I’m not paying you anymore!

One man says he finally got tired of emptying his pockets--and filling others.

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Photo/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
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The 3-mile walk to home one night didn’t do it. Neither did losing my whole paycheck. Eating 20-cent packs of noodle soup didn’t do the trick either. But finally, something I told myself over and over worked like magic. Like scores of Americans, I was addicted to gambling.

According to Rehab International, “recent research reveals that in America, approximately 2.5 million adults suffer from compulsive gambling, about 3 million are considered problem gamblers, around 15 million adults are under the risk of becoming problem gamblers and 148 million fall under the low risk gambler category.” Furthermore, some “80 percent and above of the nation’s adults have engaged in gambling at least once in their lives”… and “more than $500 billion is spent annually on wagers.”

It used to be that one had to make considerable effort to travel to Las Vegas and other very select locations to make wagers–but no longer. Here in California, especially, a local casino may sit only minutes away. Indeed it has become so much easier to put a dollar in a machine in hopes of striking it rich.

And therein lies the problem. I’ve gone on gambling trips where some friends are astute: for them it is no problem to set  a $10 limit playing a 30-cent wager on a penny machine. If they lose (and more likely they will), they are easily able to go on their way. The small loss does not impact them seriously. Yet many others give in to what is called the chase: they might play $20 in wagers, lose, then put in another 20 in hopes of gaining back what they lost. Quickly, however, the losses mount. What turned into a $20 deficit now becomes a hundred, perhaps much more.

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I’ll never forget the time I went in and cashed a paycheck a few years ago. Most casinos will eagerly cash a paycheck for you inside the gambling lounge. (Hmm, I wonder why…) Many other amenities abound: players’ club cards, free meals, discounts on shows, points for this, points for that, car and trip giveaways. The cards make a person feel special, like they belong to something. All of that soured fairly quickly after I walked out of the casino that day after losing $1,200 in hard-earned wages. Two weeks’ worth of sweat was gone in a matter of a few hours. That is what the chase will do to you.

There were times when I would gamble away the last $100 in my checking account. I was lucky to scrape by on those packs of noodle soups you can get at the dollar store. One night, I had gambled away every last cent and was left to make the 3-mile walk home. Didn’t even have change left for the bus. I had no car. (Hmm, I wonder why…) That is what the chase will do to you.

Over the years, I have gambled away tens of thousands of dollars. I have probably paid hundreds alone in bank fees at the casino. Not only are you charged extra when you take out the money from the ATM owner, an additional charge gets tacked on from the bank. Yes, those $4 charges add up subtly–but how often, really, do we think of that?

More than once, I took friends to the casinos with me and threw them in the mix. Many times it was on their birthdays, when they would happily get a $25 courtesy credit, a small gift and perhaps a free meal. One friend recently told me angrily after losing $40 that it would be the last time he would set foot in a casino again. Good for him.

I don’t know why but what finally did it for me was a simple thought really. Weary after losing all these years, I said to myself: ‘Why am I throwing money away just to give it to someone else?’ The last time I was in a casino, a lady next to me cried tears of joy after hitting a $3,500 jackpot. I sat next to her forlorn and dejected yet again; the chase hadn’t produced. Inside, I too, cried tears–but of anger: ‘She’s taking my money!’

Really, that is all it took for me to finally realize the hand I had had in helping pay these winners of various jackpots with my hard-earned money. Now, anything I see or hear relating to a casino gets automatically associated with that lady taking my bucks. Works like a charm. I think to myself: ‘Stupid me. I’m not paying you anymore.’

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