A Malignant Cancer

I am writing this article on Christmas Eve! Many happy faces. Lots of good wishes. Beautiful liturgies. Christmas carols. Delicious meals. And yet, and yet… an ogre can ruin all this joy.

Just last week I got a phone call from Saipan. A married woman, four children, tearfully telling me how her husband, who had been clean for a couple of months, managed to find the closet where she had stashed all the money she had saved and just run off and spent it all on the poker machines. Now he feels ashamed and is afraid to come back home. "When daddy gambles and looses, I lose too," her twelve year old daughter told her.

Yet another victim of gambling. In Guam they are trying to make slot machines legal. A tremendous campaign is being promoted. Where do they get all this money? What is their hidden agenda? They claim people will benefit! What a monstrous lie!

In Michigan, a small-business owner killed his pregnant wife and three children (under 7 years old) before turning the gun on himself. In his home, police found a suicide note blaming gambling addiction. He had lost all his money and had put his business in big debt because he constantly withdrew money to cover his gambling.

"My husband, 41 years old - writes Elisa from Michigan - was very talented, charming and an extremely bright individual. College educated and at one time a professional baseball player. He had become a top sales person in the company he worked for. He was a good provider, a good employee, a good husband, a good father. A good man!

This is not the man that I live with today. He has become a liar, a thief, an abuser, a poor employee, a pitiful husband and an absent father. How did such a strong and successful man change? One simple reason: gambling.

My life and the lives of my children have been utterly destroyed. …I had to work four part-time jobs all at the same time, creditors knocking at my door. I had to go on foreclosure. The material things don't even matter. The greatest sadness was to watch the man I loved turn into a degenerate! He would do anything to get back in action. Last year he even pawned his wedding ring.

"How ironic when in December, I received a newsletter in the mail from one of the more popular gambling places. Splashed across the pages were "Happy Holidays, To All". What a slap on my face! You see neither I nor my children, would be having a holiday at all, let alone a happy one. There was no money and no gifts for them. The slot machines had gotten it all."

What is really sad is to see respectable people, even church goers who turn their back to stories like this one because of their payoffs, kick-backs and their piece of the pie.

In Illinois, Bexson and Carol Warriner chose suicide as a last exit from their gambling habits. They gassed themselves. Carol, 63, was an obsessive gambler. This ravenous habit had cost them their entire retirement fund and their house And now their lives!

A mother's story. "Two years ago my twenty-five year old daughter's marriage fell apart. When the marriage ended, she returned home to live with her father and me. We put her to work part time in our business office. For a while things seemed to be going well, until one day last summer when I discovered that our business was missing thousands of dollars. Unknown to us, our daughter had been writing checks to herself and stealing money from our company.

The discovery of this theft was devastating to our family. The loss of the money was not that important, though it made life more difficult for a while… We did lose something much more precious. We lost trust in our daughter. This was our child that we adore. We could not understand how she could do this to the family that loves her. I understand now. The magnetic pull of gambling is so powerful. People constantly violate their own value system in order to respond to that desire to try one more time to win. This is what happened to the young woman I thought would not and could not do such a thing."

In gambling there is a fool and a thief. Don't be... either! Just say and vote NO to gambling!

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.