This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
Let me be clear: I come from a long line of gamblers. Okay, well, at least two big gamblers in my maternal line that I know of. First off, my late grandfather – or “Daddy Elmer,” as we used to call him – was a big time gambler as my memories recall of the days growing up on the south side of Chicago looking up to his strong personality.
Plenty of days he’d come home from a day (or evening) at any number of racetracks that you’d find around Chicagoland and the surrounding suburbs – Arlington Race Track, Balmoral Park or others – and slap his program down on the dining room table, bemoaning the fact that he lost his earnings on one particular horse. “I started to play that number nine horse,” his line often went. “I should’ve followed my first mind. He likes that sloppy track.”
Daddy Elmer’s daughter, my mother, was more like her own father than her mother, so naturally Mommy followed everything he did – including spending weekends at the race track with him while my grandmother stayed home, tending the home fires and greeting us all with warm “hoe cakes” and fabulous fare when we returned home. I say “we” because some weekends they’d treat me and my sister to trips to Arlington Race Track as well, and for a kid who’d barely left 93rd & Michigan Avenue, I felt like traveling to Arlington Heights, Illinois, was akin to a vacation to Florida.
Eventually, race track trips gave way to seedier off-track betting locations, and once the casino boats came to nearby Indiana and Daddy Elmer passed away, Mommy made those river boats her second home. In fact, the last time I saw my mother alive – back in August of 1999 – we’d made a deal for our evening plans: She’d allow my grandmother to come to the movies with us as a trio to see Charlize Theron in The Astronaut’s Wife if I’d spend the evening afterward with her at Harrah’s or one of those boats that dock around Lake Michigan and barely sail away.
After Mommy died shortly thereafter – unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 68 – I carried that little gambling bug and even tried to infect my husband with the risky gene. On jaunts out to Las Vegas, we’d gamble and win or gamble and lose. Perhaps the time we hovered over a $100 per pop slot machine before sticking our Benjamin Franklin bill into it and promptly losing it did I begin to realize that maybe there was an issue.
How to recognize and control online video gaming addictions
If Mommy and Daddy Elmer were still alive today, part of me wonders if they’d still be playing the Illinois Lottery, or checking Ziggy comic strips for lottery clues. (I don’t know where my mother got that wacky urban legend.) Or, I ponder if they would have graduated to online roulette games on sites like Caesars, places where you can use real money and plop in your Visa and MasterCard numbers or use other forms of payment to gamble.
I think the signs of gambling addiction – be they online or otherwise – are pretty obvious. I went cold turkey for a while after those Vegas junkets. I never visited the river boats after Mommy died nor played the lottery in the years afterward, but in the past year or so, I did find myself buying a few scratch-off lottery tickets here and there in Ohio, where I now reside.
The thing that sticks with me are the tables I saw in Vegas or on some gambling boats where they allow folks to mortgage their homes right there on the spot. I’d say if a person is mortgaging their home, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to call Gamblers Anonymous.
If it’s affecting your home life and relationships to the point where they suffer – as well as your finances – because of gambling, it’s probably time to give it a second look and pull back. Other than that, I still find it a little thrilling to dream of the possibilities of placing a $20 bill inside of a slot machine, like I’ve done in recent years down in Cleveland, and think of all the debt I could pay off when I win.
I also like the barriers and restrictions that certain apps place upon users – or allow them to place upon themselves – like I remember seeing on the Illinois lottery app, the first of its kind in terms of allowing users to play certain lottery games via an app without having to leave the comfort of their homes. (As a correction to that initial report: The app went live January 15, 2014. Development of the app started in the summer of 2013.)
So while I recognize my history of a family with addictive gambling tendencies, I don’t completely eschew it or rule it out of my life and treat it like the devil. I simply put forth the thoughts that if you are neglecting your personal health, don’t want to bathe, shower or brush your teeth because you’re on a 24-hour bender playing some kind of online gambling game, it’s time to take a break. If you see it as a bit of a fun distraction to hit up an online gambling site – and your bank account can afford to do so – it’s probably okay for you. All things in balance.