Shame sees Asian problem gamblers shunning help
April 2, 2007
By SARAH MACDONALD
Monday, 02 April 2007
• Howick and Pakuranga Times
PROBLEM gamblers are suffering in silence due to cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking the help they need.
Education is key in breaking down the stereotypes crippling some Asian communities, says Problem Gambling Foundation Asian services manager John Wong (pictured).
“Among the Asian community there is a stigma attached to those who have problems with drugs, alcohol and gambling. They label these people as not good people,” says Mr Wong. “Most Asian families practice collectivism rather than individualism. In Asian culture if a family member commits some disgrace, it will reflect on the whole family.”
The Asian services division of the foundation was established eight years ago.
Key to its operation is a gambling hotline that offers translators and culturally appropriate counselling services.
“We have people who speak Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean to look after the hotline. Asian client numbers are picking up every year,” says Mr Wong.
“We can see at the beginning only about three per cent of all clients identified as being from an Asian community and now we have more than eight per cent.”
Mr Wong says it’s impossible to tell exactly how many Asian people have an issue with gambling.
“We know for each person with a gambling problem there are at least seven people affected around that person,” says Mr Wong. “But we can only see how many people are seeking help.”
He says migrants are at particularly high risk of developing a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction.
“Migrants come across a multitude of stresses. There are post migration adjustment difficulties, language barriers, difficulties finding a job, settlement and cultural issues,” says Mr Wong.
“Most of them see alcohol, drugs and gambling as a comfort. You feel excitement that overcomes your stresses, but all of these are temporary.”
Shift workers are also over represented in figures.
“Usually when shift workers finish work there’s no entertainment available, but gambling is still there,” says Mr Wong.
Some Asian communities have been exposed to gambling from a young age.
“In the Chinese community there is Mah-jong, a skill-based game like bridge.
If you have more skill there’s more chance for you to win. Most of the Asian people think all the table games at the casino are skill-based,” says Mr Wong. “But with gambling there’s no relationship between this game and the previous game. Most Asians have some illusion that the game is related to a trend. They’re trying to beat the system but each game is completely random.”
Problem gamblers often lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and have health and sleep issues.
Mr Wong welcomes more initiatives such as the Asian Health and Wellbeing Day held in Howick last weekend. Organised by East Health Trust, the day featured seminars on health accessibility, lifestyle issues and free health checks for participants.
Gambling was among the topics discussed.
“The more we talk about the issue the more people will understand this is a phenomenon of society. It’s not an individual problem, it’s a community problem and if we don’t deal with it we all lose,” adds Mr Wong.
People who think they may have a gambling problem should call the foundation’s Asian hotline on 0800-862-342.