From card games to poker machines
: gambling in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory

  • Marisa Annetta Fogarty

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis presents a comprehensive analysis of the gambling activities of Aboriginal people living in remote areas of the Northern Territory, Australia. Extended fieldwork was carried out in the remote community of Maningrida, Arnhem Land. The research focused on card games played in the community. In addition, research was conducted in a large urban gambling venue in Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, that examined remote Aboriginal people’s access to, and use of, poker machines (electronic gaming machines). The findings describe complex social, economic and political processes at work within both community card games and the urban gambling venue from an anthropological perspective. 

    The findings suggest that Aboriginal people in Maningrida benefit socially, economically and politically through membership in the informal regulatory structures that existed within card games. However, the community also identified problems relating to card games, particularly in relation to the impact of card games on children. This research also found that, although playing poker machines in an urban gambling environment was an activity that remote Aboriginal people engaged in and enjoyed, it did not offer the same social and economic opportunities as card games. There was a distinct reliance on social relationships within the urban gambling venue,and the efforts and attempts made by people to continue to gamble in groups (despite the individualised nature of poker machines) was significant. Aside from winning a large sum of money, the economic benefits for remote Aboriginal people attending the venue were minimal. The information gathered through this fieldwork has significant implications in terms of the development of relevant harm-minimisation strategies. Finally, the research found that the Aboriginal people involved in this research defined ‘problem gambling’ differently from mainstream definitions. The research found that Aboriginal people defined ‘problem gambling’ as a person neglecting or rejecting social relationships and obligations as a result of gambling. The findings from this research identify a significant need for the development of a national strategy in Australia to address the issues that Aboriginal people face in relation to gambling.
    Date of AwardAug 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMartin Young (Supervisor) & Gary Robinson (Supervisor)

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