Asian-Americans Over-Indexed for Gambling Addiction in Massachusetts

Written By Derek Helling on November 1, 2019 - Last Updated on November 16, 2019
Asian Americans Gambling Study

Boston’s Chinatown population is an important part of the casino market in Massachusetts. A new Asian-American gambling addiction study coming out of the University of Massachusetts suggests efforts to address problem gambling in the Bay State would do well to make some adjustments.

Among the research’s insights is that culturally appropriate messaging from the state’s gaming commission is lacking, particularly for this subset of the state’s population. An increase in that aspect could go a long way.

What the Asian-American gambling addiction study revealed

The interest in gambling among Asian-Americans who reside in Massachusetts may have been underestimated. According to the findings, Asian-Americans accounted for 25% of table-game customers and 20% of overall patrons at Mohegan Sun Casino in 2007.

That segment grew by 45% at that facility over a two-year period from 2005 to 2007. Although those numbers are nearly 13 years old, consider the fact that there is now a casino (Encore Boston Harbor) closest to the greatest concentration of Asian-Americans in the state (Boston’s Chinatown).

While the findings do not differentiate between native Americans born of East Asian ancestry or recent immigrants, there is an interesting suggestion. That is, gambling addiction is a Western problem.

In their ancestral lands such as China, gambling is mostly illegal and a social faux pas. While that norm may continue to have sway in East Asian communities in the Bay State, other cultural factors could work to erode that distaste.

The research goes into great detail on the facets of daily life as an Asian-American that may lead to gambling problems. It also explains difficulties in obtaining help for those issues.

Why Asian-Americans in Massachusetts may struggle

The study points to casino marketing targeted at East Asian populations. This includes ads, transportation offerings and websites in Mandarin.

While targeted ads abound, material to raise awareness for assistance available for gambling problems in languages like Mandarin is less accessible. That isn’t isolated to the casino industry, however.

Another issue is the lack of entertainment and recreation options targeted toward East Asian communities elsewhere. Respondents in the research indicated they found their way to casinos because they were accommodating.

Once there, they said, it wasn’t long before they started playing the games. Like many who develop gambling problems, economic stress also plays a part.

While the cultural views toward gambling may act as a deterrent for many, that same factor can also work to worsen problem gambling for those of East Asian ancestry. Because of feelings of guilt and shame, such individuals may be less likely to seek assistance.

Because of the specialized risk, researchers state the necessity of specialized interventions. The researchers behind the findings recently presented proposed solutions to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

How the MGC and the casino industry can help

The researchers suggest using all forms of media to raise awareness about resources available to combat gambling problems. It also advocates for an increase in those resources.

The study found that the few agencies with the ability to provide assistance in the appropriate languages lacked funding. It encouraged the MGC to enlist the aid of organizations in appropriate communities.

The recommendations also targeted the casinos themselves, suggesting more hiring of staff with appropriate language skills. Researchers also recommended more training for all employees on the issue.

While gambling addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, this study shows how culturally-specific factors can make some ethnic groups more susceptible. Fortunately, research is being conducted to better understand such factors, and solutions are being presented and discussed.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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