http://www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-08 11:55:40
HANOI, May 8 (Xinhua) — An official at Vietnam’s Transport Ministry has spent 2.6 million U.S. dollars on betting international soccer matches, and he has tried to bribe influential figures with over 62,600 dollars for lighter charges against him, local media reported Monday.

Bui Tien Dung, general director of the Project Management Unit No. 18 (PMU18) under the Transport Ministry, which implements and overseas major transport projects, has made soccer bets via two international gambling rings to the tune of some 2.6 million dollars, Transport newspaper quoted initial conclusions of the country’s Investigation Agency as saying.

Before being arrested in January for the charge of gambling, Dung has asked his underlings to use 59,500 dollars and 50 million Vietnamese dong (VND) (over 3,100 dollars) to bribe several state officials so that charges against him would be lessened.

To date, the Investigation Agency has had no evidence about bribery taking, although the underlings, all detained, have allegedly tried to approach some officials of the General Directorate of Police under the Ministry of Public Security, the People’s Supreme Procuracy, and the Government Office.

According to the initial conclusions, Dung’s superior, Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Viet Tien has intentionally acted counter to state regulations in economic management, and had slack responsibility. Dung and Tien lent 34 automobiles of the PMU 18 and seven other vehicles, which are temporarily imported for re-export, to other local organizations, causing a total loss of more than 14.8 billion VND (930,800 dollars) to the state budget.

The Vietnamese government has recently asked the National Assembly of Vietnam, the country’s highest legislative body, to relieve Transport Minister Dao Dinh Binh, who has already resigned, partly for his slack responsibility for the PMU 18 scandal.

The World Bank and the UK Department for International Development plan to send an inspection team to Vietnam in June to review implementation of the bank-funded projects, including those carried out by the PMU 18. Enditem

Editor: Pliny Han

Two of the four new entrants to the list of the UK’s 10 richest Asian businessmen run an online gambling operation based in Gibraltar. Anurag Dikshit, 34, took third place in the table with an estimated wealth of £1.7bn – thanks to British dependency being included in the list.

Partygaming’s Vikrant Bhargava ranked seventh, with a net worth of £592m.

Steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, worth £14.8bn, remains the richest UK Asian.

Other new entrants in the top ten were Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways, and Felix Grovit, founder of foreign exchange firm Chequepoint.The new list – published by the Sunrise Group – was compiled by Dr Phillip Beresford who developed The Sunday Times rich list.

The combined wealth of the 300 Asian multimillionaires on the list has surged from £24.9bn in 2005 to £35.5bn in 2006, an increase of 42.6%.

Low inheritance

Unlike the British rich list, where two-thirds have inherited their wealth, on the Asian list this figure is only 3%.

The accomplishment of the two Partygaming entrepreneurs is typical of many of the names on the list, who moved abroad at an early stage to make the most of their business know-how.

 

ASIAN RICH LIST TOP 10

Lakshmi Mittal – LNM Group – £14.8bn

GP &SP Hinduja – Sangam Group – £3.6bn

Anurag Dikshit – Partygaming – £1.7bn

Anil Aggarwal – Vedanta Resources – £1.68bn

The Jatania Brothers – Lornamead – £850m

Naresh Goyal & Family – Jet Airways – £780m

Vikrant Bhargava – Partygaming – £592m

Felix Grovit – Chequepoint – £465m

Lord Paul & Family – The Caparo Group – £465m

Gulu Lalvani – Binatone – £450m

Mr Dikshit graduated of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1994, then moved to work for a US software developer a year later.

In 1998 entrepreneur Ruth Parasol took on the 25-year-old Mr Dikshit and asked him to create casino games such as roulette. They launched Partygaming in 2001.

When the company floated last year, Mr Dikshit became a billionaire overnight.

He himself recruited his friend and fellow IIT graduate Mr Bhargava to the company to run its Caribbean operations which focus on the US market.

Elsewhere in the league table, the Hinduja brothers – Srichand and Gopichand – held onto the number two slot with a combined wealth of £3.6bn for their global finance, telecommunications, film and oil businesses.

Only 22 of the richest 300 Asians were women, of which one was Meena Pathak, of the Pathak spices group.

The most important sectors were wholesaling and industry, which had 45 individuals each.

Over half (187) of those who have made the list are from London and the Southeast.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/business/4918902.stm

Gambling, Addiction, & Asian Culture

The following is a reprint of an article written by John M. Glionna of the Los Angeles Times, entitled Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians, originally published January 16, 2006. It discusses the popularity of gambling among Asian Americans, its ties to traditional Asian culture, and some of the problems of addiction associated with it.

AN EMERGING COMMUNITY ISSUE

In Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean and Cambodian communities, social workers and leaders are pressuring gaming officials and state legislators to recognize a hidden epidemic. “This isn’t a special-interest group overblowing a problem,” said Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, which is conducting an Asian gambling study. “We think this is real.”

Nobody really knows how deeply problem gambling reaches into Asian communities because Asians have not been broken out as a group in national or California studies on the issue. But a 1999 poll in San Francisco’s Chinatown, commissioned by a social services agency, found that 70% of 1,808 respondents ranked gambling as their community’s No. 1 problem.

Vietnamese American woman gambling in a casino © Béatrice de Géa/LA TimesIn a follow-up poll, 21% of respondents considered themselves pathological gamblers and 16% more called themselves problem gamblers — rates significantly higher than in the overall population. Current data suggest that 1.6% of Americans can be classified as pathological gamblers, a condition recognized as a psychiatric disorder. About 3% more are considered problem gamblers.

Gambling has become America’s adult pastime of choice. Each year, more money is spent in the nation’s $75-billion gaming industry than on movies, concerts, sporting events and amusement parks combined. And nowhere is gambling on a bigger roll than in California, with nearly 60 Indian casinos, scores of card rooms, racetracks and Internet gambling sites as well as one of the nation’s most lucrative state lotteries.

Asian gamblers play a key role in that success. Though few statistics on their contribution to the state’s gambling pot exist, some casinos and card rooms near Los Angeles and San Francisco estimate that Asians often account for 80% of their customers. “Asians are a huge market,” said Wendy Waldorf, a spokeswoman for the Cache Creek Casino north of San Francisco. “We cater to them.”

Each day in San Gabriel, Monterey Park and San Francisco’s Chinatown, scores of buses collect Asian customers for free junkets to Indian casinos and to Reno and Las Vegas. Many Nevada casinos also maintain business offices in Monterey Park, where hosts keep in regular touch with Asian high rollers. To reach more run-of-the-mill gamblers, casinos run ads in Asian-language print and broadcast media and conduct direct-mailing campaigns to ZIP Codes with high numbers of Asian residents.

A TRADITION OF GAMBLING

Many Asians — especially Chinese — consider gambling an accepted practice at home and at social events, even among the young. Chinese youths often gamble for money with aunts, uncles and grandparents. While growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Lee took betting to absurd levels — wagering on whether the teacher would assign homework. On rainy days, he bet on which drop would first reach the bottom of the classroom window.

Group of Chinese Americans scratching off lottery tickets © Béatrice de Géa/LA TimesMany Chinese are fascinated by the mystical qualities of luck, fate and chance. The Chinese New Year — this year Jan. 29 — is a time of heightened wagering, when bad luck of the old year is ushered out by the good luck of the new. Numerology also plays a crucial role in many Asian cultures. The number 8, for example, is considered extremely lucky by many Chinese, while 4, when spoken in Mandarin and Cantonese, sounds like the word for death and is avoided.

Though Chinese believe most strongly in such concepts, other Asian cultures, including Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino, hold similar beliefs — depending on China’s political influence in their history or the extent of Chinese immigration there. Experts believe that recent Asian immigrants — risk-takers willing to leave the familiarity of their homelands — develop more aggressive gambling strategies than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Often lacking language skills and advanced education, some gravitate to casinos, where waitresses dote on gamblers with free drinks and cigarettes. “They’re treated as honored guests even though they work dead-end, minimum-wage jobs,” said Tina Shum, a social worker in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “That’s what they long for.” Some eventually engage in “attack” gambling: wagering sums beyond their means in a reckless grab at the American dream. “The immigrant experience is often demeaning,” Shum said. “Many get blinded by the neon lights.”

LOSING MORE THAN MONEY

But such gaming habits come at a cost. “An astronomical amount of money leaves the Asian community for gambling industry coffers,” said Paul Osaki, a member of a gambling task force created last year by the state Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. “It’s not all discretionary money. It’s quality-of-life money, food-on-the-table money, college education money.”

Osaki and other activists want more research and culturally sensitive gambling treatment programs for often-reserved Asians with gambling problems — for whom Western strategies like Gamblers Anonymous rarely work. Kent Woo, executive director of a Chinatown-based health coalition that conducted the gambling polls, said the biggest challenge is to convince the community that it has a problem.

Traditional Chinese cards © Getty Images“Breaking through the denial is the hard part,” he said. Still, activists say, California’s Office of Problem Gambling is under-funded and disorganized. The agency’s $3-million budget is derived from contributions from 26 Native American-run casinos. Thirty other tribal casinos do not contribute. Nor do card rooms, race tracks or the state lottery. In 2003 the office left its entire budget unspent.

Diane Ujiiye, who heads the problem gambling task force, said $3 million wasn’t nearly enough to deal with the issue. “It’s unacceptable,” she said. “What can you do with $3 million? Publish a couple of brochures and run a hotline?”

DENIAL AND DEPENDENCE

When Bill Lee was on a roll, nothing mattered but the gambling, not even family. He fell for the VIP treatment that came with betting thousands of dollars at a casino: free hotel suites and concert tickets, having casino managers know his name. “I was a big shot,” Lee said, “as long as the money lasted.” Angela, 52, a San Gabriel Valley Las Vegas gambling tour guide operator, said that on most trips, she ended up losing her own money and began playing with the company’s funds.

She said she tried to tame her zealous gambling. On one Vegas trip, she gave all her credit cards to a friend and begged her not to return them, no matter what she said. Later, after losing all her cash, Angela threatened to slap her friend unless she returned the cards. “She threw the cards on the floor and I got down onto my hands and knees without shame to pick them up.”

Angela helped start one of the state’s few Mandarin Chinese gambling treatment programs. But she soon realized a hard fact: Admitting an addiction is difficult in any culture. But many Asians find it particularly hard, especially men. “It’s shameful to be emotionally weak,” Lee said. “It’s not acceptable. So you certainly don’t get up and bare your soul before a room full of strangers.”

To save face among neighbors, many families will bail out an addicted gambler, paying off casinos and loan sharks, rather than seek help. Asian American advocates are urging casinos to distribute brochures in Asian languages offering help to problem gamblers. More ambitiously, they want ATMs in casinos closed and overnight hours curtailed to discourage problem gamblers. They also would like the state to require gaming venues to contribute to treatment programs.

Yet casino owner Chu warned that “too many restrictions will kill business.”

A UConn study says that casinos are an obsession among the state’s Asian refugee community

by Patrick Rucker – October 2, 2003

HEMERA PHOTO OBJECT
Feature

Dr. Nancy Petry’s controversial study of gambling among Connecticut’s Southeast Asian refugees began with a hunch. Certainly gambling is a popular pastime within that community. That much would seem plain to anyone who watched the crowds buzzing around the gaming tables and slot machines at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.But Petry, a distinguished UConn psychology professor and a leading researcher on gambling patterns, sought more than anecdotes. What she found was astounding.

Of the 96 Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians who took part in a survey of their betting habits, about 59 percent were found to be pathological gamblers. That’s nearly 30 times the pathological gambling rate of the general adult population of North America — about 2 percent.

“We’d heard stories about problem gambling among Asians — parents leaving kids in the parking lots, the story of an Asian gambler who struck and killed someone while racing from one casino to the other,” says Chris Armentano, director of Problem Gambling Service at the state Department of Mental Health and a co-author of the study. “But this was the biggest rate of problem gambling that I had ever seen.”

As one of the few studies to quantify the prevalence of problem gambling among Southeast Asian refugees, Petry’s work has been welcomed by Armentano and others who treat gambling addictions. But for the social workers serving the Southeast Asian community profiled in the study, feelings are more ambivalent.

While acknowledging that Petry’s study highlights a very damaging problem, many say its methods were flawed, its results inflated and its conclusions unfair.

Like most scholarly papers of its kind, Petry’s study, Gambling Participation and Problem Gambling Among South East Asian Refugees to the United States, is long on observations and short on conclusions.

Still, the last paragraph of the seven-page study which was featured in the August issue of Psychological Services, notes that “many members of South East Asian community centers experienced physical torture in their home countries.”

“Gambling,” the report continues, “may have a unique draw for persons who have experienced severe and persistent abuse.”

Some Southeast Asian leaders say it is wrong to speculate that trauma drives Southeast Asian refugees to gamble. Ironically, some of these same skeptics encouraged Petry’s research and provided her study subjects. One even appears as the paper’s co-author.

As controversy swirls, many are still trying to determine the true value of the report’s findings and what it has to teach about the phenomenon of problem gambling.

The anvy Kuoch began her life as a refugee activist not long after she escaped Cambodia and the Communist regime of the Khmer Rouge whose genocidal rule left as many as 1.5 million Cambodians dead.

In 1982, Kuoch founded the Khmer Health Advocates with the help of three American nurses who had served Cambodian refugees in Thailand. An afternoon visitor to Kuoch’s West Hartford home and office is likely to find the halls filled with the aromatic fragrance of traditional Cambodian cooking.

Over the past 20 years Khmer Health Advocates — the only Cambodian American health organization in the United States — has treated more than 1,500 torture survivors and their families.

Many of Petry’s study participants were drawn from Kuoch’s clients and Kuoch is named as one the report’s authors.

Kuoch says she was glad to cooperate. A study that quantified problem gambling among Southeast Asians might give definite form to the problem and lead the way to further study and specialized treatment.

Taken at its face, the report certainly indicates that Connecticut’s Southeast Asian refugees take an undue interest in gambling. Still, Kuoch says that she is dissatisfied. The report is flawed, she says, because it is based on too narrow a sample.

“The study is not accurate,” she says. “It only draws from people who went for help at social service centers. From that it does a lot of assuming.”

A more telling result would have been based on surveys collected from a cross-section of Southeast Asian refugees.

At least part of Kuoch’s objection seems to be the conclusion that Cambodians had the most severe problem with compulsive gambling.

“The study assumes in the summary that this is a culture [of gambling]. That is not fair to this culture. It’s not a cultural study.”

Cambodians in the study were found to wager more frequently and spend more money on an average than either Laotians or Vietnamese. They were also found to wager more frequently on a number of games — slots, horse racing, dice — than the other two groups.

Although Kuoch was reluctant to admit it, gambling is a phenomenon indigenous to many Southeast Asian cultures. People who reach the United States may not be accustomed to the garish glamour of American gambling but they know something of its form.

The city of Poipet, Cambodia on the Thai border is an upscale gambling mecca of the region. Quy Tran, a leader of the Vietnamese community in Connecticut, explains how Vietnamese children are raised on gambling bloodsports like fish, cricket and cock fighting.

“I think that the 60 percent compulsive gambling is unbelievable,” says Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese Mutual Assistance Association and a loan agent for People’s Bank in Waterbury, speaking of the Petry study. “Frankly I would be surprised if it was anything above 10 percent in the general refugee population.”

Tran, who calls himself an occasional casino patron, arrived in the United States as one of thousands of “boat people” fleeing Vietnam after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. He also faults the study sample.

“Such a study should be random,” Tran says. “Most people who go to a community center already need help.”

Gambling — particularly casino gambling — is a problem, Tran says but it is not simply a response to trauma. Anyone who knows the life of estrangement a Southeast Asian refugee can face easily sees the casino’s unique appeal.

“Language is a big problem,” Tran says. “How do you socialize, go to a singles bar speaking broken English? But you don’t need much English at the casinos.”

There are few recreational outlets that hold any appeal for Southeast Asians, Tran continues, so they find diversions at the casinos.

Maybe the strongest lure of the casinos, Tran says, is cultural.

“For Asians, this is a victimless thrill,” he explains. “That is very sought after. You did not hurt anybody, you just had some excitement.”

The easy-come, easy-go spirit of the casinos also has a ring for many Asians, Tran says. “When you’re used to arranged marriages, following your father’s career, you get a sense of fatalism and predetermination. You don’t make your destiny, you fulfill it. If you are destined to be rich, you’ll get rich at the casinos. If you’re destined to be poor, it can happen there, too. The story of your life is already written. You just fulfill it.”

The report concedes that its method has “some weaknesses” such as its relying on social workers to provide study subjects. “We did not use random sampling procedures,” it allows, “and there may have been some response bias.”

Still, Petry says that the report is valuable and insists that there is some evidence that trauma is a contributing factor to the onset of pathological gambling.

Petry says she recently completed a further study examining the occurrences of childhood abuse among pathological gamblers within the general population. The study finds that a high proportion of gamblers had a history of childhood trauma and abuse.

Yes, Petry says, there is a constellation of factors that contribute to pathological gambling and trauma is just one. But what is beyond doubt, the researcher says, is that gambling is prevalent in the Southeast Asian refugee. The only ones who benefit from that are the casinos.

Why Risk It All?

July 12, 2006


Gambling can be fun — as long as it’s a choice, not an addiction To give something up in the hopes of getting something better has long been a vaunted American tradition. In this decade, it has been fueled by an economy that has given capable workers not only a job but a choice of job opportunities and a stock market has rewarded almost every investment in time, no matter how capriciously made.

This 1990s prosperity came forth from global macroeconomic forces that few of us fully grasp. Even the most erudite economist acknowledges, however obliquely, the factor of luck — and if luck worked in the stock market, why not try it in casinos or lotteries?

Such games of chance arguably boost the economy. Indeed, the selling argument for legalized gambling has for decades been its potential boon to good causes — a logical extension of the church cake raffle. State lotteries won favor as a voluntary way to boost education treasure chests, casinos as a economic savior to long-impoverished Indian reservations.

Such factors make gambling more socially acceptable — just in time to appeal to the growing numbers of Americans in search of a lucky break. The pursuit of that has become an American obsession and an Asian American one as well. Walk down the streets of the Tenderloin, and if you look carefully, you’ll find coffee shops that front as illegal gambling rooms filled with poor Asian men, whose dreams are fading even as they bid another hand. They may work 20 hours a day, but they still can’t afford a car, new clothes for their children or a decent place to live. At this point, their American dream comes down to a hope of hitting a lottery or winning a jackpot, even though the odds are several million to one at best.

The rich are not immune, either. Take basketball star Michael Jordan, who could well afford to throw thousands at gaming. For a while, it was fun — and then it became an all-American addiction that ironically tainted his all-American image.

Not everyone who finds gambling fun goes on to become a problem gambler, of course. So you go to Vegas twice a year and drop a couple of rolls of quarters, or buy Lotto tickets twice a week or even sneak into a Saturday afternoon card game among friends. So you lose $5 or $10,or win $10 or $20.

Not a problem to most. So does it become a problem when you start buying Lotto tickets every day or maybe move to the dollar slots or start going to the track? Not a problem, you say, and you may be right.

But why risk it?


Contact the Editor

Gambling’s Dire Odds

July 12, 2006


By Stacy Lavilla

In 1985, Mark was the picture of middle-class prosperity. In his early 30s and married with two children, Mark had a home in the Bay Area and a good-paying job as an accountant.

All that unraveled on Mother’s Day that year, when the illusion he had so carefully crafted was literally dismantled by strangers who carted off the family car.

Mark’s family was perplexed and outraged. But what they didn’t know then was that Mark had defaulted on a gambling loan, secured by the automobile that collectors had come to get.

His wife knew that he gambled for recreation during family trips to Lake Tahoe and Reno. That was no big deal, but what was was the fact that Mark left his office nearly every day at approximately 12:30 p.m. to place a bet at the racetrack. Often, he’d forget to pick up the kids from school, even as he was squandering thousands of dollars in a week’s time.

Mark says his wife, whom he didn’t identify, found out about that at the same time she discovered that he had forged loans under her name and had taken out two mortgages. He was out $40,000 and counting. Soon, Mark was without a family and a home. After 10 years of marriage, his wife packed up his kids, then 7 and 4, and left.

Mark, though, was far from alone among Asian Americans. Like Kent Woo, executive director of the umbrella group NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, Mark estimates that 10 percent of all gamblers are of Asian descent. However, said Woo, figures are difficult to get, since few studies have looked specifically at Asian Americans.

The lack of such research likely hurt Mark. Though he joined Gambler’s Anonymous, changed jobs and went two years before placing a bet, the lure of easy money soon became irresistible to the Filipino American, who began again to bet secretly at work. For the next five years, Mark placed bets on sports teams through a bookie.

As his debt grew, Mark found himself in an even deeper hole. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable gambling debt and nowhere to turn, Mark embezzled $210,000 from his employer for three years. When the IRS conducted an audit of his company, Mark was caught and sentenced to three years in prison.

That’s when Mark knew he had to quit. He started going to Gamblers Anonymous again and he began seeing a psychiatrist, too. Eventually, he managed to get his sentence reduced to five years’ probation and one year of house arrest, which he has since completed.

“I really never thought my gambling was a problem until I was facing a prison sentence,” said Mark, now 47. “Until I hit that bottom with the judge saying that my crime could bring up to four years in prison … It wasn’t until then that it just kind of struck home.

Mark explained that his reasons for gambling were rooted in the excitement of possibly scoring the big win. “I did it for the thrill of it. There is just something that zaps inside you that gives you that thrill, that feeling of ecstasy, that feeling of being in control yet out of control,” Mark said. “I really didn’t think it was a problem.”

Ironically, he “thought that gambling could fix some of my financial woes. You get to thinking that you could make that big win and make lots of money and pay off your debt and be worry-free.”

When he lost, he said, he’d chalk it up to “a case of bad luck.”

EASY MARKS

Like Mark, a growing number of Americans and Asian Americans across the country have been devastated by gambling. And according to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, gambling is a bigger business than ever.

The panel’s two-year study on the social impact of betting, released last month, found that since 1975, betting has flourished — 37 states and the District of Columbia have lotteries, and 28 states have commercial or Indian casinos. In 1997, Americans spent more than $47 billion of their leisure activity money on gambling, the report found.

Unfortunately, the study included no racial breakdowns that might have shed light on what many people instinctually perceive: that risks of compulsive gambling are especially dire for Asian Americans.

Other studies and a growing concern within some local communities have caused organizations to take notice. According to the October 1997 issue of The Wager, a newsletter issued by the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, Asian Americans have added plenty to the kitties of casinos along Las Vegas’ famous Strip. In high-stakes games, such as baccarat, Asian or Asian American players put in 80 percent of all revenues, while other races made up 20 percent. In table revenue, on the other hand, Asian players contributed 17 percent, compared to 83 percent contributed by other races.

A 1997 study by the umbrella group NICOS found that 70 percent of 1,800 Chinese Americans surveyed in San Francisco believed that gambling was a serious problem in their community.

“We had an inkling that gambling was a problem … But even were surprised that 70 percent [of Chinese Americans] considered it a serious problem. It was an overwhelming response,” said NICOS leader Woo. “These studies only highlight how destructive a force gambling is in our community.”

Though it is difficult to create a profile of the “typical” Asian American gambler, another study that the group released last month helped shed some light on Asian American gamblers and the impact gambling has had on Chinese Americans in San Francisco.

The study, conducted by two U.C. Berkeley students, found that 30 percent of Chinese Americans surveyed said they gambled once a week or more, 14.7 percent identified themselves as problem gamblers, and 21 percent of survey respondents met criteria for pathologic gambling.

The study, which surveyed over 150 people in San Francisco Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square, found that Chinese Americans who gambled more than once a week were more likely to be male, at least 55 years old, and married or in a common-law marriage. Those in that category were also more likely than other respondents to have a limited education, at least 20 years of residency in the United States and an annual household income of $40,000 or less.

Those who self-identified as problem gamblers, however, were more likely than others to be men between 18 and 34 or over 65 and to have a college or graduate level education. They were likely to be working full-time or unemployed, and married or in common-law marriages.

Evelyn Lee, executive director at RAMS, a San Francisco organization that provides social services to recent immigrants, believes that gambling is growing, in part because of the ease at which an individual can now place a bet.

“Unlike many years ago where we played mah jongg and pai gow, gambling is now becoming more complicated. Now there is sports gambling, there is Internet gambling, stock market gambling,” said Lee, adding that there are still charter buses that will take individuals from Chinatown in San Francisco to casinos in Reno and Las Vegas.

“Before people would say they’d wait until their day off to gamble,” Lee said. “But now people have many different ways they can gamble, where they can bet on sports every minute. All they have to do is make a phone call.”

CROSSING A LINE

Lee stressed that her efforts aren’t aimed against recreational gambling, which can often be as innocent as Saturday afternoon mah-jongg get-togethers. Rather, her program is designed to help individuals recognize when recreational gambling starts to become compulsive or pathological-when people begin to lose control.

“We’re concerned about people who have lost everything,” said Lee. “We’re concerned about those who are addicted.”

Those people are the most likely to end up hurting others, she said.

“You hear story after story about how a wife is being abused by gambling and how children are being abused by problem gambling,” Lee said. “We’ve seen lots of families come in for divorce, for marital problems and the root of things would often be gambling.”

Counselor Tina Shum has also seen scores of Asian American families affected by gambling through her social work at Chinatown’s Cameron House, which is just one of many San Francisco organizations collaborating on the project.

“As a social worker handling domestic violence cases, I’d say …approximately one-third to a quarter of all family problems were some how related to gambling,” Shum said. “It is a big problem in Asian American and Chinese communities.”

Through the training program, Shum says she now understands that gambling is a mental disease that can be cured. She can also identify problem gambling and now knows how to treat family members of gamblers.

A NEED FOR SUPPORT

While most support groups are patterned on the 12 steps that Alcoholics Anonymous made famous decades ago, such a model often fails to address cultural issues and nuances of concern to many Asian Americans.

One tradition — the introduction of oneself as a sufferer of an addiction — might be especially painful, Lee said. “There are a lot of cultural differences that make this difficult,” Lee said. “There is still lots of shame involved here.”

Asian Americans “like more structure, and we have to build trust,” Lee said, adding, “Alcoholics Anonymous bases their model on God, but lots of people don’t believe in a higher power.”

Mark agreed, saying the AA-based Gamblers Anonymous model doesn’t work for all Asian Americans.

“I can say that the majority of Gambler Anonymous members are Caucasians or non-Asians, and that is probably because there is a certain amount of uncomfortableness when you go into a meeting and when [the majority] are Caucasians, the need to speak up is minimized because you feel this uncomfortableness or discrimination of some kind.”

Lee added that cultural issues should cut across all forms of treatment. She recalls one Asian American’s description of the “high” he felt after winning.

“I remember one person told me that no matter how badly you’re treated, or in spite of the racism you may have experienced, when you pull $400,000 on a card table, you’re treated the same as everyone else. You’re treated well,” Lee said. “There is almost a power you can gain as a minority group.”

A BETTER WAY

In San Francisco, Richmond Area Multi Services (RAMS) and NICOS have begun a gambling program that they hope will help stem excessive gambling among Asian Americans.

The Chinese Community Problem Gambling Project receives $50,000 from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which is half of what it needs. Organizers hope to get the remaining $50,000 from private foundations.

The program, which so far only serves about a dozen people, is modeled after a Toronto-based program created in 1994 to help Chinese Canadian compulsive gamblers. Recently, it finished training nearly three dozen counselors on techniques for treating gamblers and their families. The program just launched a hot-line that accommodates Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian speakers.

Although the program centers heavily around treatment, organizers also plan to concentrate on community outreach and education, such as the distribution of educational videotapes and brochures in Asian languages, as well as the continuation of research.

“Here in the U.S., we talk a great deal about substance abuse and alcohol abuse, but not about gambling,” said Lee. “You have one million gamblers in California, and each of those gamblers affect 10 to 23 other people? Gambling is a severe problem that we need to pay attention to.”

Lee stressed that the program aims to treat both the family and gambler equally. This is particularly important when treating Asian Americans, agreed Mark, because family members are often the ones to bail out the problem gambler. “It’s almost as if families need to be treated alongside the gambler, because it’s the family that keeps the gambler from getting help, or getting out.”

Mark’s own parents knew of his gambling problem, but were kept in the dark when he was convicted of embezzlement.

“In the Asian culture everything gets swept under the carpet,” he said. “As serious as it has been, it’s kind of the philosophy of ‘My kids could never do wrong.’

“Yeah, there was a problem, but it was out of sight out of mind …In the Asian community that’s just how it is, and it’s not the most productive or normal way of handling things, but that’s the way it is,” he added.

“Until there is violence or incarceration or some really bad things happen, the families don’t get involved and look the other way,” Mark said. “In the Asian community there is a lot of dollars there and bailouts also happen. If someone gets in trouble and money is owed, the family bails them out, only to the detriment of the gambler.”

Mark, who hasn’t placed a bet in seven years and considers himself a recovered compulsive gambler, feels especially bad about the damage caused to his family.

Mark, who sees his children on occasion and continues to support them, is optimistic that this program will help gamblers identify and overcome their gambling problems and hopefully spare them the same losses he has been forced to endure over the past 20 years.

“I can replace the money I’ve lost and certain friendships, but not the time, and I’ve lost a lot of time with my kids,” he said. “Any program, whether it helps Asian Americans or non-Asians, helps everyone.”

The hot-line number for The Chinese Community Problem Gambling Project is (415) 668-5955.


Recently, I watched a documentary in a DVD format that I found at Mead Public Library called “Hearts & Minds” which talks bout the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Many people are interviewed, including Gen. William Westmoreland and Vietnam veterans, who each had a different perspective of the war. There is footage of Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson and Eisenhower, who states that the U.S. needed to keep access to resources in Vietnam, making military intervention necessary. He doesn’t mention an altruistic reason.

This documentary shows all facets of war and should therefore be rated “R” because of parts of the film where they show U.S. military men shooting Vietnamese men in the head even though they are captured and restrained. The Vietnamese are treated as subhumans. There are also scenes of American military men having sexual relations with Vietnamese prostitutes.

The lack of reverence for life that these passages depict is alarming. There are scenes of U.S. soldiers setting fire to the thatched roofs of the modest huts of the Vietnamese peasants while they are forced to watch their homes being destroyed. We see U.S. warplanes bombarding entire villages. The pilots reported that destroying these people’s homeland was just a job. There were other soldiers who talked about how they got a thrill from killing the “enemy.” However the price to pay for this thrill was depicted when U.S. veterans who had lost limbs were being fitted for plastic ones.

The film did an excellent job of showing the contrast of a comfortable American lifestyle with the utterly poor Vietnamese. And yet their lifestyle was ecologically more sustainable than ours. The beauty of Vietnam was breathtaking and yet bombs were dropped indiscriminately.

There is a passage explaining how Vietnam was under Chinese rule for several centuries and then France colonized Vietnam for 100 years. Just when the Vietnamese had earned their independence from French Imperialism in 1954, America took over.

Gen. Westmoreland has the irreverence to say that Oriental people don’t place a high value on life like we do. However, there are scenes of children suffering from the effects of napalm, of Vietnam families mourning their dead children, of U.S. planes spraying Vietnamese fields with Agent Orange, and of testimony reporting U.S. soldiers torturing Vietnamese.

This documentary shows the reality of war by including real scenes from the Vietnam War. It shows how we are indoctrinated from a young age to think there is something honorable about invading another country far away that has done us no harm. One soldier is asked if we have learned something from Vietnam.

I think that everyone should see this film and replace the Vietnamese faces with Iraqi ones. Maybe the natural beauty of the country will vary, but the ugliness of war stays the same. This film was the 1974 winner of the best documentary.

DEBBIE DESMOULIN

Sheboygan