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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.

January 16, 2006|John M. Glionna | Times Staff Writer

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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