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Gambling Addiction in Macau

Time magazine has an interesting feature about Macau's growing gambling addiction problem. Apparently, the often repeated mantra that Asians have a high propensity for gambling addiction has been confirmed by a scientific study.

A 2004 study by psychiatrists at the University of Queensland found that Chinese were almost 50% more likely to develop a gambling addiction than Caucasians.

The story goes on to say that 3.5% of people in the U.S. suffer from gambling addiction versus 5.3% of Hong Kong residents. Most Chinese view gambling as harmless entertainment, mah-jongg games at the kitchen table are more widespread then penny gin and poker games in the States. When casual gamblers who've been bred to believe that wagering is acceptable form of casual entertainment become controlled by their urges to gamble, they avoid seeking mental health treatment because doing so casts shame on their public image. Because of this, psychologists and other professionals in the field of treating gambling addiction meet their patients when they've reached rock bottom, making treatment that much more difficult. Unlike in other countries where gambling is legal, Macau does not have government programs to deal with problem gambling, which some say will lead to a higher crime rate, and potentially more murders or suicides.

One of the centers for treatment of gambling addiction in Macau, The Industrial Evangelistic Fellowship - which is located on Rua Nova Da Areia Preta - located due north of the Ferry Terminal on the other side of the reservoir - has been treating problem gamblers in Macau since 1973. Meetings are hosted by Rev. Jimmy Tan and attended by all manner of Macanese addicts including engineers, police officers, health care workers and casino dealers. For many of them, their ride home from their session with Rev. Tan is the hardest part of their day.

To get home after they leave the meeting, the afflicted must run Macau's gauntlet of gambling resorts, their mesmerizing neon and ritzy, come-hither ambiance carefully calculated to encourage a fling at the tables.

I'll agree, the neon signs truly are mesmerizing but the 'ritzy, come-hither ambience'... uh... well, that depends on which joint you are walking by on the way home. Wynn, Venetian, Crown, StarWorld, Sands... i'll buy that (maybe not so much for the Sands... it's too crowded to have 'ambience') but the SJM joints and the Galaxy city clubs a la Galaxy Waldo, President and Rio... nuh uh, no Ritz... more like an oyster cracker.

One of our new readers Jamesat15, emailed his description of a 1999 trip to Casino Lisboa that pretty much sounds like it was written last week. Take it away James:

[I went inside Casino Lisboa] hoping to find a Vegas-style casino and play some Blackjack. Instead I found an aging, dirty, somewhat scary-looking joint filled with aging, dirty, somewhat scary-looking Chinese men playing games I didn't recognize.

Despite all the joking around we do here, I'd like to take a moment to firmly reiterate to all of our readers, be they traveling casino trippers with pockets full of gold or gaming industry wonks thirsting at the bottom line, that gambling addiction is REAL. It destroys lives of gamblers and their friends and family. If you, or anyone you know has problems with gambling addiction, there is help. Forget the debts for a moment and think of those who love you and most importantly yourself. Once you begin to seek treatment, the rest of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place much more easily than you can imagine. Get help now.

Industrial Evangelistic Fellowship (IEF) Problem Gambling Helpline in Macau: 852-2748 7207 Mon-Fri 9:30am-9:30pm

Gamblers Anonymous (US) 888-424-3577

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