Visit any casino in California and you will find that Asians, particularly new immigrants from Southeast Asia, dominate the clientele. As gambling has proliferated, Asians in particular are at risk for gambling addiction. One UCLA researcher says almost half of all Asian Americans are problem gamblers. If true, that's an astonishing figure.
The state office of problem gambling hasn’t done enough to protect vulnerable gamblers. No one who answers the agency's gambling hotlines speaks Hmong, Mien or Vietnamese. And yet gambling has taken a dangerous toll in these communities. A respected Mien shaman from Sacramento hanged himself recently after gambling away the $400,000 equity in his home. A few years ago a Hmong father killed five of his children, and then himself, after arguing with his wife over gambling.
Just as responsible bar owners shouldn't sell liquor to drunks, responsible casino operators should not allow gambling addicts to ruin themselves at the black jack and pai gow tables. Casinos need to play a more active role in identifying problem gamblers, and governments, whether tribal governments or the state, must make sure casinos do the responsible thing: protect gambling addicts from themselves.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.