Joel R.

JOEL R.: I'm Joel R., and I'm a deeply disturbed, compulsive gambler.

I walked into a racetrack first about 40 years ago, and from the moment I walked in, I knew I was home. I remember what it sounded like, what it looked like, what it smelled like, and I don't know why. I knew I was home though.

And I spent well over the next 30 years destroying that home and all the real homes that I should have had.

I really was a pretty lucky guy. You know, I had a decent education. I had a good family. I did all those things that seem normal. You know, I graduated college. I got married. I had a good job. At one point in my life, I was on the board of directors of a publicly held company, but none of those things meant anything to me. The only thing that meant anything to me was gambling.

I was in action identifiably every single day for 30 years of my life. That's without exception. People died; I was in action. People got married; I was in action. Children were born; I was in action.

I was once wheeled into an operating room on an emergency basis, and I didn't have any action in, and I waved at a guy who I saw standing there in a uniform, and I asked him if he could get a number in for me, and he said, "Yeah."

And I came out of the operation, and I still had the anesthesia. So I couldn't talk, and I saw him, and I went -- I put my thumb up, and he put his thumb up, and I was fine. I had something to look at the next morning in the paper.

I did that for, as I said, over 30 years. My gambling escalated. The numbers got bigger. The lying got more constant. I completely lost the ability to tell the truth. I stole from my family and justified it, by the way, by saying that they're the ones who are going to benefit when I make this big score, you know.

I once bought four weeks with my children. I promised them something I couldn't deliver on. I bought time by telling them that I'd won the lottery, but they knew that I owed a lot of people money. So I couldn't cash it. So you had to give me a little time to sell the ticket privately, and we'll be cool.

And my poor son, who was an honest child, wrote it in his diary in school because they were keeping a diary in school.

Of course, I didn't win the lottery, and my son got congratulated by his teacher in school, and when I disappeared after I couldn't hide any longer, you know, my son didn't talk to me for months.

Anyway, I did that, as I said, for 30 years. On July 31st, 1990, I had no place left to hide. So I went into the men's room of the New York public library, and I slashed my wrists because I didn't think there was anything else I could do, and they put me in a mental institution, obviously where I belonged, and they didn't know very much about gambling there, but they suggested I go to Gamblers Anonymous.

And I got lucky. It stuck with me, you know. I'm over seven and a half years now without a bet.

I was asked last week by someone, "Weren't there any warning signs? I mean, could you tell?" And obviously the thought was -- somebody said it to me and my family once. "You don't want to gamble? Don't gamble, you know. Can't you see what's going on?"

I couldn't. The signs were all around me. They were invisible to me. Everything I wanted from gambling though I have now from not gambling.


CHAIRMAN JAMES: Joel, thank you very much.

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