SEATTLE — For many, gambling is just a fun, social outing. For others, like the Asian and Native American communities, it's an important aspect of their culture.
“In our community, we tend to be more superstitious,” said Victor Loo of Asian Counseling and Referring Services. “In general, when Asian immigrants come to this country, we don’t speak the same language. When you go to a casino, that becomes a universal language.”
Although a great form of entertainment, gambling may turn into a serious addiction that causes issues financially, physically and emotionally. In the Asian community, the prevalence of problem gambling can be up to 60 percent.
“Unlike other behavioral health disorders, pathological problem gambling does not only affect the individual,” Loo said. “It actually affects the entire family and their significant others or relatives.”
In Native American culture, casinos and other gaming venues are gathering places for funerals, elections and conferences and can be hubs of the community.
“Gambling is very much engrained as part of our culture,” said certified problem gambling counselor Sarah Sense-Wilson.
Both Loo and Sense-Wilson agree it’s important to normalize problem gambling and challenge the stigma surrounding the disorder.
“We share with our community that if a person has cancer, high blood pressure or diabetes, we wouldn’t shame them for having those illnesses,” Sense-Wilson said. “This addiction is very similar. It’s okay to seek help.”
Additionally, providing care in familiar settings and involving the family in therapy can be important to making individuals feel comfortable seeking treatment.
Native American tribes are actively working to address problem gambling and provide resources for those affected, including referrals to outpatient care.
If you are worried about someone in your life and want to help them seek treatment, there are resources to support you when addressing your loved one. Call or text the Washington State Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-547-6133.