We were privileged to have Dr Samson Tse as one of our keynotes at IGC2018. Dr Tse is a PGF alumni and current Associate Dean and Professor in Mental Health at The University of Hong Kong. Having lived both in New Zealand and in East Asia he has a unique insight into the immigrant experience, specifically Chinese, and the reasons behind their over-representation in gambling harm figures.
Immigration from Asia has been growing steadily since the 90s. And from Dr Tse's Despite making up only 12% of the current population, Asian clients make up almost 25% of those reaching out to AFS (Asian Family Services) for support.
Dr Tse’s personal journey of moving to New Zealand helped him empathise with this problem. In his words, “If a group of them (immigrants) visit a library or swimming pool, their presence there might be questioned. But in a casino, they’re welcomed!”
He identifies two main factors that drive the disproportionate number of Asian gamblers – loneliness and the fear of losing face (essentially the loss of perceived social status, privilege and pride). Facing a new life in a strange place, away from social support, many immigrants find solace in casinos – where they feel welcome and important – a costly cure for loneliness and a loss of social status in a new country.
Dr Tse also highlighted the bi-directional nature of the problem, where gambling debt tended to result in depression and substance abuse for some, while for others with pre-existing substance abuse or mental health issues, gambling offers an escape.
Ultimately, he saw removing the stigma associated with seeking help as both our biggest challenge and solution to support vulnerable communities. Removing stigma would mean people seeking out help early, before the problem spirals out of control and they find themselves at rock bottom.
You can watch his full keynote address here, or a much shorter interview he gave us here.
 - PGF Factsheet - Asians and Gambling (2012)