Former Gambler Says Pa. Casinos Drawing Young People

WFMZ-TV 69News
Bo Koltnow | Reporter

From July 12, 2011

Chasing the high is a term many addicted gamblers use to explain why they bet. A bill being kicked around by the Pennsylvania legislature is aimed at preventing gambling addiction. In the early 1980s, Bill Kearney of Montgomery County was a casino high roller, a lifestyle he said cost him millions of dollars.

“I never got back my losses because it’s impossible,” Kearney said. Gambling in Pennsylvania is a multi-billion dollar business, but Kearney, now a consumer protection advocate, said there is no protection for consumers.

“When they are sitting at that casino, they can gamble from the day they sit down to the day they drop dead,” said Kearney, who added that gamblers are getting younger. Table games are being inundated with younger-than-30 gamblers who Kearney said are caught up in the glamorized high stakes games of poker and blackjack.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said casinos do train employees to spot compulsive gamblers, have a self exclusion program for those who want to stay away, and offer toll-free hotline help. Kearney wants better oversight. By demanding casinos provide monthly statements to reward card members, Kearney said it would save thousands of people from financial ruin by stopping the problem before it becomes one. “How did that $200 become $600? How did that happen? When people realize, ‘Wow, we blew a couple of thousand of children’s education money, mortgage money,'” it makes a difference,” Kearney said.

A state bill requiring casinos to do so is expected to be voted on this fall, but casinos have been fighting back, saying it would be too costly and even harm gamblers. “That is blowing smoke,” said Pa. Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks County. “They all send out letters to selected patrons. They entice them back with free weekend or meal. So, the fact they send out can include a monthly statement.”

The bill has died in committee several times before. Statewide, casinos are set to make close to $3 billion this year. Kearney said he is hoping it’s not from your wallet.

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Recommended reading

You may have seen her on Sixty Minutes. Her story is not unique, but her problem is destroying the lives of people world-wide and enabled by governments of all persuasions. (Opinion of Sol Boxenbaum)

Gripped by Gambling mslancelot@cox.net

One weekend on my way home from work, the numbers on my odometer read 77,776.7 miles. Because the driveway to my house was circular, I could drive around until the odometer reached all 7’s. With each trip around the yard, the odometer added one tenth of a mile. With my heart pounding, I raced around the circle, spinning gravel into the air while my grand-kids waved from the front porch. When the odometer reached the magic number and rolled over to six sevens, I slammed on the brakes and ran into the house screaming, “Tommie, come quick and see what happened . . . there’s six sevens on the odometer, three for you and three for me.” I twirled around the kitchen and yelling, “Let’s hit the road! Right now!” Anything with seven in it was good luck, street signs, license plates, billboards and even adding page numbers in a book. But this sign was special because it had six of the lucky numbers.

Even as I drove down the streets in Yuma, I watched for cars with license plates with sevens in them, or if all the numbers in the license plate added up to a seven, it meant good luck. Or if there was a twenty-one in the number, I could divide it by three and then I had three sevens. I believed in lucky jewelry, especially my crystals and lucky clothes, like my red blouse.

If you wish to read the Women Helping Women Newsletter, the new link is: www.femalegamblers.info.

Switching Addictions Why didn’t someone tell me?

DENIAL VS. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE

The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we’re afraid.—Richard Bach

Denial may include delusion, illusion or fantasy, all of which can be defined as our determination to hold onto an attitude, positive or negative. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we still grasp these opinions and beliefs and, unfortunately, our inability to recognize the truth can be a deadly form of denial.

Many addicts have a difficult time realizing they need help, even if they’re aware that help is available. Shame, guilt, and low self-esteem play a huge role in seeking help. How did I know I was going insane when it was my own sick mind doing the judging?

When gamblers attend their first few meetings or visit with a counselor, they may feel the need to justify their behavior.

? It’s because my husband is never home.

? I needed more money.

? It helps me to forget my problems.

Any of these “reasons” may create a band-aid for a troubled psyche.

THE BOOK

It’s never too late to find recovery and begin a new life. Switching Addictions reveals snapshots of Marilyn Lancelot’s life before she realized it was possible to switch one addiction for another. Her first book, Gripped by Gambling, chronicles her descent into compulsive gambling, followed by years of recovery. Switching Addictions builds on that material, following Lancelot as she so easily slips into new addictive behavior patterns.

Including helpful articles from Lancelot’s friends and counselors, Switching Addictions aims to offer hope and strength to the addict, their family members, and to those who have questions regarding their own behavior. Lancelot has included meaningful Bible verses, inspirational quotes, and a glossary of terms frequently used in recovery programs.

Ultimately, Lancelot realizes that the roots of her different addictions are connected. This realization has allowed her to make many positive changes in her life in recent years. Anyone can change, and it’s never too late to find recovery and begin a new life.

Both books are available on Amazon book store.
***************************************************

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Why Casinos Should Send Out Monthly Statements.

Bill Kearney is an activist in Pennsylvania who has been lobbying for a Bill that would have casinos sending out statements to their “loyalty club ” members showing their wins and losses.

Here are a few examples of the importance of HB-587,’CASINO MONTHLY STATEMENTS.’ Who knows how many Pennsylvanians and their innocent families would be in a better domestic and financial situation today when being made aware of their gaming activity month after month in black and white.

1 – April 21, 2011 – Ex-Lower Swatara Township tax collector charged – $224,000

Read – http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/04/ex-lower_swatara_township_tax.html

2 – April 20, 2011 – Hellertown woman stole from County nonprofit – $20,000

Read – http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-police-hellertown-thief-20110420,0,1743154.story

3 – March, 1, 2011 – Woman gets prison term for embezzling – $195,000

Read – http://www.justice.gov/usao/paw/pr/2011_march/2011_03_01_07.html

4 – February, 17, 2011 – York County couple embezzled from school board – $66,000

Read – http://legal.tmcnet.com/news/2011/02/17/5320303.htm

5 – November 11, 2010 – Woman pleads guilty – cites gambling addiction – $107,000

Read -http://www.timesleader.com/news/Woman_cites_gambling_addiction_in_theft_11-10-2010.html

6 – September, 17, 2010 – Stolen funds used by Springfield woman – $389,000

Read – http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/dailycourier/s_699925.html

7 – August 15, 2010 – How tax collector could not resist casino – $225,000

Read – http://articles.philly.com/2010-08-15/news/24971996_1_tax-collector-tax-job-slots-players

8 – January 25, 2010 – Payback for gambler who bilked boss – $200,000

Read – http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2010/01/25/news/doc4b5e318fab707220239731.txt

9 – November 17, 2009 – Employee accused of stealing from law firm – $76,000

Read – http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/employee-accused-of-stealing-76-000-from-law-firm-1.425852#axzz1KPBVkwgu

10 – October 15, 2009 – After farmer’s death, daughter embezzles – $100,000
Read – http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/10/after_hudsonville_farmers_deat.html

If we don’t address the simple fact that there is no consumer protection in our casinos then expect this list to go on and on with hundreds of more cases involving Pennsylvanians embezzling in order to feed their casino gambling addiction. How many would it take to convince you that this is a serious problem? You can help stop the ‘BREEDING’ of Pennsylvanians into compulsive casino gambling degenerates who in many cases become criminals by contacting your state legislators and telling them you support Rep. Clymer’s HB-587.

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Impulse Control Disorder

ctvwinnipeg.ca

A Winnipeg woman charged in a drunk-driving crash that seriously injured a man has blamed a prescription drug for leading to excessive drinking.

Michael Pacheco, a City of Winnipeg worker, almost lost his legs after being hit and pinned between two vehicles in the crash in April 2008 near Main Street and Templeton Avenue.

“I was conscious through the ordeal. My thoughts went to,‘Were my legs there?'” said Pacheco.

His wife Kathy said she worried he was going to die.

Joan Henderson was found by police to have more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system when she hit Pacheco. In court, Henderson argued her prescription drug Mirapex turned her into a compulsive gambler and drinker. The medication is used to treat Restless Leg Syndrome.

During sentencing, the judge agreed with the argument, saying she believed the drug contributed to the excessive drinking and the crash.

Henderson is not the first person to raise the Mirapex side effects issue.

A Toronto law firm has launched a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 300 Canadians who also claim they have suffered compulsive behaviors as a result of the drug.

The Mayo Clinic also published research finding that those prescribed the medication had side effects including compulsive behaviour such as gambling, addictions and eating disorders.

Henderson, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years supervised probation, a drug and alcohol ban, mandatory counseling and a one-year driving suspension.

The Pacheco family said they’re grateful for every day together since the accident and hope people learn from their ordeal.

Michael Pacheco also said he doesn’t feel any animosity.

“I accepted her apology as soon as she hit me. I don’t believe in hatred,” he said.

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Adrian MacNair: B.C. government gambling site goes up in smoke

Adrian MacNair

July 23, 2010 – 9:51 am

The much-ballyhooed B.C. government gambling website, which cost the provincial government $7.3 million dollars in the hope it would increase gambling revenue by $100 million for the province, failed spectacularly within the first week.

According to media reports, PlayNow.com was shut down within hours of launching when overwhelmed by traffic. This was followed up by a privacy breach on Tuesday, with 134 accounts being compromised.

Worse than privacy concerns, it is alleged that a number of users managed to gamble on the site using other users’ money. Failure quite simply doesn’t get more spectacular than that.

The government is still hoping to go ahead with the website, but has vowed to recover the money from the website contractor if they are unable to deliver a working version.

What’s most worrisome is that the government appears to have been doing damage control by lying about the true nature of the crash. Allowing the public to believe it was server capacity, rather than a security breach, goes again to the inability of Premier Gordon Campbell’s government to tell the truth when faced with a crisis.

As Michael Smyth points out in the Province, the man responsible for promoting the website is the same man responsible for policing problem gambling in British Columbia. While Rich Coleman insists the problems are not as great as reported, one can’t help but think of the expression “the fox guarding the hen house.”

As I intimated in my radio interview about this topic last week, I was concerned about a provincial online gambling site that claimed to be able to keep the good guys in, and the bad guys out. Protecting the personal information of British Columbians, keeping track of users’ money, and trying to keep global hackers at bay, is a tall order to fill. Too tall for Campbell’s government, apparently.

The jury is still out on whether it’s ethical to simultaneously lecture on the ills of problem gambling, while providing an online service that is likely to draw in those same gamblers. It is altogether more worrying when the government makes clear it can’t run a website that protects the privacy of its users and security against abuse.

Let’s face it. The B.C. Liberals have abandoned any pretense of ethics in their scramble for cash, no matter the social or financial cost to others.

National Post

Adrian MacNair is a Vancouver writer and blogger. Read more here.

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HOW SICK CAN GAMBLING GET YOU?

Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted on Wed, Jun. 23, 2010

More on the human costs of legal gambling

By Monica Yant Kinney

Inquirer Columnist

The bad dad who left his toddler in the car while he gambled at Parx Casino in Bensalem last week wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. Politicians and gaming execs hate talking about the social costs of casinos on every corner, but clearly we’re already paying – even before Philadelphia gets dragged into this losing game.

You’ve heard about the Jenkintown tax man who fed his slots addiction with other people’s money. But would you believe me if I told you that earlier this month two men – one homeless – got arrested for attacking slot machines?

One woman who blew her mortgage money reported a fake robbery to cover her trail. Others retaliate by phoning in bogus bomb threats, hoping that, for once, the house might lose a few bucks.

“Six months from now, these stories won’t be newsworthy,” declares addict-turned-healer C.P. Mirarchi. “They’ll be the norm.”

Depravity, says Mirarchi – www.thegamblingcounselor.com – follows geography: “The closer the casino, the sicker the gamblers.”

Necessary precautions

If Bensalem police officers were horrified to find a howling 15-month-old strapped in his car seat inside a parked Nissan sedan outside Parx, imagine their shock upon meeting the boy’s father, Donald Waige.

“He was pretty nonchalant when we saw him coming out of the casino,” recalls Sgt. Andrew Aninsman.

Waige said he left his sleeping son for just a moment to cash a $10 casino credit. The 59-year-old Feltonville man seemed surprised that his “moment” lasted more than an hour.

“Once he realized how long he was gone, he still didn’t really think it was that big a deal,” the officer marvels. “He felt he had taken the necessary precautions. He left the car running with the air on and locked the door. He changed the baby’s diaper.”

Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting System doesn’t have a category for “risking your kid’s life for a long-shot jackpot,” but it does contain telling data about the seamy side of all this government-sanctioned family fun.

Last year, state troopers stationed inside the commonwealth’s nine casinos made 292 theft arrests and charged 142 people with disorderly conduct and 69 with assault. In the first five months of 2010, they have already charged 215 with theft and busted 76 for disorderly conduct and 35 for assault.

Losers ‘R’ Us

Trooper Randy Testa recently nabbed two knuckleheads – a 27-year-old from Philly and a 46-year-old homeless man – for punching slot machines.

“One of the guys actually hit it hard enough that his fist went through the glass and got all cut up,” Testa tells me. “Both machines sustained damage.”

As I gasp, Testa says he’s investigated “at least six” man-vs.-metal cases in three years
of casino duty. Drunk, disgusted regulars have also fought, stripped, and urinated on the gaming floor. Some enraged players pull fire alarms.

“Why?” I ask. Revenge, he says. “They’re frustrated at the casino for taking their money and not giving them anything.”

The woman who gambled away her house payment and lied about being robbed was arrested. Other sad souls have been involuntarily committed after too many spins.

“The psychological aspect of working here is different than being out on patrol,” Testa explains. “People come voluntarily with their life savings. When they lose, it drives them nuts.”

He says when because losing is a certainty – one that Gov. Rendell and fellow pro-gambling pols choose to ignore. For their own edification, perhaps every legislator should spend a week inside a casino to see what Trooper Testa sees.

“When you put money into fun, it’s never really fun unless you’re winning,” he’s learned. “Most people lose and keep digging themselves deeper and deeper. They don’t know when to quit.”

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playing with numbers

It is amazing how the lottery corporations play with mathematics and release misleading information The true odds of picking seven out of seven are one in 63 million. Because the tickets on the old Super Seven and the new Loto Max give you three series of numbers the corporation tells you that the odds are one in 21 million. I argue that the odds are 3 in 63 million and that is not the same as 1 in 21 million

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Finally a government gets the message.

France declares virtual poker machines too addictive to legalize

French National Assembly has passed a bill to legalise online gambling.

4/6/10 – Despite determined left wing political resistance, the French National Assembly has passed a bill to legalise online gambling and open up the French market to international operators. VIRTUAL POKER MACHINES AND GAMES OF CHANCE ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE LAW BECAUSE THEY ARE CONSIDERED TOO ADDICTIVE TO BE LEGALISED.

On Tuesday the National Assembly passed the bill, which provides for regulation in a frame work described by observers as the strictest in Europe, reports the publication France24. The law had already successfully passed through the French Senate earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) and is now expected to become law well in advance of the World Cup football championships, which take place in South Africa mid June to mid July.

Budget Minister François Baroin said: “This law will allow us to gradually purify the black market of online gaming by creating a legal alternative”, adding that the legislation would enable authorities to put an end to what he described as the “wild and anarchistic” development of Internet gambling.

Left wing opposition parties vigorously but unsuccessfully fought the law over a week of fierce debate and gave notice that they may take the issue to the Constitutional Court. “We have never examined a bill under such obvious and intense pressure from lobbies expecting a new law to satisfy their financial interests”, Socialist spokesman Gaëtan Gorce said.

The bill will be followed by a set of decrees which, once signed by the Minister, effectively brings the law into force. It is expected that the decrees will be signed next (May) month. ARJEL, the regulator in France, has already posted the requirements for an applying operator on its web site.

The decrees, which have remained confidential, were sent to the Commission earlier this year and the European Commission reply is expected at the end of this (April) month.

Associated Press reported that the online gambling sector generated nearly Euros 800 million in France in 2008, and will likely draw a variety of players – online bet organisers, sports clubs, and advertisers – to compete with state monopolies PMU and La Française Des jeux if they are successful in obtaining licenses from regulator ARJEL.

In related news, the UK-based trade association representing online gambling companies, the Remote Gambling Association, criticised the new law, saying that it does little to truly facilitate a competitive and thriving market and that ultimately the burden will fall squarely on the shoulders of French players.

The RGA repeated its call for the draft law to be amended to bring it into compliance with EU rules.

“Even if the European Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, feels that a licensing system is sufficient to satisfy EU rules, the French law makes a mockery of a supposed “controlled opening”, said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA. “Whether it is the hundred plus pages of technical rules, the false limitation on payouts to players, the ineffective blocking mechanisms or the introduction of an unsubstantiated sports right, this system is, unfortunately, seriously flawed and will make it difficult for any private sector company to be successful, especially in the area of sports betting”.

“While we have no access to the decrees which will define the secondary regulation of this sector, we are fearful that they will simply extrapolate the mechanisms in the primary law into more onerous detail,” said Hawkswood. “The technical standards document has heightened these fears with technical issues which raise serious considerations as to the feasibility of the frontal server system. But the greatest fears are reserved for those areas which are nothing more than a smokescreen to protect the incumbent providers.”

The RGA has received legal advice on the bill and remains committed to seeking all avenues of redress if the bill and its subsequent regulations appear to deny market opportunities to private operators, Hawkswood added.

“Our biggest concern is that this type of system is accepted by courts and the EU institutions as somehow a fair access system. It looks nothing like the Italian system for instance and runs roughshod over EU rules meant to provide operators access to EU markets. We hope the new Commissioner who oversees this dossier will continue to scrutinise this law and its negative effects on market access.”

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THE CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST LOTO-QUEBEC or What should have been.

On Friday August 2, 2002 the final documents were filed regarding the class action suit against Loto-Quebec on behalf of Jean Brochu and 119 000 other compulsive gamblers. The number of compulsive gamblers was arrived at by accepting the figures of Pauline Marois who admitted that there were 125, 000 compulsive gamblers in Quebec. 95% of people presenting for therapy appear to be dependent on VLTs, thus the figure, 119 000.

I personally think that the number is underestimated. A Loto-Quebec spokesperson said that 1 in 10 Quebecers played a VLT during the year 2000. That would equate to 700 000 people based on an adult population of 7 million. A study done by Montreal Public Health found that 43% of VLT players were problematic. That would indicate 300 000 gamblers adversely affected by VLTs in Quebec.

Notwithstanding, the class action suit is asking for the following minimum amounts to allow VLT victims to seek treatment for gambling dependency:

INDIVIDUAL COST
DESCRIPTION
CLAIM
$2,800
Cost of Individual Therapy (30 days)
$ 333 200 000
$500
Psychological Follow-up
$ 59 500 000
$500
Fees for Medical Expertise
$ 59 500 000
$963
Loss of Salary during Treatment ($7/hr * 32hr/wk * 4.3wks)
$ 114 597 000
$100
Miscellaneous Expenses (Parking, Transportation, etc.)
$ 11 900 000
$4,863
TOTAL
$ 578 697 000

In addition the suit asks for exemplary damages of $1 000 per person ($119 000 000) to create a Foundation which would fund research, prevention programs and treatment for gamblers who become dependent on VLTs.

UPDATE

Sol Boxenbaum: the biggest disappointment of my career.

Although the plan was to hold a press conference next week to denounce the settlement reached between Loto-Quebec and the law firm of Garneau, Verdon, Michaud and associates, a leak to certain French language newspapers has made it necessary to issue the following statement. Any further questions can be addressed to Sol Boxenbaum at 514 486 6226 as of 1:00 P.M. Thursday January 7, 2010.

In the fourteen years that I have been involved as a consumer advocate in matters relating to gambling, the settlement reached in this case is the biggest disappointment of my career. As is often the case, in my opinion, the only winners were the lawyers on both sides of the issue.

Following eight years of legal manoeuvering by the law firms representing Loto-Quebec and the manufacturers of Video Lottery Terminals the trial began and as anticipated, Loto-Quebec eventually proposed an out-of-court settlement. The case which was based on duty-of-care could never have withstood judgement. It was alleged that the VLTs which Loto-Quebec had placed in thousands of locations in Quebec carried no warnings that the machines might cause a dependancy and should be considered dangerous. As a result of the absence of a warning approximately ten percent of the adukt population began to play the machines. A large percentage of these people began to develop behavioural problems which lead, among other things, to criminal activity in order to maintain the participation, and to an extraordinary number of suicides. Among the defense arguments was one that pretended that the victims were already psychologically “damaged”. They also argued that VLTs were no more dangerous than any other form of gambling. Subsequent studies established the fact that the addictive features were built directly into the machines unlike all other forms of gambling.

The class-action asked for warnings to be placed on the screens of the VLTs. It asked for $700 million dollars which would be used for reimbursement for therapy and/or for for starting therapy and rehabilitation. An independant Foundation would be established at arms’ length from Loto-Quebec and the Government in order to disburse funding to the victims and to provide education and awareness to the general public to promote responsibility in gambling. In the settlement was agreed that the Foundation would be government sponsored with no independant participation. Furthermore all decisions of payment to victims would be made exclusively by the Ministery oF Health and Social Service (MSSS) and would not allow rebates for services of therapy that did not conform with MSSS policy.

Sol Boxenbaum

The Law Firm (GVMS) further agreed that the machines did not cause the addiction, contrary to the studies that claimed otherwise. Ironicallly, in the same time space that this agreement was being penned, Loto-Quebec was placing an order for new VLTs to replace the aging inventory. $265 million is being spent on the new generation of machines and when asked if there would be realistic warnings on the screens, M. Garneau replied that he did not know. In the end I can find absolutely nothing in this settlement that is going to help the victims. It is, furthermore, damaging as the eyes of the world have been focused on Quebec since the outset of this trial which ends up with no winners except for the lawyers. The firm of GVMS will receive $2 million 750 000 in fees and the firm of Heenan Blakie, who represented Loto-Quebec, an unspecified amount.

The terms of settlement were published in all Quebec print media on January 16, 2010 and were approved in early February in Superior Court, Quebec City and I believe there were no winners.

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Letter sent to editor of Montreal Gazette. Not published.

Mike Boone demonstrated in his column today (Monday March 22/10) his knowledge of the PPMs and why Nancy Woods was fired by the CBC. It is most unfortunate that he didn’t use the same method for verifying why CJAD canceled Last Call With Sol instead of referring to it as ” a-middle-of the-night-who-the-heck is-listening? show” All his comments proved is that for whatever reason he may have had for promoting a syndicated US show to replace a local show with wide appeal he did not do his research. Should he take a moment to look at the numbers which he apparently has at his fingertips, I would expect an apology.

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