Asian gamblers offered help

March 16, 2006

Asian gamblers offered help

MONDAY , 20 FEBRUARY 2006

By JANINE BENNETTS
More Asian gamblers in New Zealand may get the help they need following a conference between the Problem Gambling Foundation and other organisations dealing with gambling addicts. Asian gambling has been an increasing problem in New Zealand, but those with addictions did not tend to seek help, said Simon Tam, South Island Asian project leader for the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF).

“More than 70 per cent of the casino goers are Asian but the number of people that seek help is very low compared to the mainstream,” Tam said.

In the last few years several high-profile cases have highlighted the increasing problem of Asian gambling in the Christchurch.

Early last year Hong Kong car salesman Tak Wo Kwan was jailed for fraud after admitting to a gambling problem as a “VIP gambler” at the Christchurch Casino. He had a turnover of $21 million, and losses of $250,000.

In 2004, Korean financier Chong Hun Kim was jailed for three years for attacking a woman to whom he owed money after frittering away his family savings of $75,000, also at Christchurch Casino.

Friday’s conference was run by PGF’s Asian services team and Tam said the aim was to let organisations and practitioners know that services were available to assist them in dealing with Asian clients, as well as to give advice on how to deal with Asian clients.

Christchurch police, addiction counsellors, educators, social workers and representatives from various Asian communities and government departments attended.

“We talked about self-barring and how we work with the community or family members affected by gambling,” Tam said.

“We talked about how you deal with Asian clients (and how) that’s different from mainstream.”

A PGF study in 2004 showed almost half the patrons who self-barred from the Christchurch Casino were Asians, many of whom said they gambled to cope with a strange and often lonely life in a new country.

Tam said PGF wanted to explain the cultural differences between gambling in New Zealand and Asia so practitioners could more appropriately deal with addicts.

“Back home it’s OK for them to lose money and come home and beat the wife up, but it’s not right, and in New Zealand it’s really not appropriate to do that.”

Director of the Christchurch Taiwanese Society and chairman of the Christchurch Intercultural Assembly Jimmy Chen, who attended the conference, said the information would be useful for families hosting international students, who often got into trouble with gambling, and would help these families know how to deal with problems.

Tam hoped the conference would make it easier for Asian gamblers to come forward.

He has worked for PGF for three years, and had seen the number of Asian gamblers coming forward increase from about seven a year to nearly one a week.

“They’re coming forward now because they know the service is there and other services know that we can help.”

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