Someone in your family could become a gambling addict

Editor’s note: The following letter was forwarded to us by Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems in Springfield. The writer and his mother gave permission to share the letter with our readers.

I hope Gov. Quinn vetoes the gambling expansion bill. I thought gambling was harmless until my Mom became a gambling addict. I never thought a college-educated nurse who never liked gambling for most of her life would lose everything.

However, as she faced retirement and aging, she says she found escape in Illinois casinos. When she lost about half of everything she owned, we convinced her to get help. She signed up for the state-sponsored Self-Exclusion program, designed to help problem gamblers, or so we foolishly believed. In reality, the program stops addicts from winning, but it almost never catches those who repeatedly board casinos and lose.

Even after Mom self-excluded herself, she continued to gamble on Illinois riverboats and more than doubled her losses. Mom almost certainly would not have experienced addiction had Illinois not bought into the false promise of casinos. Why does the state propose more opportunities for addiction?

Bringing in more slots will turn more residents into addicts by making gambling more accessible. If it happens to someone you love, you will also discover how frustrating it feels when the state won’t help the addicts they’ve helped to create. Illinois has had casinos for 20 years, and is now in the worst financial state it has ever been in. Who could believe a second wave of casinos would really help?

Todd Ruder

Schaumburg, Ill.

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