Vietnam’s football plagued by illegal gambling
Le Huynh Duc coaches his Da Nang football club players before their clash with Binh Duong on April 15

An early curfew and a lack of entertainment have caused many Vietnamese footballers to resort to gambling for fun – an illegal activity in Vietnam.

For some, this has had an extremely negative effect on their career and home life.

Gambling has become an insidious problem in Vietnamese football with some players involving themselves in match fixing and others finding themselves deep in debt.

The most notorious case of match fixing occurred at the 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines where two star players, Van Quyen and Quoc Vuong, admitted they had fixed a match out of desperation to pay off gambling debts.

Vuong is now in prison serving a four-year sentence and Quyen is suspended from playing football until 2009.

The latest case

It has been reported that Da Nang club coach Le Huynh Duc recently caught several of his players gambling for money before an 11th round V-League game against Southern Steel Saigon Port.

Coach Duc allegedly found them gambling in the room of captain Hong Minh and assistant coach Hung Dung.

According to reports, midfielder Duc Nhat attempted to jump out a window to escape getting caught, but was stopped by the coach who ordered him back inside saying “I’ll be in big trouble if you die.”

Duc apparently reprimanded assistant coach Dung as well, telling him he ought to be more responsible as a senior member and role model to his young players.

Coach Duc reported the incident to city authorities and Da Nang Club Deputy Executive Nguyen Quoc Hung who manages the club footballers.

Dung has now been removed from his post as the club’s assistant coach and central defender Cao Cuong has stepped in to take over the position.

Team captain Hong Minh has also been made to hand over his title and signature armband to defender Quoc Cuong.

The penalization of so many team members has thrown the Da Nang club into chaos with some saying that coach Duc was biased in handing out punishments.

He has been accused of disciplining only those players that he could find replacements for.

For example, Cao Cuong received only a warning and some say it was simply because Duc couldn’t find anyone else to cover his central defense position.

Midfielder Phan Thanh Hung received the most severe punishment.

He was demoted to the B-level team without being told when he can return to the A-level.

Whatever the reason for Duc’s decision, it is yet another example of how the Da Nang Club has suffered troubled times and poor management.

Club Deputy Executive Hung admitted he had heard several negative rumors about the team before taking the job.

“That’s why Hien, the club boss, had asked me to keep a close watch over the players.

I had been here just 20 days, and the gambling incidenthappened,” Hung said.

Last year, Da Nang City authorities arranged for an experienced supervisor to work with the team and to help encourage better management, but it has so far failed to prove an effective measure.

The Da Nang football team has been notorious for years for its poor management and every year there are new reports of illegal gambling activity amongst players and coaches.

And the problem is not limited to the central city.

Illegal gambling has marred the reputation of several footballers nationwide and some players have even gone flat broke betting on international football matches.

Reported by Ngoc Hoa


Monday, 02 April 2007

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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.

Las Vegas goes Asian

October 30, 2006,0,7257344.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Taking their cue from Macao’s gambling boom, the city’s casinos and tourism officials are chasing the new high rollers as never before.

By Kimi Yoshino
Times Staff Writer

9:34 PM PDT, October 28, 2006

Alan Tam is playing Vegas these days. Never heard of him? Some say he’s a Chinese Mick Jagger. Comedian Crocket performed over the summer at Caesars Palace. He’s the Robin Williams of Japan.

In almost every way, Las Vegas is catering to Asians, offering Asian entertainers, high-stakes baccarat tournaments and rice congee by room service. The festivities and decorations for Chinese New Year have become second only to those for New Year’s Eve.

Hoteliers and tourism officials have chased Pacific Rim high rollers for years, and the effort is intensifying. Korean Air last month began nonstop flights three times a week from Seoul to Las Vegas. Many of those flights are expected to draw travelers from China.

In part, Vegas is reacting to the success of gaming in Macao — and hoping to capitalize on it. The Chinese territory’s 22 casinos, with their proximity to the sheer wealth and population of China, are viewed as competitors and appetizers for Vegas’ allure. This year casino gambling revenue in Macao is expected to edge past that of Las Vegas. Each locale brings in more than $6.5 billion.

“There’s no question in our minds that as more and more Chinese customers experience Macao, their natural curiosity is going to make them find out what the major leagues are like in Las Vegas,” said MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman. (An MGM Grand is scheduled to open in Macao in 2007.)

“If you go to Macao and you really like it, the next thing on your list is going to be to come to Vegas.”

As tourism markets go, China is a jackpot in the making. Within five to 10 years, overseas travel will lure an estimated 100 million Chinese annually, a figure that will dwarf every other market in the world, tourism officials said.

In preparation, Nevada has been greasing the wheels overseas. It was the first tourism destination to be issued a license to advertise in China, and four tourism commission staffers are based in Beijing. Last year the state spent $100,000 on advertisements in Asian airline magazines.

Vegas-based tour operator David Huang, owner of Chinese Hosts Inc., says he shuttles about 100 Asians a day to the Grand Canyon, with dozens of others taking tours of the Strip and Arches National Park in Utah.

“For China, in their mentality, this is the ultimate destination,” Huang said.

On one recent night, Huang’s company chauffeured two busloads of tourists — most of them Asian — on a tour of Vegas after dark, hitting all the glitzy, tacky, over-the-top attractions that many had seen only in the movies. They watched the volcano explode at the Mirage, the “Masquerade Show in the Sky” at the Rio, the fountains at the Bellagio and the campy Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace.

“We’ve heard so much about this place,” said Elisa Laurente, 55, traveling with her husband from the Philippines. “We wanted to see for ourselves how Las Vegas is. It’s beautiful. It’s simply awesome.”

Friends Stephanie Liu and Matilda Tai, both 26 and from Taiwan, took in the same night tour after a full day of shopping.

They had spent hundreds of dollars each on Coach purses — two of them — clothes from Gap and souvenirs. Liu said she had “no budget.”

“I’ll play the slot machines, maybe,” Liu said. “That’s the easy one. I will win all the money I spend.”

Las Vegas casinos, restaurants and other tourism-reliant businesses are welcoming visitors like Liu and Tai. “There is a very widespread awakening to the value of the Asian market to our tourism-based economy,” said Chris Chrystal of the Nevada Commission on Tourism. “They stay longer and they like to spend money.”

To better cater to visitors from China, many Vegas operators are taking cues from their ventures in Macao, which are drawing crowds of visitors by ferry from Hong Kong.

Vegas hotels have hired chefs from Hong Kong to serve up authentic dishes. Even room-service menus are starting to reflect the desires of the diverse customer base, offering rice congee and dim sum alongside hamburgers and turkey clubs. There are a multitude of Asian restaurants to choose from, where waiters are more comfortable speaking Mandarin or Cantonese than English.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., the first Western operator in Macao, opened the Sands casino in 2004, and a Venetian is slated for completion next fall.

“I’ve been to Asia a dozen times or so,” said Ron Reese, spokesman for the Venetian. “Sometimes I’ve landed in Macao and all I’ve wanted is a cheeseburger. They may want dim sum … and we’re able to provide that” in Las Vegas.

The Venetian in Vegas boasts seven Asian-language television stations in every room and same-day delivery of several Asian newspapers. On the gaming side, the casino opened a high-end baccarat salon. It is stocked with 100 types of tea, rather than dozens of beers on tap.

“A traditional gaming experience for an American may be to sit down and have a Budweiser,” Reese said. “We’ve obviously found out through our operations in Macao that Asians prefer not to drink alcoholic beverages while they’re playing. They enjoy a good tea.”

The Venetian’s exclusive Paiza Club, which opened last year, has an Asian theme, including dragon statues and other art. The high-roller suites even have a karaoke room complete with flashing lights, microphones and a curved lounge-style couch.

“Compared to what this room would have been, I bet you would have been hard-pressed to find daily delivered Chinese newspapers, Chinese programming on TV and dragons on the backs of chairs,” Reese said. “Certainly there’s a different feel and atmosphere than Las Vegas five years ago.”

Posted on 20 October 2006 – 07:47

Bets on foreign soccer matches will become legal next year in betting-crazy Vietnam, where a multi-million dollar gambling ring in a state agency led to the resignation of a cabinet minister in April. Newspapers quoted the Sports Minister on Friday as saying the National Sports Committee was seeking government approval to establish a joint venture with a foreign bookmaker to provide betting services on international soccer games.

The communist-run Southeast Asian country prohibits all forms of gambling, but illegal betting on soccer matches in England, Italy, Spain and other countries is very popular.

Officials have estimated around $1 billion is transmitted illegally every year for soccer betting.

Earlier this year, police arrested the boss of a state-owned road-building agency for running a gambling ring that bet $7 million of state money on football matches.

The Transport Minister resigned in April to take responsibility for the scandal, which led to new promises by the ruling Communist Party to fight corruption.

National Assembly lawmakers debated legalising football betting this week to meet strong public demand, but the proposal limits the amount of each bet to between 10 000 and 30 000 dong (less than US$2), officials said.

“The amount will not hurt people’s income, but be enough to entertain them,” Sports Minister Nguyen Danh Thai was quoted as saying in the VNExpress on-line newspaper .

Thai said the joint venture would invest around $70 million and that five foreign sports bookmakers, including a British firm, had shown interest in the project.

Initially, bets would be allowed only on overseas games and not the domestic Vietnam league, he said.

Phan and Lieu likely to be a big crowd puller

Two of the hottest names in professional poker, John Phan and Liz Lieu will travel to Singapore in November to take part in the Betfair Asian Poker Tour. The two are good friends, having originated from Vietnam, although they have built their poker careers in America.

John “The Razor” Phan has close to $3 million in tournament winnings. With numerous results on the World Poker Tour (WPT) and at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), he was inches from being poker player of the year in 2005.

Liz “The Pokerdiva” Lieu is a regular winner at high stakes cash game tables in Las Vegas. For a year she has been playing on the WPT, European Poker Tour (EPT) and other circuits around the world.

Both very much engaged in charity work, they will give 20 percent of future tournament winnings to charity. If either player wins the Betfair Asian Poker Tour, this could mean up to $100 000 for charity.

The Betfair Asian Poker Tour is the first major poker tournament in Asia and both players are pleased to be enjoying their passion “closer to home”.

“We are both really looking forward to the Betfair Asian Poker Tour in Singapore to represent our team, It will be interesting to follow poker’s growing popularity in Asia at close range. Asians are always good with games and that is one of the reasons why so many players of Asian origin have been so successful in the world of poker, especially in America. We would also like to find new poker players that would like to become members of our team by showing their skills on our site or in live tournaments like the one in Singapore,” the couple say.

Conference: Experts gather to discuss addictive behavior.

By David Rogers, Staff writer

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document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.width = requestedWidth + “px”; if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.margin = “0px 0px 10px 10px”; } LONG BEACH – Treat the cause of a disease, not its symptoms.

To Dr. Suck Won Kim, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School who has studied drug treatments for compulsive gamblers, the behavior is a symptom that might be connected to depression or another mental disorder – and a treatment that works for one patient is probably not the right treatment for everybody with the problem.

“If it’s bipolar, use lithium. Don’t use `gambling’ drugs (that are useful for another cause),” said Kim, who received laughter from his approving audience of psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health workers at Friday’s 12th Annual Asian American Mental Health Training Conference at the Long Beach Marriott.

The conference was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the psychiatry department at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. More than 300 people listened to experts in the area of addictive and compulsive behaviors, who spoke to this year’s theme: “Controlling the Uncontrollable – Impulse Control Behavior in Asian Americans.”

Ken Kondo, a spokesman for the Department of Mental Health, said attendees came from as far away as China and Taiwan. The

focus of the annual conference is on treating people in the Asian American culture. The department also organizes conferences for treating African Americans and Latinos. The conference has grown to the point where organizers may find another location to hold it next year, possibly in Long Beach. “This year we had to turn people away,” Kondo said.

The people who got in were able to hear Stephen Cheung, an Azusa Pacific University associate professor, talk about treating eating disorders, and Glenn I. Masuda of Pacific Clinics in Rosemead, who spoke of the need to teach parents about the uses of and potential dangers on the Internet before their children find out for themselves.

“You don’t let your 12-year-old daughter walk around at 2 in the morning in the big city, knowing she’ll be able to handle herself,” Masuda said. “It’s easier to teach parents about technology than it is to teach children life experience and wisdom.”

Dr. Timothy W. Fong, an assistant professor of psychiatry and the co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program, said that problem gambling has disproportionately affected Asian Americans. Fong said the reasons behind and the scope of the problem haven’t been studied as much as they should, but he estimated that between five and 35 percent of the Asian American population has a gambling problem, compared to one or two percent for the general population.

David Rogers can be reached at or (562) 499-1246.

Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians

Community leaders and social workers are putting pressure on casinos and legislators to help those who may be addicted face their problem.

By John M. Glionna
Times Staff Writer

January 16, 2006

Bill Lee’s father was sold as a boy to cover a gambling debt.

In the early 1900s, Lee’s grandfather lost a wager during a gambling binge in China. With no money to settle up, his only son had to go.

The failed bet unloosed a legacy of problem gambling for Lee’s family. His father became an obsessive gambler who never mentioned being raised by a man who won him in a card game. “I saw how gambling destroyed my dad,” Lee said. “Part of me also learned, ‘Oh, that’s how you deal with conflict; that’s how you escape.’ ”

For years, gambling also ruled Lee’s life.

His 2005 book “Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler” dissects the cultural attitudes that he contends make many Asian immigrants susceptible to problem gambling.

In recovery, the 51-year-old high-tech recruiter is on the forefront of a battle by Asian Americans in California against out-of-control gambling.

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. In 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. By 2010, annual gaming proceeds will top $10 billion dollars, carrying California past Nevada as the No. 1 gambling destination in the world, gaming experts say.

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.

Most gambling venues celebrate Asian holidays, hire bilingual staffers and feature the latest nightclub acts from Shanghai, Seoul and Manila.

Cache Creek Casino has a tank featuring a popular 2-foot-long dragon fish named Mr. Lucky. Dragon fish are considered good fortune by many Chinese gamblers, who often rub the tank for luck.

Culture is a recurring theme in Lee’s book, which describes how 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.

Many 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.”

But such gaming habits come at a cost. Shum estimates that one-fourth of her 150 annual spousal abuse cases are tied to problem gambling.

“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.

The task force also is urging prosecutors to explore possible connections between compulsive gambling and such crimes as fraud and spousal abuse. They’ve met with casino owners, asking them to support research and treatment programs.

California’s 4 million Asian residents — 13% of the population — also should be broken out as a category in gambling prevalence studies, activists say.

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.

“Breaking through the denial is the hard part,” he said. “For the community to simply accept that someone has lost their apartment building or their business to gambling — there’s something terribly wrong with that.”

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.

“That first year we had no staff; you need people to run programs,” said agency director Steve Hedrick. He said his office is spending $1.6 million for a new problem gambling prevalence study to be completed this year.

The office has contacted Asian American leaders for guidance on programs.

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?”

Officials blame staffing shortages for not having spent the money.

“That first year we had no staff; you need people to run programs,” said agency director Steve Hedrick. Leo Chu, owner of the Hollywood Park Casino, said he would not object to contributing to the state’s problem gambling fund. Chu says casinos sponsor self-exclusion programs in which problem gamblers can ask that casinos refuse to admit them.

Though Chu does not gamble, he acknowledges that many Asians develop problems. “I wish customers would recognize a responsibility to their families as much as their desire for a good time,” he said. “But you can’t legislate common sense.”

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 tour guide who often accompanied Asian customers on Las Vegas gambling junkets, said that on most trips, she ended up losing her own money and began playing with the company’s funds. Angela, who is in treatment and asked that her last name not be used, said she once lost $23,000 in a single day.

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 met a reporter at the Commerce Casino, where she spent numerous nights before she quit gambling in April 2000.

“Ohhh, I love it,” she whispered, looking away from the pai gow poker tables. “You can feel that old passion. The money is there for the taking.”

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.”

Lee’s family has broken gambling’s grip. He’s continuing his treatment, and his only son doesn’t gamble. But Lee can still taste the shame his father felt at being sold like a commodity. It was Lee’s mother who told him of his father’s tragic childhood.

And he knows that gambling almost brought him the same fate. For years, his parents struggled to cope with the effects of what Lee now recognizes as his father’s habit. When Lee was only 3, they considered selling him to an elderly Chinatown couple, planning to disguise the transaction as an adoption.

Lee’s father finally decided that he loved his son too much to part with him.

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THE organisers are calling it the ‘return of the prodigal… poker son’.
Most people here would not have heard of 65-year-old Singapore-born Willie Tann – one of world poker’s famous faces – simply because there have been no legal card game events here before.

Mr Tann has been in the restaurant business, the hot towel business and a bookmaker, but he has made a better living as a poker player

But this could soon change with the first Asian Poker Tour here from 12-17 Nov.

Singapore’s first legal high-stakes poker tournament will be held at the Meritus Mandarin Singapore, with a guaranteed prize pool of at least US$1 million (S$1.6m), to be shared by the final six players..

It is organised by a local company, Capital Events, in conjunction with Betfair (a London-based registered bookmaker and betting exchange) and the Singapore Tourism Board. (See report on facing page.)

For Mr Tann, who’s based in England but still visits Singapore once in a while, it will be a chance to finally showcase the skill and stone-cold ‘poker face’ he has honed over 46 years of playing the game to a Singaporean audience.

Last year, in poker’s version of football’s World Cup – the World Series of Poker – he won US$188,335 and an 18-carat gold bracelet from a one-day event with a buy-in of US$1,000 (the fee players have to pay to enter the main event).

A professional, now sponsored by Betfair, he couldn’t be contacted last night.

But in an interview with UK betting magazine Inside Edge last month, he talked about his life.

He was born in Singapore in 1941, and gambling was not in his parents’ plans for him.

They had high hopes when they sent him to London in 1960 to study law.

But law wasn’t exactly on his mind as he gambled often, and then tried becoming a bookmaker.

He owned a Chinese restaurant in Soho for a couple of years in the 1970s and ran a company supplying hot towels to Chinese restaurants all over London.

But poker was his calling.


With a total career earnings of almost US$1 million from poker, he lives comfortably some distance out of London in a small village in Hertfordshire called Bovingdon.

There, tudor houses, churches and greenery are more common than casinos.

It’s a world away from London, and definitely from Singapore.

He also has a family away from poker.

As the former law school dropout told Betfair Poker’s website: ‘I’ve been married for almost 30 years now. I have one son who went through Westminster and Oxford, and is now a lawyer himself.’

Well, at least he fulfilled his parents’ dream… through his son.

Mr Tann told the same website: ‘I started playing poker with my fellow students in house games.

‘I was winning a lot of money and so I stopped playing with them, and started playing in ‘spielers’ (casinos) all over London.

‘I thought I could make a better living playing poker. I’ve been in a few other businesses, the restaurant business, the hot towel business, and I’ve been a bookmaker at the race tracks.

‘But poker had always kept me going.’

But it also ‘broke’ him many times as he would spend his ‘earnings’ to enter tournaments and lose.

Once known as the Dice Man, then The Governor, the former No 1 European poker player in 2004 now prefers the nickname Mr Miyagi.

Mr Miyagi, from the 1980s movie The Karate Kid, was the wise old trainer and mentor of young Daniel-san, who spoke philosophically while maintaining a humble profile.

Mr Tann banks on his experience to offer advice on Betfair’s poker website.

Mr Oliver Bowen, 23, Betfair Games’ press officer, said: ‘Willie Tann is famous and respected here in the UK gaming scene. So I guess many Singaporeans will now start to hear more about him and recognise him as the face of the Asian Poker Tour, since he was born in Singapore.’

Mr Joseph Wong, 39, a businessman and director of Capital Events, was the prime mover behind the idea for Singapore’s first legal poker tournament.

He told The New Paper last night: ‘This has nothing to do with the upcoming integrated resort plans for Singapore. This poker tournament will be independent, an annual event.

‘I travel overseas often, and I realise poker’s exploded in the West. Gone is the seedy image associated with it as there’s more emphasis on the skill and psychology of pitting a player against another, as opposed to you playing against the house, which almost always wins.

‘And it’s great that Willie Tann will be returning to Singapore to play the game he could never play here legally all those years.

‘The return of the prodigal poker son after 46 years, I guess…’

MSN JapanNews


Dealer Cai Qilin, center, works on Mini Baccarat at an Asian gambling section in Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., Thursday, June 29, 2006. (AP Photo)

MASHANTUCKET, Connecticut — It’s a little after noon, and a crowd has started to gather in Boston’s Chinatown. Some are reading the Sing Tao Daily or Ming Pao Daily News. Others clutch plastic bags filled with snacks. All look up whenever the deep roar of an engine sounds like it’s coming their way.

Ip Kachuang and two of his friends share a smoke while they wait. It’s a routine Ip knows well. Five days a week, he makes the four-hour round-trip bus ride to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

The biggest casino in the world based on gambling floor space, Foxwoods estimates that at least one-third of its 40,000 customers per day are Asian.

“It’s a happy place,” Ip said in Mandarin Chinese. “It’s very easy and relaxing, and it’s open all the time.”

Ip represents a group of customers aggressively being courted by casinos around America.

The number of Asians in the United States increased by 17 percent between 2000 and 2004, the fastest growth of any ethnic group during that period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And few industries have catered to the Asian boom with as much cultural competency as the $75 billion (?59.22 billion) U.S. gaming industry.

Every day, Foxwoods and nearby rival Mohegan Sun combined send more than 100 buses to predominantly Asian neighborhoods in Boston and New York. The number of buses doubles on Chinese New Year, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The two casinos target Asian customers with ads in ethnic media and sponsoring community activities such as the Boston Dragon Boat Festival, the Toronto Asian Beauty Pageant, and the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Mohegan Sun says Asian spending makes up a fifth of its business and has increased 12 percent during the first half of this year alone.

In 2000, Foxwoods, which is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, hired a vice president specifically in charge of Asian marketing. In 2005, Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan tribe, hired an international marketing executive who would target the Asian demographic.

“Our Asian blood loves to feel the luck,” said Ernie Wu, director of Asian marketing at Foxwoods. “We call it entertainment, we don’t say it’s ‘gambling.”‘

Buses are key to the marketing strategy. Riders pay $10 for round trip fare, and Foxwoods throws in a $12 food coupon and a $40 gambling coupon, while Mohegan Sun gives them a $15 meal voucher and a $20 betting coupon.

On a recent weekday afternoon, one Foxwoods bus picked up Ip, his two friends, and more than 40 other passengers from Boston’s Chinatown. During the 160-kilometer journey, some watched a Hong Kong soap opera on television sets throughout the bus. Most caught up on sleep.

Some say the casinos are filling a void in entertainment options for low-income Asian immigrants.

Gambling does not require language skills or a high upfront cost, and casinos including Foxwoods have set up dozens of tables featuring favorite Asian games such as Pai Gow poker, Pai Gow dominoes, Sic Bo and Baccarat.

Next to the popular noodle bar, the entrance to the massive “Asian Pit” at Foxwoods is one of the liveliest sections of the massive casino. And when customers are not gambling, there are Asian concerts and shows to keep them occupied. Mohegan Sun has brought superstar singers A-Mei from Taiwan and Sandy Lam from Hong Kong to perform at its 10,000-seat arena.

“This is a way of demonstrating the casino’s sensitivity and understanding of the market,” said Joe Lam, president of L3, an advertising agency that works with Mohegan Sun.

Zheng Yuhua emigrated from southern China to New York City eight years ago. She works six days a week, 11 hours a day, preparing takeout orders at a restaurant in Chinatown. On her day off, she takes one of the Foxwoods buses.

“All of our friends come once or twice a week,” Zheng said, speaking Mandarin as she rested near the noodle bar with her brother-in-law. “Life in America is hard. Our English isn’t good. Even if we have time off, there’s nowhere else to go. We don’t have cars.”

Asians make up roughly a fifth of the 13,000-person staff at Foxwoods. Wu says dealers know not to touch Asian customers on the shoulder, a sign of bad luck. They do not say the number four, which in Chinese, sounds similar to the word for death. The casino also has omitted the No. 4 seat at Pai Gow and Baccarat tables, which have numbered seats.

The model of attracting and retaining Asian customers is being watched carefully as casinos reach out to other untapped markets.

Mohegan Sun’s senior marketing vice president, Anthony Patrone, said the casino is interested in expanding its Latino marketing. On July 21, Mohegan Sun hosted a boxing match that was broadcast on the Spanish-language channel Telefutura.

Some say the casinos are going too far to market to people who are vulnerable to excessive gambling.

“If casinos didn’t market to Asians, they’d market to someone else. It’s just that right now, the market is Asians,” said Dr. Tim Fong, co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program.

But those marketing strategies to attract customers are not without concerns. Fong, who began studying gambling addiction among Asian-Americans in 2005, called it a “subtle epidemic.”

“It’s out there, it’s insidious, slowly damaging families,” Fong said.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun both have taken voluntary steps, such as training employees to read signs of addictive behavior and referring problem gamblers to psychiatrists.

Steve Karoul, who until earlier this month was vice president of casino marketing at Foxwoods and has spent 30 years in the casino business, said Asians aren’t significantly affected by compulsive gambling.

“Honestly, we find it’s not as prevalent in the Asian community as it is in the non-Asian community,” said Karoul, who worked in several Asian countries. “Of all the markets, I would say it’s the least affected by problem gaming. Gaming is part of the culture, but problem gaming is not widespread.”

Back in the Asian Pit, Ip Kachuang decided to take a break after three hours at the Baccarat tables, his favorite game at Foxwoods. He said he had not won much money yet, but he was still in good spirits.

“It’s fun,” he said, “as long as you don’t gamble big.” (AP)

August 1, 2006

Internet companies are investing huge sums in addressing the Asian market…but the land casinos have a booming market in the United States.

Associated Press carried a fascinating article on the strength of the US Asian domestic market for gambling at land casinos.

Every day, Foxwoods and nearby rival Mohegan Sun combine to send more than 100 buses to predominantly Asian neighborhoods in Boston and New York, the piece reports. The number of buses doubles on Chinese New Year, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which many Asians don’t celebrate.

Foxwoods, the biggest casino in the world based on gambling floor space, estimates that at least one-third of its 40 000 customers each day are Asian. Mohegan Sun says Asian spending makes up a fifth of its business and has increased 12 percent during the first half of this year alone.

The number of Asians in the United States increased by 17 percent between 2000 and 2004, the fastest growth of any ethnic group during that period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And few industries have catered to the Asian boom with as much cultural competency as the $75 billion U.S. land gaming industry.

In 2000, Foxwoods, which is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, hired a vice president specifically in charge of Asian marketing. In 2005, Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan tribe, hired an international marketing executive who would target the Asian demographic.

The two casinos seek to attract and retain Asian customers, mainly of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Korean descent, by placing ads in ethnic media, providing plenty of restaurants at its casinos that serve Asian food, and sponsoring community activities such as the Boston Dragon Boat Festival, the Toronto Asian Beauty Pageant, and the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, Mass.

“Our Asian blood loves to feel the luck,” said Ernie Wu, director of Asian marketing at Foxwoods. “We call it entertainment, we don’t say it’s ‘gambling.”‘

The buses are key to the marketing strategy.

Foxwoods customers pay $10 for round-trip bus fare, but the casino throws in a $12 food coupon and a $40 gambling coupon at no additional cost. Mohegan Sun customers also pay $10 for bus tickets, and receive a $15 meal voucher as well as a $20 betting coupon.

Gambling doesn’t require language skills or a high upfront cost, and casinos including Foxwoods have set up dozens of tables featuring favorite Asian games such as Pai Gow poker, Pai Gow dominoes, Sic Bo and Baccarat.

Next to the popular noodle bar, the entrance to the massive “Asian Pit” at Foxwoods is adorned with carved wooden panels. One of the liveliest sections of the massive casino, the room is teeming with Asian customers. Those who aren’t seated at gaming tables mill about the room to get a look at the hottest action.

And when customers aren’t gambling, there are Asian concerts and shows to keep them occupied. Mohegan Sun has brought superstar singers A-Mei from Taiwan and Sandy Lam from Hong Kong to perform at its 10,000-seat arena.

Asians make up roughly a fifth of the 13,000-person staff at Foxwoods. Wu says dealers know not to touch Asian customers on the shoulder, a sign of bad luck. They don’t say the number four, which in Chinese, sounds similar to the word for death. The casino also has omitted the No. 4 seat at Pai Gow and Baccarat tables, which have numbered seats.

The model of attracting and retaining Asian customers is being watched carefully as casinos reach out to other untapped markets.