NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Dolly, welcome.
DOLLY: Madam Chairperson and Members of the Commission welcome to Arizona.
My name is Dolly and I'm a compulsive gambler and I'd like for you to note that I said a compulsive gambler not a compulsive gamer. I didn't play games, I gambled.
I'm real proud to be here today to talk to you and tell you just a small part of my story and it is just a small part I could speak for hours on what gambling has done to me personally and the effects that it's had on my family, but I realize the clock is ticking. So I'll try to tell you a little bit about it.
Prior to becoming a compulsive gambler I used to be I guess you would call it a social gambler. I would just make an occasion trip to Laughlin, Las Vegas when my mother would come out from Ohio and it was a special time for us. And we'd take $200.00 and spend the weekend and had fun, actually had a lot of fun.
My first trip to a casino in Arizona, however, was after Fort McDowell opened back up after being closed by the state government sometime in 1992. I saw an advertisement saying they had slot machines and thought it would be a lot of fun to go. I'm a realtor and I was supposed to be at an open house that Saturday morning and my co-worker and I talked about this and decided to skip work and check the casino out. I had $40.00 on me and within that first hour something horrible happened; I won two $1,000.00 jackpots. I didn't want to tell my husband about this so I immediately chose to lie and that was a choice. He did not gamble, he didn't like gambling and to be honest today I didn't want him to ruin this for me. This was the most fun I think I'd ever had. It was a very exciting day.
It all started out very innocently. I never dreamed in my wildest imagination that this was the beginning of an illness. An illness that would rob me of my sanity, my families trust, and more importantly my own self respect. It robbed me of the wonderful life that I had known and little did I know that my life would never be the same.
For about the first seven months or so, it seemed like I won most of the time. And I would go to the casino three or four times a week and often just for a few hours. Then I started losing. And when the winning streak ended, I started using those ATM machines. And I would justify using this by thinking I've got to win my -- I've got to win this back and as soon as I win it back I'll pay these astronomical bills and then I'm finished with gambling. Well, that never happened.
And I'd like to also mention that prior to gambling in this casino I was a very responsible person. My husband has often said that I could stretch ten dollars into twenty. And I was really responsible in every aspect of my life. I've raised three children, I've taught them to be honest and I don't know what came over me other than I'm compulsive when it came to gambling.
At the casino, money didn't have any value to me whatsoever, it was just a means to play. I didn't give a thought to what I was doing to myself or to my family, the only thing that mattered was staying in the action.
Sometime in 1993, I knew I had a problem. My marriage was on the rocks, and at that time I was lonely I felt that my husband didn't really care about me. My children were grown. They didn't need me anymore so I went to the casino. And when I wasn't at the casino I might as well have been because my thoughts were always there.
So in 1993 I attended my first 12 step meeting and I was sitting there amongst all these strangers and I couldn't help but think to myself why am I here? I heard these people talk about losing their families, losing their businesses, their friends and my blindness to my growing addiction concealed the fact that I was headed down the same troubled road that these other people were on. Sadly, I didn't go back.
By the summer of 1994, I was totally out of control. I had received several credit cards in my name only, didn't let my husband know, I even obtained a post office box so that I didn't have to be the first one to run to the mail box. So I really hid my addiction well. I was going to Fort McDowell almost every day. The change girls knew my name, the people at the window knew me. The casino would authorize checks for me for up three hundred dollars a day but before long the comptroller, the general manager of the casino, would simply put their initials on my check and then I could cash them at will. When I was forced to leave because I ran out of money I was just devastated. But on my way home, I would promise God always through my tears, that I would never ever go back. But by the time I got home and had to tell my family more lies of my whereabouts I was already making plans on my next trip. I was on this roller coaster and I couldn't get off.
In July of 1994, I finally maxed out all five of my credit cards. And these were cards that were used only for gambling. I needed to go to the dentist, but yet I couldn't afford to, but I could afford to gamble. I wouldn't buy myself anything, all of my money went for my addiction.
My husband and I separated and sadly I have to say how he found out about my gambling. He went to the bank to close our account and they told him he couldn't close the bank account until this Visa bill was paid. Well, to his knowledge we had no Visa bill. And so he confronted me and I did what I became so clever at doing, I lied. I did admit to that one credit card and he didn't know about the other four. I've also stolen money from my son to pay my bills and to also keep me in action.
In October 1994 I hit my bottom, I drove to the casino and I planned on being there for only a few hours. Thirty-two hours later I walked out of the casino defeated. I had to take a calculator to find out how much money I had spent and they allowed me to spend thirty two hundred dollars in the period of time.
I placed a phone call that day for help and I've been in recovery ever since, I go to meetings.
My husband saw changes in me. He saw that I was becoming the old Dolly that he knew and wanted to come home. And so we have -- we've worked this out.
But I have to let you know life was going great, my marriage was mending I regained my families trust I was paying off all my gambling debts and regularly attending meetings. Life had meaning again for me and I hadn't gambled in almost a full year.
But then on January 11, 1996, I learned a valuable lesson; an addiction waits patiently to rear it's ugly head. I found myself once again at a casino. And I won, I won $2500 and I couldn't put it back fast enough.
I will tell you that I didn't lie about that episode. I called my sponsor immediately and let my husband know. I haven't gambled since, I know I am not cured, I know I suffer from something that is not normal. I do have support from my husband, my family, my friends in the program and I know I have to be on guard at all times.
Today I am a responsible person and I don't ever want to go back to that life as a gambler and that's what it was to me.
I am trying to regain the trust of my family. And even today if I am missing for a few hours my family becomes worried. I'm sure it's going to take me the remainder of my life to win back their trust.
And I need for you to hear me say this: I'm not against gambling or casinos. For the people who can gamble normally and responsibly, that's fine. What I'm here for is to help educate and make aware the problem of compulsive gambling.
There is a percentage of gamblers who become addicted. This is an illness and has to be -- and has no boundaries. It can affect the very young, it can affect any of you and your loved ones.
And I feel that a compulsive gambler, if you are compulsive, it will touch the lives of 15 to 20 people that are close to them. It effects their employment, society and social activities. It also encourages bankruptcies. Many times the gamblers lives end in suicide.
The gambling addiction is not understood as other addictions are such as alcoholism or drug abuse. And it's time that the public be made aware of the destruction of compulsive gambling and how -- what it creates all of that destruction.
And I couldn't help but wonder this morning how many Americans spent more than they could afford to buy those lottery -- that power ball tickets and I'm very pleased to say they didn't get my dollar.
And I'd also like to make one quick reference I heard something today about a statement earlier and gamblers anonymous is self supporting, declining all outside donations and I needed for you to know that.
So I just thank you for the opportunity to tell you a little bit about my story and I hope I made sense.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Yes you did indeed and thank you, Dolly. I should say for the benefit of the audience whenever we have anyone testify from Gamblers Anonymous we only use first names and so I didn't want to imply a level of familiarity that was not indeed there, but thank you very much for your testimony.