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Could it be that certain cultures are more prone to forming a gambling addiction than others? You’d think the answer would be no, but new research coming from NPRclaims that, for certain Southeast Asian Refugees, an alarming trend has emerging.
Singling out families who arrive from countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, the data showed a generational history tied to games and luck. Whether it’s friendly dice or card matches, many interviewed for the research claimed that “chance” and “fortune” were big parts of their lives growing up. Add to that the lure of glitzy casinos and getting rich quick, and it’s not that surprising to see a pattern emerge among lower income refugees.
“Gambling is often seen as an opportunity out of poverty,” Dr. Timothy Fong, a professor of addiction psychiatry and co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program, told NPR. “When you have tremendous amounts of poverty, especially in the Southeast Asian refugee population, that tends to be a very tempting idea.”
Dr. Fong also touched upon data from a 2003 study that examined the gambling habits of nearly 100 Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees. When that was released, it showed that 60 percent met the criteria for a gambling addiction. And that is especially alarming when you consider that the national average is roughly 2 percent.
The newer data showed that 42 percent of the refugees interviewed had wagered at least $500 in the past two months. Other study leads believed that percentages could be much higher, as there is often an attempt to keep such behaviors hidden within tight-knit refugee families.
Even more concerning is the fact that culturally, Asians are least likely among U.S. ethnic groups to use mental health services. This is often due to stigmas and shame surrounding the need to get help (as well as language barriers).
Dr. Fong chimed in on this particular stat, highlighting the fact that many Southeast Asian gambling addicts feel deeply embarrassed about their problem.
“It’s a stigma,” he emphasizes. “‘You’re going to the crazy clinic!’ No, it’s not a crazy clinic. This is the mental health services so it can help you to resolve your issues in order for you to move forward and also have a quality of life. The worst part is, this may lead to people gambling for longer periods of time and experiencing greater problems before they share or disclose some of their struggles and seek help.”
We know all about the struggles of dealing with a gambling addiction and are happy to open our doors to anyone who needs assistance. We can also work to connect patients to professionals who speak their language and understand their culture. If help is needed, please reach out.
If you think the rising trend of internet gambling isn’t serious, take a look at the latest headline coming from The Hill. This week, the political site referenced a hearing that took place run by House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Chair James Sensenbrenner. In it, a stern warning was issued regarding addictions among online betters. Sensenbrenner was joined by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who raised similar concerns about this disturbing trend.
According to The Hill, internet gambling is now the fastest growing addiction among kids, high schoolers and college students in the U.S. Why, you ask? Because of its immediacy and accessibility. Thanks to cell phones, laptops and video games, sports betting is available 24/7 and can happen with the simple click of a button.
This type of behavior has also spiraled into much more dangerous territory. One recent example involved a University of Wisconsin honor student who lost over $72,000 in tuition money because of internet sports bets. To collect his debt, the young man wound up killing three of his fellow students and ultimately committed suicide.
The Hill went on to report that this has become a worldwide epidemic. In the United Kingdom, kids as young as 11 are getting hooked on internet betting. In fact, 1 in 7 children aged 11 to 16 gamble regularly. And this is a stat that outpaces kids who smoke cigarettes, consume alcohol or experiment with drugs. It is also worth noting that this trend is increasing at an alarming rate. The UK stat, for example, went up 400 percent over the past two years alone.
Senator Schumer, an admitted sports fan, took time out to speak with ABC News about the subject; urging his fellow constituents to take notice of this problem.
“As a New York sports fan and a senator, my priority is making sure the integrity of the games we love is preserved, that young people and those suffering from gambling addiction are not taken advantage of, and that consumers that choose to engage in sports betting are appropriately protected,” he told the site. “It is incumbent on the federal government to take a leadership role and provide the necessary guidance to prevent uncertainty and confusion for the leagues, state governments, consumers and fans alike.”
As he referenced (and The Hill pointed out), the true solution here is to put more regulations in place to make this type of behavior less accessible, particularly for young people. Many of these sites offer enticements and deceptive marketing campaigns to lure their followers in. The hope now, is that they will be called out for their unethical behavior and more governmental safeguards will be put in place.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, then you’re well aware of all of the Powerball Fever hysteria that has been sweeping the nation. Over the past few months there have been billion dollar jackpots within the national lottery system, prompting huge ticket sales and lots of temptation for people battling gambling addictions.
Case in point: some alarming statistics released by USA Today. Though we may think that the Powerball profits come from throngs of lottery players across the U.S., the biggest business is actually from repeat customers. Their data showed that up to 80 percent of lotto revenues come from just 10 percent of people who play the lottery. That means that potential gambling addicts are being drawn to spend huge sums on tickets.
And exactly how big are those revenues? Billions upon billions in national sales. In fact over the past several years, New York has been leading the pack with as much as $9.2 billion tickets sold annually.
Advocate Les Bernal (who runs a site called Stop Predatory Gambling) spoke to USA Today about the damage that high profile lotto games are having amongst those prone to addiction.
“State lotteries have a business model that’s based on getting their revenue from small percent of the people that use the lottery,” Bernal explained. “They can talk all they want about how much they care about citizens, but state lotteries are the poster child for the rising unfairness and inequality in our country.”
Another not-so-surprising fact is that those buying the most tickets often account for the lowest incomes. And, of course, the Powerball marketing strategies prey right into that; promising instant riches for people who are struggling financially.
One other disturbing trend that is happening in certain states involves internet ticket sales and the ability to electronically buy tickets at gas stations or ATMs. Pro-lotto advocates argue that this is simply allowing Powerball to evolve to the digital age, but others (including Texas Rep. Greg Davids) believe it to be harmful and are pushing against this “progress.”
“It’s getting to the point where it’s like the lottery’s gone wild,” Davids added on the site. “This is way out of control. They’re trying to get another generation hooked on gaming.”
To their credit, media stations are working to bring this conversation to the public as well. An ABC affiliate in Virginia did a piece on dangerous Powerball temptations, which we’ve shared in its entirety below.
It’s a sad fact, but there is no denying that certain industries do try to lure people into dependent behaviors. And, per a recent article on Heavy.com, some of the worst offenders are casinos and slot machine makers. According to their article, nefarious tactics are in play to create full-fledged gambling addictions.
Wesleyan University professor Mike Robinson authored the story and outlined intentional tricks of the trade that can turn casual gamers into addicts.
“As an addiction researcher for the past 15 years, I look to the brain to understand the hooks that make gambling so compelling,” Robinson writes. “I’ve found that many are intentionally hidden in how the games are designed. And these hooks work on casual casino-goers just as well as they do on problem gamblers.”
One highlight he calls out is the “reward component” that many card games and slot machines offer. Tapping into the brain’s dopamine sensations (which are also triggered by sex, eating and drugs), these activities create a level of risk, excitement and uncertainty that prey upon primal urges. Eventually even losing money at a table could become a trigger that releases dopamine, setting off the urge to keep playing and “chase” a victory.
Robinson also zeroes in on the outside stimulators that are common at every casino. Things like buzzers, lights and colorful screens, which actually play psychological tricks on the brain. If you’ll notice, even a small win at a slot machine triggers big bells and whistles. This is intentionally done, to lead gamblers to over-estimate how often they are winning.
There are plenty of illusions and “magic tricks” at play too, particularly at the video machines. Modern slots have multiple win lines, which can allow for more ways to bet. They can easily fool you as one line may hit (signaling the stimulants), while the others miss. Thus you think you’ve won something, but with your maximum bet actually didn’t pay off.
Robinson concluded his article with some alarming facts. We all know that gambling addiction can be a gateway into substance abuse, but recent research has shown that it can lead to anxiety, isolation and even suicide (particularly with online betting).
Always be aware that casino game designers are becoming more and more shrewd with their addictive tactics.
“When you engage in recreational gambling, you are not simply playing against the odds, but also battling an enemy trained in the art of deceit and subterfuge,” Robinson concluded. “Games of chance have a vested interest in hooking players for longer and letting them eventually walk away with the impression they did better than chance, fostering a false impression of skill.”
It is not uncommon for a celebrity to open up about their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. But rarely do we see a public figure admit to a gambling addiction. Well famed Good Morning Americahost Spencer Christian has decided to break the mold, going on-air to discuss the very real problems that happen when you get consumed by professional betting.
Appearing on GMA this week, Christian detailed the depths his addiction actually caused. From brushes with the FBI, to financial hardships, to the loss of close friends, this is certainly a dependency that can cause tremendous damage.
Like most gamblers, Christian certainly had his share of highs. During certain up streaks, he would bring home hundreds of thousands of dollars. So much, in fact, that federal agents began to suspect he was engaged in criminal activities.
“Before every gambling trip I’d go to three or four banks where I had accounts and take cash out,” Spencer recalled when discussing his habit. “And then I’d go off and when I’d come back, I’d have all this cash to redeposit, and that fit the pattern of someone covering up drug money or whatever. [Eventually I was told that] they found no criminal activity and I didn’t break any laws. But the agent told me, ‘You obviously have a real gambling problem, and for your own good you need to seek some help.’ That was a scary moment and it was a huge wake-up call.”
And let it be known that during those instances, Christian returned from his casino visits with a surplus. BUT many more times that not he wound wind up empty handed, tearing apart his lucrative earnings from Good Morning America.
Interestingly, Spencer claimed that the FBI visit was actually not the turning point of his addiction. Instead, it was his family that pushed him to get help and enter a recovery program.
“My daugter said, ‘Dad, you know I admire you and I love you, and I think the world of you, but you’ve got this problem and I’m going to bring grandchildren into your life,'” he recalled. “‘Do you want your grandchildren to know their grandfather as a gambler? Is this the legacy you want to leave, is this the way you want to be defined?’ And it just hit me like a ton of bricks.'”
Since that moment, Spencer’s been seeking continuous treatment and has now become a staunch gambling recovery advocate. In our opinion, that’s the biggest win of all.
You can watch Spencer’s full interview about the subject below…
Former 'GMA' anchor reveals gambling addiction - YouTube