Thousands of Chinese students head over to the United Kingdom (UK) each year for higher studies. With the UK facing a gambling epidemic, Hong Kong’s Edward Kwan who is the first certified gambling addiction counselor in the region says that Chinese students traveling to the UK should be made aware of the dangers of unlimited access to gambling.
Kwan who spent thirty years in the Hong Kong police force says sending young Chinese students into the UK is like sending a parachutist into a minefield. Chinese students who arrive in the UK for the first time are immature, free, lonely, and vulnerable to all the risks of unlimited online gambling.
Chinese Students Top List Of Foreign Students
The largest number of foreign students in British universities hails from China. The Higher Education Statistics Agency says that the number of Chinese students rose to 106,530 (2017 – 18) from 43,530 (2007- 08). The number of Chinese students applying to study in the UK rose by 30% in 2019 when compared to the number in 2018. Part of the reason for this could be the trade war between China and the US.
But the UK is home to numerous land based casinos and a thriving online gambling industry. Given how much the Chinese love to gamble and the fact that gambling is illegal in Mainland China, it is very likely that Chinese students will visit either a land based casino or indulge in online gambling. One just has to look at some stats from Chinatown to know how much the Chinese love to gamble. Chinatown has four casinos and Chinese restaurant workers make it a point to place bets between the lunch and the dinner service
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) says that 24 million players enjoy placing bets on a regular basis in UK’s regulated gambling market. UK players are losing two times more money to gambling companies than they were ten years back. In 2018, UK players lost bets worth $17.6 billion.
Gambling Addiction Hard To Identify
Young people do not gamble as much as middle-aged people do, but foreign students are definitely at risk for problem gambling simply because they are far away from home.
To make matters worse, identifying signs of gambling addiction is difficult because it is mostly an addiction that is invisible unlike substance abuse. It happens as part of a slow process. Chinese parents have no way of knowing exactly how much it costs to live in the UK. They, therefore, would not suspect that their child’s demands for more money are because he/she has gotten addicted to gambling.
While UK universities spend a lot of money to attract foreign students, they spend very little time, energy, and money on their welfare when they have arrived for study. The students hardly have anybody to turn to.  Kwan pointed out a definitely lack of consumer or customer protection, which isn’t a good sign when the students ought to be the responsibility of the university in which they are studying.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK is fully aware of problem gambling among foreign students. Earlier in 2019, the NUS had urged universities to take steps to increase awareness about the issue.
Students Highly Susceptible To Gambling
The UKGC and the NUS commissioned a study, which revealed that at least three of every five students placed bets in the last six months. The study also revealed that at least one in every eight students gambled more money than they could afford to lose from Aug 2018 to Feb 2019. The NUS said that most of those who suffered from mental health issues while gambling commonly feel depressed and stressed.
Last year, a group of academicians in China, Germany, and Britain called Bright Futures, published a research study, which showed that 16% of Chinese students in the UK displayed signs of depression. Compared to this, only 10% of students who chose to study at home end up getting depressed. This study is based on a survey conducted of 5,610 postgraduates and undergraduates in China and the UK.
Kwan said that Chinese students also struggle with loneliness and adaptation issues just like students from other foreign countries in the UK. This is especially true for those born when China had implemented its one-child policy.
When compared to students from other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, which once used to be British colonies, Chinese students cannot speak English and understand British culture as well. This could lead to adverse peer influences, which could drive Chinese students to the casinos. Kwan said that the possibilities of Chinese students visiting casinos for social experiences are much higher when compared to students from other Asian countries.
It will be up to the UKGC to take better measures to protect its foreign students, especially those from China.

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