gambling in the Asian-American community. Specifically, it will discuss the differences in how Asian customs or cultures effect how they gamble, and why Asians are much more prone to be pathological gamblers. It will include some Asian superstitions and beliefs about gambling. Asian gambling is a major trouble spot in Asian communities around the world. Asians love to gamble and wager -- it has been part of their history for centuries. Asian gambling is growing in numbers and in seriousness, and numerous communities are now addressing the Asian gambling problem, while struggling to understand just why Asians love to gamble so much.
Asian Culture and Gambling
Asians have a long and colorful history, and much of it includes gambling in one form or another. Scientists, researchers, and experts cite numerous reasons for the Asian propensity for gaming, from cultural and societal, to boredom, the need for excitement, and a lack of other meaningful activities to keep Asians occupied. Whatever the reason, Asians are gambling in record numbers, and it is adversely affecting their families, their jobs, and their lives.
Asian gambling has become a major problem in the United States, and around the world. As the penchant for gaming in Asian societies becomes more well-known, casinos and online gaming sites are targeting their marketing to Asians, and a large percentage of Asians are answering their call. One expert notes, "Two to 6% of the mainstream population are problem gamblers, but in the Chinese community it is some 20%,' said Dr. Eddie Chiu of the Richmond Area Multi-Service Center" (Banerjee). Asians love to gamble, and it comes not only from our modern society, where gaming is available in just about every state, but from a long history of wagering and betting.
Asian Gambling in History
Gambling has been prevalent in Asian cultures for centuries. While gaming has historically been illegal in China and most other Asian nations, gaming still continued unabated. Historians often noted Chinese would bet on "anything," from how many stones were in a pile, to buying bread in a bakery (Nepstad). When Asians migrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, this love of gambling continued. Most immigrants were Asian men without their families, and since they were not interested in many of the same things, such as sports and drinking, they continued their love of gaming as their main form of entertainment. The mining communities of the Western U.S. supported their love with gaming tables in most of the saloons, and Asian games such as Pai Gow, Fan-Tan, Faro, and Sic Bo became popular with Western gamblers, too.
As a bachelor society, the Asians had little to do outside of work other than gamble, and since gambling was so prevalent in their home countries, it was natural they would continue to enjoy gaming in their new home. The men were lonely, ostracized from the whites, had little to keep them occupied, and most of them were deep in debt and wanted to save enough money to bring their families to the U.S. These factors combined to create a fascination and fanaticism regarding Luck and games of chance in the Asian community. Many historians call this phenomenon "The Bachelor Society," and cite it as a major reason that so many gambling places cropped up in Chinatowns across the country and the world.
In addition, as the American world discovered the Asians love of gaming, they catered to it, because gaming could be extremely lucrative for the community, legal or not. Police and politicians simply turned their backs on illegal gaming outlets, allowing them to operate as long as they paid a "kickback" to those who turned their heads. The Asians continued to gamble, and the whites sanctioned it and profited from it (Daniels 22-23). Members of the Chinese community also condoned gaming among their peers, as the Tong sponsored gaming halls of the West clearly show. The Chinese Tong gangs operated numerous gaming halls exclusively for the Chinese in most Chinatowns around the country, and they profited heavily from the Asian love of gaming. One historian states, "Inside Chinatown the secret societies soon took over control of gambling and prostitution, institutions which flourished in the absence of wives and domestic habitation ... " (Lyman 111). The Tongs soon ruled the underworld in Chinatown, and they continued to promote gambling as the main form of recreation for the bachelors who continued to populate the Chinatowns.
It is interesting to note that most Japanese did not adhere to the Asian love of gambling. As one researcher writes, "Japanese thus had little need for the brothels and gambling halls which characterized Chinese communities in the late nineteenth century and which, not incidentally, provided a continuous source of wealth and power to those who owned or controlled them" (Lyman 61). Therefore, not all Asian societies had the urge or need to gamble, but most Asian societies did.
Asian Gambling Superstitions and Beliefs
Asians have strong superstitions and beliefs about many things in life, and gambling is one of them. Many researchers believe that Confucianism and the love of luck play a large part in the Chinese love of gaming.
Confucianism stresses securing favors from the gods by praying to them, and sacrificing to them. In this way the Chinese hoped to gain favor for their endeavors, in short, to have good luck. Luck and the quest for good luck becomes a fundamental component of national life. It is this strong belief in Luck that leads many to gamble their meager savings in the hope of becoming rich. So a love of gambling can be said to follow naturally from this belief in Luck (Nepstad).
However, many other Asian communities are based on the teachings of Buddha, which, among other things, stresses frugality and the lack of "unhealthy passions," which gambling could certainly be considered. Thus, in most Buddhist societies, gaming is frowned upon, and there are fewer propensities for gaming in many of these societies.
Numbers also play an important part in Asian culture, and there are many superstitions surrounding numbers and luck, which translate into betting in casinos and on lotteries. For example, seven is a lucky number, because in Chinese it means "prosper," and red is the luckiest color. Water is also a symbol of luck, and in the legal casinos of Macau, the slang word for money is also the slang word for water, which is "soi" (Shyuan). In addition, the Chinese God of Wealth or Luck, Choi Sin, is quite popular in Asian culture, and it is believed he visits most casinos on a regular basis, dispensing his wealth on those who believe in him. Choi Sin also plays a part in Chinese New Year's celebrations, which shows the importance of luck and wealth in the society and culture. Asian traditions and superstitions run deep, and today, the gaming community recognizes the importance of these superstitions and traditions. Most casinos sponsor Chinese New Year celebrations complete with a Lion Dance, and many acknowledge the Chinese superstitions over numbers and colors by avoiding numbers with four (such as the lack of 4th and 40th floors in many casinos. (For example, in Las Vegas, one casino lists its nightclub on the 50th floor, when it is really on the 40th.) Asian superstitions have taken centuries to develop, and they are still an important influence today. It is the smart gaming facility that reacts to these superstitions, because it will encourage Asians to visit their facilities and probably gamble more on their favorite games.
Asian Gambling Today
Today, Asian gambling has become an epidemic in some communities. One expert notes, "Two to 6% of the mainstream population are problem gamblers, but in the Chinese community it is some 20%,' said Dr. Eddie Chiu of the Richmond Area Multi-Service Center. 'These people leave early from work to gamble; they don't go to school to gamble; they can't stop'" (Banerjee). In addition, gaming continues to be a popular and addictive form of entertainment in Asia even today. One researcher says that in the 1980s in China, illegal gamblers were being arrested at the rate of 1,700 per day, and one father offered to sell his daughter for $2,200 to settle a gambling debt. In addition, gamblers were waging increasing amounts of money on their bets, with the stakes $2,700 or more in many cases (McGowan 33). Lotteries have also become extremely popular in America and around the world, and millions of Asians gamble in lotteries every week in their home countries, such as Indonesia and China.
However, Asians from all areas still tend to gamble more than many other nationalities, and so, modern legal gaming tends to market directly to the Asian communities. They set up table games run by Asian-American dealers, they post signs in Asian languages, and sponsor Asian promotions and entertainment to draw in a large Asian crowd to their casinos. As long as the casinos continue to target the Asian community as a major…