By Phuc Pham, Voice of OC
A Vietnamese gambler
It’s nearly 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and a 72-year-old grandmother is saddled up to one of Pechanga Resort & Casino’s high-limit blackjack tables.
The dealer points her way, saying: “She’s a Vietnamese superstar, huh.”
The diminutive woman from Westminster is indeed known among the Temecula casino’s patrons for her prowess at blackjack. That information, however, must stay within the walls of Pechanga because she couldn’t bear it if her husband and children found out about her secret addiction.
She brushes off an interview request, making it clear she wants to concentrate on the game.
Yet while the older woman is tight-lipped, her 50-year-old compatriot, Thanh Trần, is more than willing to share her stories. For Trần, gambling is a family affair.
She laughs: “The whole family, top to bottom, gambles. My husband’s the king.”
Each of Trần’s five kids gambles with her, including her 17-year-old son, who has never been asked about his age. Two of her children are unemployed, one is a thief and her daughter recently left her husband.
“Mẹ chịu chơi, con cũng phải chơi chịu thôi,” Trần jokes, using Vietnamese wordplay to say that if mom’s willing to play, her kids have no choice but to play as well.
Asians and Gambling
Gambling rates among Asians are higher than those of any other ethnicity in the United States, according to psychiatrist Dr. Tim Fong, co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program.
“We did a survey a few years back, and at any given time, 35 percent of people in the casinos we visited were Asians,” even though Asians constitute only 14 percent of the state’s population, Fong said.
In a news report, a Pechanga official estimated that 50 percent of its clientele is Asian, though Jacob Mejia, the casino’s director of public affairs, told Voice of OC that information regarding Asian patrons is proprietary and must remain confidential.
Fong said gambling rates are highest among Chinese, followed by Koreans and Filipinos. Orange County’s largest Asian community, the Vietnamese, constitute another significant percentage, according to Fong. But gamblers of all backgrounds pay dearly for their habits, Fong said.
“At the severe end, we’re talking permanent damage to families: divorce, abuse, financial devastation and generational debt,” said Fong.
Ellen Ahn, executive director of Korean Community Services in Buena Park, said she regularly sees the ruinous effects of gambling on the people she serves.
“Gambling is by far the addiction of choice after tobacco or alcohol,” Ahn said. “I would say it’s a much bigger issue than drug abuse when it comes to destroying families and disrupting lives.”
Gambling among elderly Asians is also a concern, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, a psychiatrist and CalOptima official. Gambling is sometimes a response to boredom and lack of family attention, he said.
“We know that the incidence of gambling issues in the Asian community is quite high, especially if you have older seniors suffering from depression and loneliness,” Chau explained.
Read the full article by Phuc Pham from Voice of OC.
A Vietnamese gambler