For street children in Mumbai, gambling is mostly a social and recreational activity, according to a study conducted by Eastern Michigan University along with the Don Bosco Research Centre, Mumbai. The findings, published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, revealed that regardless of the reasons they leave home and take to the streets, many street children, influenced by their peer group, spend a lot of their time and money daily in gambling. The study found that younger children participate by observing more than playing; it’s a matter of concern that young people aged 12-15, who participated in the study, said they spend a lot of time everyday gambling — half of them gambled for two-four hours daily; others for more than four hours.
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This could be because there are limited options for younger children on the streets and so after working individually or begging for food, the rest of their time is spent mostly with the group. On the contrary, those slightly older know how to make themselves scarce and disappear without telling the group, perhaps partaking in other activities such as prostitution, visiting clandestine adult gambling venues where a younger adolescent would instantly stand out as being out of place, or partaking of more serious drugs, the study found. For a young adolescent, spending more than four hours daily in gambling has a potential risk of turning into problem gambling, it warned.
The duration of time spent gambling continuously depends on the availability of money and time, the turn of the dice (meaning, if a player was successively on a winning or losing streak) and the non-proximity of the police, the study says. In terms of money, close to 60 per cent of the youth spent between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 a month on gambling. About 31 per cent of the participants spent between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500, half their monthly income, on gambling.
Some participants of the study did mention budgeting the day’s wages — spending on essentials like food and a daily quota of cigarettes — before using the rest of the money in gambling. Asked how much they spent on gambling daily, the respondents reported spending between Rs 50 and Rs 400. Each player stakes between Rs 50 and Rs 400 at the start of the game, and a player can win up to Rs 4,000 from a single card game. “There is thus a need for agencies and governmental organisations to immediately improve recreational activities, offer awareness programmes and create saving opportunities among their services to street children,” the report states.