Fil-Am judge advocates anti-gambling measures in PH after Resorts World attack

Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 10 2017 11:24 AM | Updated as of Jun 10 2017 11:36 AM

LAS VEGAS - A week after a gambling-addicted gunman stormed a casino hotel in Pasay City, a Filipino-American judge advocated for gambling solutions in the Philippines, much like the ones in the US state of Nevada.

Filipino-American family court Judge Cheryl Nora Moss said gambling addiction has long been considered the culprit in the devastation of many people's lives.

"People see it as a social stigma...but there's been research here in the United States and internationally that it can be a disease," Moss said.

"A person can't control their urges to go gambling, so they're chasing their losses. They're going to the casino and then everything hits rock bottom, and I think that's what happened with the incident in Manila. We don't have enough responsible gaming type of programs there," she said.

The lone gunman in the Resorts World incident, Jessie Carlos, was a known gambler who was deep in debt and was struggling with family problems.

In attacking the entertainment and gaming complex on June 2, Carlos torched casino tables and stole P113 million worth of casino chips. He later killed himself. A total of 37 employees and guests meanwhile died of suffocation.

Moss, with her late mother Dr. Reyna Nora, had established a gambling assessment program in Las Vegas for people who suffer from gambling addiction.

She said casinos in the Philippines should also implement gambling programs that prevent gambling addiction like those in Nevada, among them warning signs and notices offering counseling and therapy.

"In our Filipino culture...it's shame, the shame is so great they feel like they cannot dig themselves out of the hole. So my message to them is, there is hope. If there's somebody there that has a gambling problem, gambling addiction or don’t know if they have one, we’ve got to give them help," she said.

If addicted gamblers are in trouble, they should also reach out and talk to others in the same situation so that they could get help in dealing with their problem.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gambling addiction had similar effects as drug addiction. But gambling addiction is different from compulsive gambling, said Dr. Rhigel Alforque Tan.

While compulsive gamblers go to casinos to relieve anxiety, addictive gamblers crave and seek intense pleasure. Gambling addiction is a disease with a chemical imbalance and genetic predisposition, he said.

"There's actually an area of chemical imbalance that has to be built up out of excitement and...when you stop the act, there is withdrawal just like in drug addiction," said Tan.

Tan added that the tendency of gambling addicts to return to the gaming tables to try to recover losses jeopardizes their relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.

"Gamblers who are addicted to the act of gambling, they feel guilty and try to stop the act of gambling. They may experience shaking, restlessness, inability to sleep or insomnia, and then the compulsion of wanting to do it comes back," Tan said.

In 2016, Filipino Arthur Lopez was arrested in Las Vegas for killing his estranged wife Erlinda Peñaflor.

Peñaflor, who had reportedly filed for divorce, was living with a friend when Lopez came to stay with her. She was found dead due to blunt force trauma in the head.

Investigators said, Peñaflor experienced domestic abuse in the hands of her husband, who allegedly had a gambling problem.

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