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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Larry Evans
Associate Editor
Lawmakers: Take Gambling Addiction Into Account

Experts on gambling estimate about one percent of gamblers are addicted to the game of chance they choose to play.

That one person out of one hundred has lost control, regardless of whether he or she stands at a casino’s roulette table or stands in line to buy lottery tickets at a local convenience store.

The percentage of compulsive gamblers might not sound like much of a problem—unless someone is an addicted gambler’s spouse, child, friend or employer.

Take the former police officer from a Northeastern state.

His addiction to the roulette tables at an Atlantic City, N.J, casino led to the loss of his job and months in jail. I interviewed him several years ago, after he had served time for the biggest gamble of his life.

He had been a police officer on a small-town force. On his days off he would drive to the casino. He always believed he would win big, sooner or later. He kept losing.

One weekend he was out of money, so before he left work he went to the evidence safe and “borrowed” some cash. He figured he would return the same cash on Monday and nobody would ever know the money had spent the weekend in Atlantic City. He lost the money at the casino.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida legislators need to consider gambling addiction if they intend to allow casino gambling, increase the sale of lottery tickets or do anything to further tie gambling to state revenue, job-creation and the tourism industry.

Here’s another anecdote from another place and another time. But such a tragedy could just as easily happen in Florida.

A man’s wife committed suicide.

He was shocked. He did not know why she took her own life. He did not know anything was wrong.

A police detective asked if he could look at the hard drive of the couple’s computer. The detective determined that the woman’s addiction to online poker led her to deplete all of the couple’s money from the bank and then ran up large charges on their credit cards.

Her husband told me he did not even know his wife played online poker, let alone that she was addicted.

Florida has a law that requires the existing gambling industry in Florida to put over $2 million a year into a fund aimed at the prevention of pathological gambling and to fund a 24-hour hotline (1-800-ADMIT-IT).

In 2011, under Gov. Rick Scott, the budget for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation earmarked only $264,000 for the fund, according to Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm. The budget diverted $2.1 million to the department’s general fund.

Calls to hotline increased 57 percent over the past five years, according to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. There was an 18 percent increase in 2011 from 2010.

The  expansion of state-sanctioned gambling in Florida would pose a big risk to people who cannot control their gambling habit.

Larry Evans is associate editor of Living on the Suncoast, a magazine distributed in Sarasota and Manatee counties. He lives in Venice.

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by Dr. Radut.