China’s first rehab centre dedicated to gambling addiction helps punters swear off their bankrupting habit.
Gambling was outlawed in mainland China along with other activities deemed vices by the Communist Party when it took over in 1949, but is making a comeback via websites and apps aimed at Chinese customers and based offshore.
Holding a fist up next to his head like a soldier, Huang Chunhao makes a solemn vow. “I hereby swear an oath: from today onwards, I will correct bad habits, be kind to others and try my best to get rid of gambling addiction.”
One of these, based in the Philippines, dragged Huang into what his wife Zhao Jing called a “bottomless pit” of compulsive betting that left them more than two million yuan (US$290,000) poorer. “It always will be a losing game and has ripped my family apart,” said Huang, a 32-year-old vegetable wholesaler.
Helping him climb out of this hole is Si Guoqi, a former hair salon owner and self-proclaimed gambling expert who has been helping addicts for years and now operates a Shanghai rehabilitation centre.
Established in 2017, it has been billed as the country’s first rehab solely dedicated to gambling addiction. During the standard week-long programme, participants are given an old mobile phone without internet access to prevent them from logging on and placing bets
Treatment is a mix of behind-the-scenes education on how gambling is arranged to ensure that “the house always wins”, psychological treatment and advice on lifestyle changes to promote healthy routines and keep one’s mind off gambling.
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