Statistics on Problem Gambling

"Above all, stay above ground."

This is a mantra for Mr. D, a gritty, gambling addicted ex-bookie. His conversation is riddled with gambling jargon like, "I bet I can give you odds on…" He is quick minded, and a fast talker. He discussed a world where authors, lawyers, doctors, and the "guy next door" bet gobs of money on professional sports. Repeatedly.

Sports gambling is not for the lazy. "You need a clear mind, and you've got to know your numbers", he explains. There are 80 professional games each week, 16 on Saturday, and the research begins on Tuesday. There are tools like a toll free number, known only to the initiated, and this number changes hourly. It gives the latest Las Vegas odds.

"There are two types of sports betters", explains Mr. D, "the wise guy, who bets with his head. He often bets the same team every time, and seems to have an unlimited amount of money." The second type, the "average guy, bets with his heart". He doesn't use his head, doesn't do the research on players, reacts emotionally, and spends his money, his family's money, and then resorts to crime.

Mr. D had three kids by the age of 25, and put them all through college with a combination of day jobs, for example, athletic director at a local college, plus gambling and taking bets. His own two marriages have collapsed, and he now finds solace helping people face their gambling addictions.

"I tell them, the odds show that you're going to loose 82% of the time." He's watched hundreds of "personal" case histories, and has his own system for calculating losses. Using a $100 bet on pro football, for example, and factoring in bets made Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, "you may win a bit, but you'll loose 5 times the original amount, or $500."

"There is no bigger high in life, than the one you'll get from gambling. And no bigger low." He continues, "the curse is having one big win. Somewhere along the line, you've made a score. You feel smart, like you've beaten the system — like you've beaten the bookmaker at his own game. Everybody wants to be your friend. You give money to your family, to your wife. You feel good."

"And you spend your life chasing that feeling, even more than chasing your losses." As Mr. D sees it, the addiction is to the hope, the blind belief that you'll win again.

And he knows the other side as well. "Gambling is the most dangerous addiction", he says with a sigh. "There aren't no drunks jumping off a bridge. You jump off a bridge because you owe money that you can never pay back, because your wife has left you."

So he spends time at Gambling Court, talking one-on-one with defendants and their families, hoping to help. He has his own system of fighting his addiction, and he shares his secrets with those who will listen. One favorite saying is "HARP". The H stands for humility. "I tell them to look around Gambling Court. If you think "what are they here for?", then think again. Look in your own mirror. You're here. You're one of them." The A stands for alone. "You cannot beat it alone. Find someone you can share with, be honest with. Tell them you need help." The R stands for "make the Right play", meaning practice making good decisions, both large and small. And the P stands for prioritize. "You've gotta re-organize your priorities. Here's the new definition - you've had a successful day if, at the end, you're alive and you haven't gambled."

Mr. D believes that "everybody falls, it's whether you fall forward or not" that counts. And he still gambles, but he only places "mind" bets. He bets with himself, and pockets the cash. After the game, he takes the money from one pocket and puts it in another pocket. Like he says, "it's a 15 round bout and you can't win every round. The trick is to be around for the decision."

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