — and on children in particular. Fogarty said, “Communities are concerned about how children have been impacted. Are they getting enough food? Are they going to school the next day? Are they being supervised?”

Chinese-Influenced Card Games

The research by Dr. Marisa Fogarty revealed that the card games that the Indigenous people play in communities all across the Northern Territory is similar to a game played by Chinese residents in the 1940s.

Dr. Fogarty said, “These games may actually be of Chinese origin, not necessarily Makassan or European. Particularly around the 1970s, there seems to have been a great proliferation of card games, many more people playing and much more money involved in the games.”

Games Similar to Blackjack and Poker

Two card games seem to be the popular choice throughout the communities: one displaying similar rules and layout to poker and the other sharing similarities with blackjack.

The researchers showed the finding of different levels of these cards games. Some of which were lower stakes games that hold small pools of money. These card games are mainly about socializing. Others card games hold much more importance and are played for higher stakes. These games often draw big crowds.

The Australian researcher said, “They’re highly structured activities. They may look ad hoc to an outsider coming into a community…Lower level, slower games are played in afternoon, more like mothers’ group. Women who have babies and a few older women play those games.”

Promoting Responsible Gaming in Indigenous Communities

The next part of the project will be working with communities on health promotion activities that is specified to their daily concerns. A group from the Tiwi Islands’, ‘Strong Women‘, have already been working on a health message. This message will be put on local football guernseys.

Dr. Fogarty is working with Chief Executive of Amity Community Services’, Nicola Coalter, to gather the information need. The Amity Community Services executive said, “We’re really just a facilitator in the process and we have some knowledge and skills to share.”

2015 Northern Territory Gaming Study

This was not Dr. Marisa Fogarty’s first survey of gaming in the area. The most recent survey, done in 2015 by a Northern Territory Gambling and Wellbeing Prevalence, was completed after nearly a decade after the last of its kind. The survey was completed using landline and mobile telephone list sampling.

The 2015 research was intended to be nation-wide in scope, but remote Indigenous communities were left out, due to under-sampling. Dr. Fogarty said, “The reality is that people in remote communities don’t have landlines basically, so it’s very difficult to survey those people out there without actually going out there.”

Gathering information from the different communities was not the simplest task, so Dr. Fogarty returned to do a more in-depth study, culminating in this year’s report. The current project has used and will continue to use face-to-face interviews with service providers, traditional owners, community surveys, and local leaders to help gather information on the gambling habits of the Indigenous people. Thus, Marisa Fogarty was better able to study the prevalence and impact Indigenous card games have on the gamblers and their families.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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