Awhile back, when the Powerball lottery drawing was for an ungodly amount of money and went a couple of rounds without a winner, I was chatting with dear friend and fellow author, Arnie Wexler. I call him “The Grandfather of Gambling Addiction Recovery,” as his last bet in the mad world of sports betting and other arenas was in the 70s. He’s never looked back. Instead, he has helped scores of people return from the abyss of gambling addiction. He co-wrote All Bets are Off: Losers, Liars, and Recovery from Gambling Addiction with veteran sports journalist, Steve Jacobson, in which he shares how his gambling addiction drove him and his wife, Sheila, to the edge of life.
“Steve Jacobson is what’s known in baseball and journalism as a seasoned pro, a man of credibility, conscience, and caring. Arnie Wexler? There’s a reason why for the last 35 years, he has been the news media’s go-to guy on issues of addicted gambling: He has saved at least as many souls, including his own, as Mother Teresa.”
– Phil Mushnick, Sports Columnist, New York Post
An advocate of gambling addiction recovery like me, Arnie has shared his expert advice on various media outlets and as a speaker for Fortune 500 corporations. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including Nightline, the Today Show, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, 48 Hours, Crossfire and Oprah. He is the past executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey and is a certified compulsive gambling counselor and recovery coach. He and his wife set up the hotline 1-888-LAST-BET that continues to help addicted gamblers today. I’m happy to say he’s also a good friend and my #1 recovery supporter.
Now, back to our chat about the Powerball lottery. Arnie was telling me that many in his Gamblers Anonymous group (GA) either bought tickets for a chance to win or had others buy them tickets. I was also encountering this on my online GA meetings and gambling recovery chat rooms. We both agreed that either way the tickets were purchased, it was still gambling.
GA defines gambling for the compulsive gambler as “Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether or not for money, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or ‘skill’ constitutes gambling.” According to this definition, all forms of risk or chance such as raffle tickets, scratch tickets and flipping a coin are considered gambling; though many people don’t like to include lottery tickets in the list.
Addiction is addiction no matter what your gambling preference. Arnie and I were brokenhearted as we heard about all the people in long-term recovery who had bought tickets. Even this seemly innocent purchase could be dangerous for gamblers; gambling addiction has one of the highest suicide rates among addictions.
What is your take on this? Do you think buying a lottery ticket constitutes gambling? How about those who had someone else buy tickets for them? Is that gambling? Should they lose their recovery time over a Powerball lottery drawing?
I know GA is not the only way to recover; many of us decided to have professional treatment including rehab, recovery coaching and even one-on-one therapy aimed at helping addicted gamblers. After doing some online research, however, I discovered that most recovery sites advocate GA’s guidelines for persons in recovery from gambling.
It’s a hot discussion all over social media – but the way Arnie and I see it, if a recovering gambler or someone else bought tickets for them, they gambled. Gambling is gambling.