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Asian Americans have trouble finding gambling help

9 March 2009

SACRAMENTO, California -- As reported by The Sacramento Bee: "The rangers found Ee Kouei Saelee hanging from a tree in Gibson Ranch Park after he'd gambled away his life savings, his self-respect and his will to live.

"Saelee, 51, had helped many of Sacramento's Mien refugees find jobs, homes and health care. But the shaman who spoke five languages and saved others' lives as a healer and medical interpreter couldn't save himself from his addiction to pai gao poker.

"...More than a million Californians have a gambling addiction, and the problem is especially acute locally. In the past two years, the 916 area code has ranked first or second in calls to the state's gambling hotline. Few of the callers are Asian, despite studies showing that Asian Americans are particularly prone to gambling addiction.

"That disconnect is partly cultural, said Dr. Tim Fong of UCLA's Gambling Studies Program.

"...Even those who want to get help for gambling addiction might not know where to go, especially if they don't speak English well.

"The state hotline does not have interviewers who speak Southeast Asian languages or Tagalog. The only Chinese hotline and treatment program is in San Francisco, and the only Gamblers Anonymous meeting for Vietnamese and Filipinos who don't speak English meets in San Jose.

"The State Office of Problem Gambling, created by the Legislature in 2003, has received $15 million from Indian gambling tribes. So far, none of that money has gone to treatment..."

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