Nonprofit Bets Asian-American Students Can Learn To Avoid Unhealthy Gambling

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The students listened attentively as Ryan Wong explained how casinos keep customers chasing that elusive jackpot.

Labyrinthine layouts force guests to walk past card tables and slot machines in search of well-concealed restrooms and exits, said Wong, an intern at the nonprofit NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, a San Francisco partnership of health and social service organizations. Casinos ply customers with free alcohol to loosen inhibitions, and clocks are nowhere to be found.

“You lose track of time,” Wong, 23, told the members of an Asian-American studies class at City College of San Francisco. “The more you gamble, the more it favors the casino.”

NICOS staff members and interns visit Asian-American studies classes around the San Francisco Bay Area to talk to students about gambling because studies suggest Asian-American college students have a higher rate of problem gambling than their peers. NICOS hopes to reduce their risk.

It’s not that they gamble more than others but that they are significantly more likely than their white, black or Latino counterparts to report unhealthy gambling behavior, according to a 2016 study in the Journal of Gambling Studies. It found that 8 percent of Asian-American students at a large public research university in Texas met the criteria for pathological gambling, compared with about 5 percent of whites and 4 percent of blacks and Latinos.

Problem gambling includes lying about losses, feeling guilty about gambling, and missing school or work because of it.

When problem gambling worsens into an addiction, also known as pathological or compulsive gambling, people fail repeatedly to curb their habit. And if they manage to stop, they have withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness and irritability. They gamble increasing sums to maintain the rush of excitement.

Mic. This story can be republished for free (details).

KHN’s work with California ethnic media is supported in part by The California Wellness Foundation.

California Mental Health