Gambling addiction is a growing concern in New Jersey, especially now that online gambling is legal and gaining more traction across the Garden State. An estimated 10 million Americans are thought to struggle with problem gambling. And, according to an extensive study from Rutgers University, problem gamblers in New Jersey account for around 14.6% of the entire population.
Even more troubling is that the prevalence of gambling addiction in the NJ internet betting scene is almost thrice the average for the whole country. Like other forms of process addiction, disorder gambling can spell doom to the gambler’s health, relationships, and financial security.
Look around online, and you’ll find many heart-wrenching gambling addiction stories, coming from left, right, and center. So, before you start betting online, here are soul-crushing gambling addiction stories you should read to get some context on how bad this vice is across the board.
How Gambling Addiction Stories Start
Gambling addiction, also referred to as compulsive gambling is defined by an almost obsessive inability to stop gambling even when the negative effects are obvious and disturbing. Compulsive gamblers have an uncontrollable urge to continue plunking down money despite their gambling affecting their finances, relationships, and even health.
Most people have trouble understanding when, why, and how individuals become compulsive gamblers in the first place until they are right in the middle of one of the most horrific gambling addiction stories.
While most problem gamblers lie, deceive, and go to great lengths to hide their vices, here are the real heroes and heroines that decided to share how gambling addiction turned their lives upside down. These personal gambling addiction stories should serve as a wake-up call to most gamblers who think they are safe from the jaws of problem gambling.
– How Steve’s son turned from gaming to compulsive gambling
When most people talk about gambling addiction, they often think of a middle-aged man burning through his life’s savings in a poorly-lit corner of a casino in Atlantic City or Vegas. Not many people imagine a teen getting hooked to betting, but that’s exactly what happened to Steve’s son.
Steve is one of the many parents to over 55,000 teens in the UK found to be problem gamblers, according to a report done by the UK betting watchdog, Gambling Commission. In Steve’s case, his son’s gradual journey towards gambling addiction began with fun, harmless sessions of online gaming, as reported by BBC’s Becky Milligan.
In just three years, the teenager went from an ordinary gamer into an uncontrollable, compulsive gambler. For the family, the three years marked a period of devastation, turmoil, and strife. At first, the parents didn’t know what to make of their son’s gambling habits or what to do to help.
“We’ve had a terrible three years. We wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through. When we first discovered our son had the compulsive gambling disorder we didn’t know what to do,” says Steve.
At one point, their son blew through his wage for the week in just a few minutes. Disturbed and worried about his gambling habit, he approached his parents for help, but they, too, didn’t know exactly what to do. With nothing in the offing, they decided to pay off their son’s debt and hoped that the nightmare would soon be over. But his compulsive gambling didn’t relent.
Like most of his peers, their son started by making an occasional odd bet on sports. The loving parents thought it was a normal growth stage in the life of a rebellious teen. But twelve months down the road, they were startled after finding out that their son was losing large wads of money. And to make the matters worse, it wasn’t his money; he’d started borrowing money for gambling.
Things turned awful quickly after their son started playing online roulette. He borrowed so much money that his parents began barricading themselves inside their house fearing what their neighbors and others may say about their predicament. It didn’t take long for this gambling addiction story to turn from worse to terrifying.
– Andy Bellatti’s Las Vegas Gambling Addiction Story – personal stories of fear, self-loathing, and self-assurance
6:59 AM July 16, 2017, was a moment of reflection for Andy Bellatti, and he as an awe-inspiring Facebook photo to show for it. But even a stunning sunrise in the backdrop couldn’t distract him from the fact that he had gone through one of the most brutal overnight gambling sprees.
In this gambling binge that lasted till early morning, Andy maxed out a set of credit cards and burned through half of his big paycheck. That was in 2012 after landing his semi-dream job in the capital of gambling, Las Vegas.
For Andy, his path to compulsive gambling started in 2007 on a college visit to the Strip. He was excited and somehow hooked after making his first bet on a slot machine. Between 2007 and 2010, he made gambling trips from Big Apple to Vegas once or twice every year. Even when he was an unpaid intern in Seattle, he managed to pony up some money to go gambling in Vegas.
In each of every trip to the Strip, Andy never cared for hotel stays. Well, why sleep when you can gamble all night, right? All he had to pack in his travel suitcase were snacks, his ATM cards, and his big appetite for slot gambling.
“Every push of a button was a thrill. Would I win back 300 times my bet? Would I get a free spins bonus? … I was a sweets-deprived child in a vast candy store inside the Las Vegas Strip’s 100,000 square foot casinos,” writes Andy reminiscing about his obsessive gambling in Vegas.
Table games were not Andy’s forte. He preferred the nearly tantric rush that came with playing slot machines. He was so hooked to the one-arm bandit that he would play his last $5 or $20 at the slot machines found at the airport. He kept gambling until he ran out of money, a classic symptom of compulsive gambling.
He didn’t have any social connection in Las Vegas, nor did he need one. While his actions clearly pointed to him that he had a gambling problem, he rationalized by telling himself that it would be different the next time around.
After moving to Vegas for a job, two hours of fun gambling turned into a weekend-long or an overnight gambling binge. On one Friday, he entered the casino at 5 PM with an account balance of $2,000 and made his way out 2 in the morning with just $200.
His second-hand car fell into disrepair but he didn’t mind it. He lied to his parents about his financial situation. Slot machines became his mood regulator, confidant, love, BFF, and therapist. Whenever he felt happy, low, lonely, elated, bored, anxious, or angry, he sought the comfort of slot machines.
To Andy, slot machines were the perfect companion; they never criticized, judged, or questioned his ways. As long as he fed them money, they were happy with him.
As a 30-year-old nutrition guru, Andy would otherwise be one of the most successful people with a wife, mansion, book deal, and a fat bank account to show for his hard work and expertise. But he had surrendered all to the mighty slot machine.
– Ms. Jodie Nealley’s compulsive gambling made her lose nearly everything
Most gambling addiction stories gravitate towards lost opportunities, broken marriages, and heaps of debt. The story of Ms. Jodie Nealley of Massachusetts has an even worse ending than all of the above things together.
Her gambling addiction that lasted for years had her fired, sent her to prison and bestowed upon her a criminal record for more than 15 years. In that time, they had their home foreclosed, got divorced, and took her family through hell and back.
In 2005, at the ripe age of 50, Ms. Jodie Nealley was living her best life. She loved her home, loved her job, and had a husband who loved her to the end of the world. It was a dream life. She’d quit drinking at 37, and said adieu to smoking earlier at 25 – she was in any other respect “the champ of quitting addictions”, but Jodie wasn’t prepared for what gambling had in store for her.
That year, she attended a conference that was held at a casino, where she tried a few spins at the reels. She felt the rush that had long gone; she won and it made her feel like the whole world was cheering. It felt as if slot machine gambling was the cure for her anxiety, stress, and depression.
When she arrived back at home in Mass, she was already obsessed with gambling on slot machines. She visited several local casinos but had to bet bigger and bigger every time to get the same thrill. In just 6 months, she went from playing penny slots to making $200 bets per spin.
For her, the bigger the risk (bet) the most thrilling her experience. She gambled the money away at an unprecedented pace. Within the first 6 months of slot gambling binge, she lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In that time, she razed through their home equity, maxed out all credit cards she could get hold of and borrowed money from anyone who could listen. Gambling was her high, meaning money was her cocaine, heroin, or alcohol.
In two years of heavy gambling leading up to 2007, Jodie lost her job for embezzling. And, by 2009 at the age of 55, she got sent to prison for two years for larceny. She soon got divorced and lost their home to foreclosure.
All up, compulsive gambling took everything from Jodie – her freedom, her reputation, her career, her marriage, and her home, not to mention a ton of emotional turmoil.
– Jihad Hassan Moukalled’s gambling addiction story that will cause your blood to boil
If you’re the kind of person who thinks gambling is just harmless. That gambling isn’t a deadly compulsive disorder. Then you have never heard of the tragic story of Moukalled.
You see, many gambling addiction stories end in tumultuous recovery with a trail of massive debt, broken relationships, failed marriages, and lost life opportunities. The gambling life-story of Moukalled of Michigan has a much more heart-wrenching ending than all that you will read here.
The well-spoken husband, father, and businessman found himself between the vice crip jaws of gambling addiction that run his printing business aground, leaving it with a debt of over half a million dollars. Not just that; he racked up well over $60,000 in credit card debt and borrowed money almost obsessively.
No one would have imagined Moukalled would do what he did next.
After a 3-day gambling trip to Vegas and suffering massive losses, Moukalled jotted down a suicide note and went ahead to suffocate his three beloved children and shoot his wife dead. He then capped it off by turning the gun on himself. It’s hard to beat a murder-suicide gambling addiction story, but it could get worse.
Gambling Addiction Stories – Taking the First Step toward Recovery: Admission
– Steve and her wife admits their son has a problem
After three years of agonizing shame, isolation, and denial, Steve and her wife realized their son had a very serious gambling problem. At first, they never went out, barricaded themselves, and hoped that no one would disturb them.
They felt hopeless and helpless while their son bobbed aimlessly from one gambling site to the next looking for yet another thrill. Then they decided enough was enough.
The duo spent several months doing research, looking for rehabilitation centers, and finding answers. In 2018, the couple went to a Gambling Anonymous meeting for affected family members. And in early 2019, their son started getting help for his gambling addiction.
– Andy finally admits to his toxic relationship with the slot machines
“On December 16, 2017, the jig was up,” puts Andy as he finally resolves to come clean about his gambling addiction. On that fateful night, while in the back seat of his boss’s vehicle, he tearfully uttered the five magical words: “I have a gambling problem.”
For an hour, Andy narrated his gambling addiction ordeal to his boss, explaining his vicious cycle of insane betting. He told him that at least 50% of each paycheck and income went into the one-arm bandit.
In his tear-drenched confession, he talked about maxing his credit cards, how leaving the casino left him emotionally drained, and the promise of “the last time.” How he’d racked up hundreds of dollars in credit card debt buying credits for playing slot machine apps on his iPad.
He went to his first day of the 12-step recovery program 3 days after their conversation. By the time the meeting ended, Andy had gone through a heap of tissue talking about his gambling addiction story. He was even more relieved hearing the gambling addiction stories of other gamblers.
Gambling Addiction Stories That Ended in Recovery
– David’s 30+-year gambling addiction that ended up in prison and recovery
Many relationships, marriages, and families get ruined or break down when a problem gambler finally comes out. But David was lucky enough that his wife stuck with him while he went to prison in Liverpool, UK for 2 years after embezzling £53,690 (around $75,300) from his employer to fund his gambling addictions.
Like most caring family members, David’s wife believed that he was a good person inside. It’s only that gambling addiction is such a powerful mental disorder that it distorts your thinking and judgment.
Accordingly, David got professional help for compulsive gambling while in prison. He went through several sessions of counseling and joined Gamblers Anonymous. On top of that, he signed up for a local gambling support group.
He was rehabilitated so quickly that he was released from prison after spending only 8 months in the slammer. He now works as a delivery driver and continues to pay off his debt. 6 years down the line, David has fully recovered and often quotes his addiction for sending him down the rabbit hole.
Focused on turning his life around, David, together with his 27-year-old son Adam, has set up a charity that helps other problem gamblers. The Safer Online Gambling Group has made a huge mark and changed many lives in the few years it has been in existence. David’s story remains one of the most quoted yet inspiring gambling addiction stories of successful recovery.
– Jodie Nealley’s gambling addiction story of recovery after a prison stint
Jodie says that she’s been fortunate since getting released from prison in 2011. As an optimist and believer in good, she has been recovering by putting one foot in front of the other. She began her recovery journey by recognizing that a lasting solution was crucial.
She finally accepted that gambling addiction had taken away everything from her, including her family, house, career, hope, and dignity. In her point of reflection, she discovered that money and gambling couldn’t fill up the emotional gap in her life.
“I work every day to be in recovery. For someone who always wanted to take the easy way, it is hard work. But it is not as hard as being fired. Being divorced, losing my home, being incarcerated – those things are harder,” notes Jodie in her blog post.
She realized that she had to believe in herself, be an honest person, and chart her own destiny despite being older than 57. In her recovery journey, she re-discovered her spirituality and works every day to be in recovery.
For a person who thought the easy way was the best route, she has learned that it takes hard work, perseverance, and persistence to stay addiction-free. Admittedly, she says being divorced, being fired from her job, losing their house, and being sent to prison were all part of the journey to her wholesome recovery.
Like David, Jodie has vowed to help other people with gambling addiction. She’s currently the Intervention & Recovery Support Coordinator at the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
– Andy’s work-in-progress recovery, just a stone-throw away from his old nemesis
After completing the 12-step rehabilitation program, Andy has continued to work on himself and pursue his dietician career in Las Vegas. He doesn’t mind being surrounded by gambling and his old nemesis: the slot machine. They are just a 2-min drive from his condo.
Slot machines are almost ubiquitous in his life; they at the gas stations, drugstores, grocery shops, conference halls, and more. When family and friends visit him, he never shies away from meeting them at The Mirage, MGM Grand, or Palacio. Instead of jumping on the one-arm bandit, he prefers to take his company to see Las Vega’s endless comedy acts and concerts.
The sight of slots is no longer a trigger for him. As he would later discover, his gambling addiction was fueled mostly by isolation, loneliness, shame, anxiety, and secrecy. He has forged friendships with many recovering gambling addicts, and he is frequently in touch with his mentor and recovery sponsor.
For Andy, recovery was and still is about fostering emotionally and physically healthy habits, self-care, and being honest about the journey. He found acknowledging his gambling addiction was the cornerstone of his recovery. Be that as it may, Andy still considers himself a work-in-progress. Recovery from gambling addiction, according to him, felt like a break from a toxic relationship.
While Andy loves to tell his gambling addiction story of recovery, he feels it is crucial to remind others about the terrible side effects of his gambling problem. As he puts it, he likes to riffle through “his trash” as a way of acknowledging and recognizing the grave dangers of excessive/compulsive gambling.
Andy urges other gamblers to share their gambling addiction stories but, at the same time, learn to reflect on the dark side and beautiful journey towards recovery.