Hoang is one of three Vietnamese certified gambling addiction providers in the state and the only one based in Orange County, which is home to approximately 200,000 Vietnamese Americans, according to the 2010 census.
He said that in Orange County there were no anti-gambling campaigns or initiatives specifically targeted at the Asian American community.
Culturally appropriate treatment is important when it comes to gambling addiction. There must be more bilingual and bicultural clinicians able to approach the problem knowing how it differs from other forms of addiction, as its impact often exceeds the problematic player, Hoang noted.
“To help the individual, we have to work with the whole family,” he said. “It’s very relevant to our Asian community because we are family and community oriented rather than the individual.”
Michael Le, 25, of Los Angeles, remembers the financial stress he experienced due to his mother’s gambling addiction. When he got a job at college he was heartbroken whether to send him money. When he sent, his budget for food went down. Sometimes he resorted to asking his father for money to cover his own bills, he said.
In the early months of the pandemic, after decades of gambling addiction, Le and his family sought help for his mother.
Le said he remembers his mother’s addiction to communication within the family. She tried to hide her addiction and as a result the family never knew how she felt. She also didn’t know how to ask for help, he said.
The family has requested and continues to receive help from the California Gambling Education and Treatment Services (CalGETS) program, which provides free treatment for gambling addiction. Maivia said about 16,000 people have received services in the program, about 11% of whom identified as Asian.
Le said he and a few members of his family, as well as his mother, were also receiving treatment through CalGETS. Over the past few months, the family has learned how to approach Le’s mother and allow her to be vulnerable in the face of her addiction. He said one of his family members had become less berating and more tolerant of addiction.
He added that the biggest transformation is that his mother has gradually become more open about her problem, which has helped the family resolve the issue.
Community advocates have called for more research into the impact of gambling addiction on Asian Americans. A 2019 report by researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Boston specifically called for more studies on its impact in Cambodian and Vietnamese communities.
Hires noted that both communities have settled in the United States more recently than other groups, such as Chinese Americans, so there are even fewer resources to support them with gambling addiction.
“For these particular communities, they both face the same challenges,” Hires said. “And in a way, it’s even more terrible.”
The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Council has partnered with three other groups, including those serving the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities, to conduct research on attitudes toward gambling.
“We wanted to make sure that for this problem, which is not just about the Chinese community, we get the data to really justify the services for the wider Asian community,” he said.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Council on Problem Gambling for assistance at 1-800-522-4700, or go online at ncpgambling.org/chat.