The following interview was conducted with David Stratton, the writer of several books about Las Vegas, and a self-admitted addicted gambler. It is hoped that his experiences will help others recognize and possibly overcome gambling addiction.
GT: When did you first become addicted to gambling? DS: It’s hard to say exactly when. I’ve always gambled, one way or another, but it never became so compelling until the mid 1990s, while I was working for a Las Vegas casino.
GT: Are you saying that working in a casino led to gambling problems? DS: Not directly, but it had an influence. You’re constantly surrounded by gambling and it’s a festive atmosphere. It probably created the climate for gambling problems to surface.
GT: What kind of gambling led to problems. DS: The problems started when I became involved in playing machines, first video poker then video keno. I can recall the sessions went on for hours at a time, and winning didn’t seem to satisfy the craving. It only made it possible to fuel more gambling.
GT: When did you realize that gambling was becoming a problem? DS: I realized it was a problem when I would sacrifice aspects of my life in order to gamble. For instance, I would take money I needed to say, fix the car, or fix the sink, or whatever, and use it to gamble. I would also juggle bills and other payments in order to gamble. It eventually became all-consuming. It was kind of like a cycle that spun out of control.
GT: You don’t look like a compulsive gambler. DS: That’s the strange part. It’s something that so heavily influences you that it can control to an extent your behavior. You don’t have to look like a fire-breathing dragon, and most people probably don’t. But being an addicted gambler leaves you feeling very badly about yourself.
GT: How so? DS: It varies. On good days you feel like an utter imbecile because you’re gambling away your life. But on other occasions you feel like a complete failure, without any control, without any place to turn, without any hope of getting back. Those are the worst times. They can be very depressing.
GT: Are you saying you’ve felt despondent enough for suicide? DS: No, but I can understand how people can feel that way. It’s a horrible feeling to feel like you can’t control what’s happening around you. And that’s the feeling you have when your gambling is so out of control.
GT: What can you do about it? DS: First, you have to stop gambling completely. I’m trying to do that, but it’s a day-to-day struggle. Then you have to allow someone to handle your money, because you’re simply not capable of doing it.
GT: You have someone handling your finances. DS: It’s the only way. Money is as much the drug as gambling is. You can’t gamble without money. So you simply can’t afford to have money with you. Especially living in Las Vegas! My God, everywhere you turn in this town there’s gambling.
GT: What’s going to happen? DS: I can only hope I can beat this disease. I’ve never had a drug problem, but I suspect it’s the same, in that the person has lost control over their actions. I want to resume control of my actions. I need to do that for myself and my family.