The rise of gambling addictions in Asia
Asia’s Las Vegas, Macau is a fun place to be (for a short time) and for most people who visit and play in one of the opulent casinos it’s no big deal to flutter away a few dollars. Gambling has been legal for 150 years in Macau but the real transformations have taken place over recent years. So successful has the transformation been that it has now overtaken Las Vegas by some way in terms of revenues. Gaming revenue in Macau is huge and makes up a significant portion of the economy in this small Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
In China, gambling is the ‘sport’ of choice, with residents from mainland China making up two thirds of Macau’s casino customers. With so much money coming out of China, Macau is eager to profit from its visitors from the mainland. Hong Kong residents also make up a decent portion of visitors and the short trip to gambling paradise is very tempting to those with a gambling problem.
“We have this saying in Chinese: if you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are.” – Kelvin Yee
The dream that Casinos offer gives people hope that they can win big. This has resulted in the marked increase in gambling disorders in China and it administrative regions. And it’s not just Macau that has fuelled a rise in gambling addiction in Asia. The internet has opened up possibilities that did not exist before that let almost anyone gamble any time of day. Despite restrictions on gambling in certain countries, anyone with a strong enough desire to gamble can usually find some way of doing so.
Research studies into gambling addiction amongst Asians
“In Asian cultures, shame is related to losing the respect of family and peers and they are more likely to believe that responsibility to regain control of gambling is their own. Asians also promote themes of good fortune, are superstitious, and feel that fate is predetermined by the ancestors, i.e., a person who is “lucky” in gambling is considered to be blessed from the gods.” – Dr. Timothy W. Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program.
It is estimated that one trillion Yuan is wagered illegally each year in China – a staggering amount that is equal to the entire economic output of Beijing. Despite gambling being illegal in mainland China, it does exist online and behind closed doors. Gambling addictions can cause serious problems; and it’s not just Asia that has seen a marked increase in people with gambling disorders. If you think you have a gambling problem, then you probably do! That is the common belief at least. Gambling addiction is classed as a behavioural disorder, in the same category as addictions to shopping, eating, sex etc. It is an uncontrollable desire to engage in actions that result in negative consequences.
Treating gambling addictions
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a commonly used approach used for treating gambling disorders. The goal of rehabilitation from gambling addictions is to change the behaviour of the person concerned and to alter the way in which gambling is perceived. Group therapy using 12 steps is another common approach used in many addiction treatment programmes that is also employed by gamblers anonymous. The 12 steps addiction treatment model is commonly accepted as an effective treatment method but there are professionals in the field of addiction recovery that don’t share much enthusiasm for 12 steps programmes and prefer alternate treatment methodologies.
Individual counselling is usually the first choice when trying to overcome behavioural disorders and if you think you need to address a gambling issue this would be a recommended first step. A good counsellor with experience in addictions therapy will be able to assess your condition and make recommendations for treatment. It may be the case that a few counselling sessions may suffice as treatment, or a referral may take place that connects you with an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programme.
Gambling addiction help in Hong Kong & Asia
Addiction Friend in Hong Kong can connect you with rehab centres throughout Asia and beyond. Counselling and aftercare are also available within Hong Kong Central and additional referrals to inpatient programmes in Asia are available to residents in China, Macau and Taiwan as part of the Addiction Friend Network in Asia. For international addiction treatment programmes outside of Asia, Addiction Friend international can connect you with gambling rehabilitation services in Europe and the U.S.A.
Fong, Tim, M.D., The Vulnerable Faces of Pathological Gambling retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004737