"I was like a zombie. I would walk into a place without ever knowing and I would find myself in there for hours at end, emptying my bank account." This is David speaking. Married with two children, he found himself hooked on to poker machines to such an extent that he became a compulsive gambler.

Saipan is super full of poker localities filled with gaming machines (called the "crack cocaine of gambling"!). I have never seen to many in all my life! Tinian has a casino. Guam is rampant with bingo; full pages on the local paper constantly advertise this moneymaking fund raising! Perhaps some of us have tried our luck on lotteries, raffles or betting; internet gambling is also fast becoming popular.

The simple truth is that gambling is cruel. It destroys. Dabbling with it is very dangerous.

"The cycle was like this: I went to gamble because I was depressed. I was depressed because I was losing so much money. And I would use the justification that I was going to win and regain my losses, which worsened my depression and my financial problems.

"My gambling, mainly on poker machines in clubs, started as a way of killing time and escaping pressure of the world. It was comforting at the beginning and was only light but then it started escalating.

"I would go during lunch, and my lunch breaks started getting longer, and I would sneak out during working hours as well to get a quick fix. I crossed an imaginary line in being addicted; I cannot remember when or how, all I knew was all of a sudden I was there.

"My losses became greater and while I did have some rare wins in between, I began to find myself chasing my tail. I was getting finance-related stuff mailed to my office instead of my home so that my wife wouldn't find out what I was doing."

David justified his deceit by telling himself he was sparing his wife the anxiety he was suffering. But one day she opened one letter, which despite all his efforts, got sent to his home. "It was the best thing that could have happened."

"It didn't take me long to realize I was out of control once I saw the hardship I had caused my family. And it wasn't about the money; it was about my dishonesty."

It took however David a long time to regain trust with his wife and family. Recovery is a process, not an isolated event. His story however had a happy ending. He was referred to a gambling treatment program. His wife now handles all the family finances. He asked God for help. And God did help him.

With a heart open to God's healing grace and the help of others who have walked the same path, David found out that a life free from the burden and chaos of gambling is possible. And rewarding!

"We recently went on a week's holiday and had a fabulous time. The total cost would have been gambling money that might have lasted me a couple of hours. When you see that, it really wakes you up, especially to see the joy in your kids when they have these experiences of you as a father they will never forget.

"You can't buy that, but you can easily throw it away."

Big business

The gambling industry is thriving. It has become a $500 billion industry in America alone. And it is increasing. The lion's share of gambling goes to slot machines closely followed by casinos. The industry has even retooled its image, focusing in entertainment and a family-friendly atmosphere. It likes to call itself 'gaming' rather than gambling! Questions of possible associations with the seamier side of business, from ties to organized crime to prostitution and loan sharks, are downplayed.

The truth remains that this lure of easy money destroys marriages, undermines the work ethic, increases crime, motivates suicide, destroys the financial security of families. Gambling can easily turn into a downward spiral of depression, financial ruin and family crisis. Perhaps some know how and when to stop. For those who don't - and they are the majority - there is a tremendous heartbreak

It is all based on manipulation and deceit. Cheating you out of your money in a painless way!

Some people in the Church from time to time argue that the proceeds of gambling can help a 'good' cause. Many states reason the same way and legalize gambling. The argument looks wonderful. But the flaw is also obvious. One cannot build a church or improve an educational or health system on the corpses of destroyed lives and families. The end never justifies the means! Money is important but we cannot jeopardize all for money!

Perhaps Saint Paul was right when he said, "for the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered from their faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs... But as for you, man of God, shun all this….". Amen!

(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.