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Is Gambling Addiction A Real Problem In Asia?

You could mostly be accurate when saying that gambling addiction in China is a cultural failing. Here’s why: Asian culture includes a strong belief in luck, fate, and fortune which encourages gambling. Other factors within the culture discourage seeking assistance when gambling switches from fun entertainment to a compulsive addiction. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult for anyone who spends excessive amounts of time gambling to find the help they need, even if they are willing to admit there is a problem that needs to be addressed. In this article, we will explore this matter and present solutions that can work.

The Stats Don’t Lie

Studies conducted in the United States show that, when compared to the overall US population, far more Asians are addicted gamblers. It isn’t just a pastime, either. According to the associate, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, Dr. Timothy Fong, the gambling addiction rate for Asians in the US falls between 6 and 60 percent. Fong, who is also the co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, says the deciding factor is directly related to the specific ethnicity of the Asian in question. The data placed Southeast Asians at the higher end of the scale. What makes these percentages notable is that the national rate is just one to two percent.

Cultural Factors Play A Role

We’ve indicated that gambling seems to fall in line with Asian cultural beliefs. When you look at the history of gambling in China, it becomes clear that the activity is viewed as much more of a form of entertainment and social interaction than it is in the United States. Add to this a higher acceptance of superstition, numerology, and luck in much of Asian culture than is the case in Western culture and you begin to see a very different defining line. For example, Asian culture includes themes involving superstition, fortune, and, in some cases, intercession from ancestors that play a huge role in determining fate. It is not unusual to view a string of good gambling luck to be a blessing from the gods. And with a higher sense of identification coming from winning or losing, Asians prefer to win.

Casinos Target Asians

Casinos Target AsiansCasinos in the US have used the fact that gambling is a form of socialization in Asian culture to their advantage. Marketing ploys include several slot machines with traditional Asian themes, Asian entertainment on-site, ethnic food on menus, websites that feature Chinese and Vietnamese versions, and card dealers who can speak Asian languages. Here’s an example of a site that reviews the best options where you can gamble online in Thailand. All of this is packaged to make gambling attractive to Asian immigrants. The casinos know this works. For example, Asians make up almost the entire clientele at casinos in urban centers with high populations of Asians. In many cases, the casinos provide these players with a place to meet and socialize with other Asians.  Since gambling has no real language barrier, casinos become a favorite place for many Asians.

The Problem Is Not Going Away

In 1999, a poll was conducted by the social services department in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The results showed gambling to be the number one problem in the community. Of those interviewed, 21% saw themselves as pathological gamblers and an additional 16% of persons polled agreed that they had some kind of problem with gambling. Although the poll was conducted 22 years ago, the only change that appears to have taken place is that the problem of gambling addiction has increased rather than decreased. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, Asian families are covering gambling debts created by relatives but do not appear to be encouraging the addicted gamblers to seek help. This cultural norm still holds true.

Risk-Taking Leads To Addiction

Risk-Taking Leads To AddictionRisk-taking and fearlessness of Asian gamblers also put them in greater danger of becoming addicted to the activity. Although gambling is socially acceptable in Asian culture, becoming a problem gambler has social repercussions. As stated above, seeking help to deal with the compulsive nature of gambling is not viewed very positively by Asians. The same goes for gamblers who reveal they have a problem. Asians who admit to gambling addiction will be looked down upon by their peers. The gambler will no longer be trusted. If the gambler has a business, those who are aware of the addiction will shun that business, causing an increased likelihood that the business will fail.  This worry makes it less likely that problem gamblers will admit to having a problem.

Changing Perceptions

So what can be done to reduce the likelihood of Asian immigrants to the United States becoming victims of gambling addiction? Asian advocates say that one way to alter the shame associated with gambling addiction is to shift the mindset. Instead of focusing on it as a moral issue, emphasis should be placed on this form of addiction as a mental issue. Plus, the significance of money has to change among Asian gamblers. The concepts of luck, good fortune, and superstition may be harder to break through, but education has historically been a help in changing these kinds of social attitudes.  Possibly this is another venue where teaching Asian gamblers that casino games in the United States are made to make the casinos money, may help break some of those beliefs and cause some players to just step away.

In Conclusion

Gambling starts in infancy in Asian culture when adults pass down their knowledge in the family home. Celebrations are surrounded by gambling opportunities and cultural aspects focus on such things as luck, fate, and fortune. However, this combination and cultural pressure can lead to pathological gambling. With Asian focus on financial success whether through business or luck, the culture doesn’t look favorably on losing money.  The shame that comes from that causes problem gamblers to keep their addiction a secret. One way to combat this cycle is to shift societal perception away from gambling addiction as a moral issue to instead look at it as a mental problem. Only then will there be a chance to break through the belief system that dates back many centuries so that the pressure to chase good fortune through gambling can be properly addressed.

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