Gambling counsellor takes a soft approach
A tissue offering helps adviser to make friends with gamblers at slot machine parlour
A free packet of tissue helps Wicky Tang Weng-kei break the ice with problem gamblers. And it is not for them to dry their tears after losing their hard-earned money.
"After they receive the tissue packet, I would ask them to open it and ask if they know what it is about. Some of them will say, 'I know, it's about quitting gambling'. I'll then compliment them," said Tang, a certified gambling counsellor engaged in an outreach programme in Macau.
She goes to Treasure Hunts slot-machine parlour, which is operated by SJM Holdings, three times a week to promote responsible gaming there. It was packed with gamblers yesterday.
Gamblers can hardly miss the message behind the packet of tissues. Printed on it are the words "Problems with Gambling?" and the contact details of Yat On Centre, the counselling outfit that runs the outreach program.
"A gambler once said [jokingly] to me that, 'Do you have any money to lend to me? Tissue paper … is it for me to wipe my tears?'," said Tang. "I would then tell them jokingly that we social workers are poorer than you."
There were people who refused to accept the tissue because they said they had lost money after receiving it the last time. But there were also people who would eagerly take the tissue as they said it had brought them luck, she said.
Some of the people she meets may be cold but were not rude probably because she is careful to pick the clients.
"We would observe the behaviour of those who have lost money. Some of them would keep on hitting the screen [of the slot machines] or the keyboard, and in these circumstances we won't approach them," she said.
When she does approach a person, she would first try to make friends with him. She does not give any advice at this stage.
"I will build relationships with the gamblers by discussing the game rules of the slot machines," said Tang.
"I would ask them questions like 'how much have you fed the tiger today?'." Slot machines are also known as "tiger machines" in Chinese.
The outreach programme is targeting this slot machine parlour because it is in a residential neighbourhood.