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Problem Gambling

Lee, B. Chinese Playground: A Memoir.

"This stark and unsentimental recollection of childhood and coming of age in the back alleys and bustling streets of San Francisco's Chinatown reveals the sinister and pervasive influences of organized crime. Delivering an almost casual expose into the underworld of an urban Chinatown, Chinese Playground: A Memoir traces author Bill Lee's maturation from innocent child in a troubled family to a street punk, gang member, and college graduate struggling to break free of his involvement in escalating violence. In a dark journey spanning forty years, Lee fights an ongoing battle against relentless childhood demons and nightmares, acknowledging a spiritual guardian throughout his life, ultimately coming to terms with his past and peace with himself.

A moving look at the murky histories of Lee's parents -- both Chinese immigrants -- adds depth to this story and poignantly points to typical family dysfunctions that contribute to confusion, fear and aggression in young people. The author's early recollections are seen through the eyes of an innocent boy who was nearly aborted and sold away. As a young gang member, his pain and fears are hidden beneath a tough, macho facade as he contends with gambling, drugs, extortion and murder. Entering adulthood, Lee's street savvy and dark view of the world manifests itself into an aggressive, win-at-any-costs attitude which he unleashes in Silicon Valley. Lee faces his biggest challenge when he returns to the streets of Chinatown in search of his runaway son and confronts his own dark past. Lee's determination to nurture his soul and transform his life is inspiring." - taken from the book cover

Lee, B. Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler.

Second generation Chinese-American Bill Lee was living the American dream. He had a successful career as a corporate headhunter, bank accounts overflowing with money, and a perfect son who adored him. In just a few short years, he lost it all. Born to Lose starts before Mr. Lee was even born, with the story of his grandfather who was sold into slavery to settle family gambling debts. Chronicling the violent and oppressive history of his family, we see that Mr. Lee truly was "born to lose," destined to suffer from a gambling addiction that had affected so many members of his family in the generations before.

We see Mr. Lee as a young kid: winning money from other kids in school yard card games, then losing it in turn to older kids. We see him playing the stock market as a young professional and ultimately succumbing to the lure of casinos from Las Vegas to Reno. For people who fail to see compulsive gambling as a "real" addiction, this book serves as a harsh reminder of the ways in which gambling can destroy people's lives. As Mr. Lee navigates the world of problem gambling, attending a variety of meetings of Gamblers Anonymous (GA), we are exposed to the stories of many individuals who lost everything they had because they could not resist the temptation to put it all on the line.

In the end, this is a book about taking responsibility. Mr. Lee makes several attempts at ending his addiction through participation in GA. However, these attempts continually fail as a result of his determination to maintain control of his own life, to deal with his recovery on his own terms. It is only when he makes serious changes in his lifestyle, such as changing careers, and makes an effort to take GA seriously (instead of just going through the motions), that he is able to truly face his addiction. This message of addiction, failure, and redemption, is inspiring to people suffering from all addictions, not just gambling.

Slutske, W. S., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., & Poulton, R. (2005). Personality and Problem Gambling: A Prospective Study of a Birth Cohort of Young Adults.Archives of General Psychiatry62: 769-775.

This study compared the personality traits of problem gamblers with individuals with alcohol or other drug addictions. Researchers performed personality assessments on about 1,000 18-year-olds from New Zealand and focused on results from those who had been diagnosed with gambling addiction and three types of substance abuse disorders. After cross-referencing with 10 basic personality variants, they found that the personality profiles for the gamblers and addicts were very similar.

The findings may help explain the relationship between problem gambling and other addictive disorders, as well as providing clues for the development of better treatments for these problems.

Available at archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/62/7/769.

Levens, S., Dyer, A. M., Zubritsky, C., Knott, K., & Oslin, D. W. (2005). Gambling Among Older, Primary-Care Patients. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry13: 69-76.

This study reported that some older Americans may be at-risk gamblers who are prone to betting more money than they can afford. Of the 843 people aged 65 or older that were interviewed, 70 percent had been involved in at least one gambling activity within the previous year. Eleven percent could be classified as at-risk gamblers. Women were also found to be just as likely as men to be gamblers and to show signs of gambling problems.

Available at ajgp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/13/1/69.

Skolnik, S. (2004). Deck Stacked Against Asians; Casinos Play Off Gambling-Intensive Culture. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This article explores the relationship between Asian culture and compulsive gambling. While alcohol or drug use may be frowned upon in the Asian community, in many parts of Asia, gambling is a deeply ingrained social activity. This acceptance is especially strong in recent immigrants. Casinos are aware of their market and employ several devices to attract Asian customers, including bilingual employees, Asian-themed holiday celebrations, Asian popular musical acts, Asian restaurants, and free bus services from popular Asian ethnic enclaves.

For the full article, click here.

Zander, D. B. (1996). A Report on the Effects of Problem Gambling on Southeast Asian Families and Their Adjustments to Life in Minnesota: Report and Recommendations.

This exploratory field study by the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans found that the problem of compulsive gambling is affecting significant numbers of families and children. The report discusses the ways treatment needs to be implemented in a more culturally sensitive way. It concludes with a set of recommendations that would strengthen the work of the Mutual Assistance Associations in coping with the identified compulsive gambling problems at a community level. These include:

  • Funding bilingual preventative education materials such as brochures and videos in Southeast Asian languages
  • Making funds available for training bilingual and culturally sensitive staff to take compulsive gambling in-service training
  • Funding key Southeast Asian organizations to run prevention and intervention programs

Available at the Los Angeles office NAPAFASA resource library.