-Tiffany' - she asked us not to use her real name - is a 48-year-old real estate agent from Phoenix. She gambled uncontrollably for two and half years and nearly ruined her marriage before controlling her compulsion. Now, she attends two or three Gambler's Anonymous meetings a week, sees a therapist and hasn't gambled in more than a year. But she still owes about $50,000.
"When we moved out
West I started going to Laughlin, Nev. It was a lot of fun. I'd
usually lose $200-$300 in a weekend, do that two times a year.
"Then I stopped at Fort McDowell once. I
thought, "Wow, this is just like Las Vegas in my own backyard." The
worst thing that happened to me was that I won $5,000. Then the
next weekend, I hit another $5,000. I was convinced I was the
luckiest person in the world.
"Before I started
gambling, I'd been married 29 years. I was conservative with money.
My husband used to say I could stretch $10 to $20. But after you
become compulsive, it doesn't matter whether you win or
"It's not the money. It's the excitement of
being there and winning, or maybe winning. You know that the
jackpot will hit any minute so you will do anything to stay. I'd
sit at a machine for 32 or 34 hours and not eat or go to the
bathroom. We're robots. We're just compelled to sit there and pull
"It's an escape. When you're sitting
there in front of the machine, it's just you and the machine. It's
a wonderful place to stuff feelings. I'd pick a fight with my
husband just so I could go, then I'd blame it on him. All you think
of is yourself and your high.
changing work appointments, calling in saying I had a flat tire or
something. When I wasn't gambling I was thinking about how I could
get there. You cover up your tracks. I maxed out five credit cards.
I also went and got my own post office box so financial statements
wouldn't go to my home.
"They have ATM machines
in there. They make it so easy for you. They say they're on the
lookout for compulsive gamblers but they're not. I hit rock bottom
when I wrote $3,300 in bad checks at Fort McDowell over a 30-hour
"You feel totally insane. Finally it's
all over. It's almost a relief.
"I'm not totally
against gambling. For normal people it might be fun. But we're all
at risk. If you're going once a week, there's the potential."