Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em, Know When to Walk Away: The Invisibility of the Problem Gambler


“When the door closes so many times (for employment after gambling) you only go back to what you know best…We’re not all bad people, we’ve just made some bad choices in our lives.”    Gambling Survivor Donna Zaharevitz

There is nothing so valuable in life than to be relatively problem free, healthy and debt free. However, what would it be like to have your “house of cards” come crashing down around you and out of control in an instant?

Gambling is a kind of “in the shadows “addiction, as you can’t readily see it, smell it, taste it or touch it! By the time it is recognized for what it truly is, the gambler has honed his/her skills by avoiding, lying, stealing from others, and rationalizing their behaviors in favor of “the rush.” Included attractions are the big casino lights, in which night and day cannot be distinguished, the glamour, the booze and cigarettes, buffet tickets offered freely, the buck a ticket scratch tickets that “are one buck away from hitting it big,” or picking the lucky long shot horse or odds on favorite. Lest we forget, the big win bingo parlors sponsored by the church or the Native American Indians (which can’t be a bad thing…Right?)  Finally emerging serious addictions to be added to the list are sports betting of football, basketball, baseball etc. by increasing numbers of young adults and internet gaming!

CT Off Track Betting-

The Connecticut Lottery- Commercial

Foxwoods Casinos – Commercial

Mohegan Sun Casino- Commercial

Who is there to pick up the pieces?  In Connecticut, there are many resources to assist, although they are less well known compared to the millions of dollars poured into the promotion of gaming versus the prevention side.  Such is life…     so unequal…  However, the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling is a small powerhouse utilizing skilled training, compassion, legislative power, compromise and teamwork with gaming partners and those in recovery who can guide the way for others.

Mary Drexler, MSW, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council on Gambling, (a private non-profit affiliated with the National Council on Gambling) and Donna Zaharevitz, a gambling addict in recovery and peer counselor provided a compelling picture of what this type of shattered life consists for Ladyjustice, Delilah and our national audience.  Join us!


Listen to Shattered Lives Radio

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  • Introduction to our guests
  • Comments on addiction in general… and getting a lot of good information out there
  • Gambling as a “hidden or invisible” addiction  and the categories of gambling addiction
  • Impulse control versus a  behavioral addiction
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;
  • The National Council on Problem Gambling:  Connecticut was the first affiliate!
  • What are the many signs and symptoms of a problem gambler?
  • Are you a problem gambler? No… but you spend three days a week at the casino…
  • Suicide in 2014:  Loss of relationships and losing one’s home
  • Social gambling tips and “winning percentages”
  • How much money did the casino or lottery make versus your take?
  • Criminal cases – embezzlement and why judges don’t ask
  • Donna Zahrevitz’s story of downward spiral into gambling – “It started out with a simple bingo game…”
  • The problem of “the big win”  and “I broke the machine”
  • The next day they sent a limo
  • Discussion of how a slot machine works
  • A knock on the door from the police and lying
  • Returning to the Casino after divorce
  • The process of recovery and support group stories
  • Keno – What’s it about?
  • What kind of gambling is available in South Carolina?
  • What types of treatment are available for gambling in Connecticut?
  • Not being ready – off to the casino again for 24 to 48 hours, falling asleep at the wheel
  • Time on your hands for a gambler is deadly
  • What is the neuroscience – “brain biology” of the susceptibility for gambling addiction and how does it manifest?
  • Ladyjustice asks about the “psychological forces” of being at a casino?
  • The susceptibility of the elderly and bus companies
  • The future of gambling in New York
  • Who can be a service provider based on where you gamble?
  • Employment after gambling- Is it possible?
  • Discussion of the Connecticut Lottery Shootings; Campaign for underage gambling
  • Blog from Ladyjustice re the Connecticut Lottery Shootings:
  • Working cooperatively – both sides of the coin -paying attention to the social as well as the economic side
  • The South Carolina Educational Lottery- Where’s the money going?
  • CT Contact Info: Helpline (24/7)  1-888-789-7777 -for gamblers and family members

Toll Free National Number: U.S. Call Centers

  • National Problem Gambling Helpline (800-522-4700)-   Updated as of February 2014
  • Live Chat :  5-midnight  M-F, Noon to Midnight -weekends
  • Text 847-973- 5685  (24/7)
  • Wish list – More money for prevention, education and awareness-
  • Advice for families

Questions from the Gaming Table:

  • What is the difference between pathological and problem gambling?
  • What is the spectrum, the continuum of disorders?
  • Is the expansion of gambling as extra revenue a good idea?
  • How young can an addict be?
  • What are the two forms of gambling that are the most addicting quickly?
  • How did Donna’s problem escalate?
  • What is a progressive slot machine?
  • What did Donna do when she ran out of money?
  • What was Donna’s punishment?
  • What are the dangers and concerns of electronic gambling such as Keno?
  • How do you replace the void of gambling?
  • What role do the Foxwoods Mohegan Sun casinos and the State Lottery have?
  • What collaborative efforts have taken place with the CT Lottery and the CCPG?
  • During the economic downturn, where did the problem gamblers go?
  • Discussion of funding sources

Disclaimer: The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.

Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em, Know When to Walk Away: The Invisibility of the Problem Gambler

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