Mega-Millions Frenzy … Really? A Message From My Friends of The National Council on Problem Gambling. Gamble Responsibly Please.

Mega-Millions Frenzy … Really? A Message From My Friends of The National Council on Problem Gambling. Gamble Responsibly Please.

There will be More Losers Than Winners … 

 

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Mega Millions lottery hits a record $1.6 bln after no winners in Friday’s draw

UPDATE – Personal Note:

Of course, I am NOT rubbing any noses in the fact that last nights Mega-Million drawing HAD no winners.  It just hammers home a wee bit that for those who happened to OVER BUY tickets, it seems today, just a waste of money that could have been better spent on something more fun or constructive.  See, I know there a boatload of people who CAN gamble just for the fun it.  AND?  Many don’t feel or agree that buying lottery tickets if real gambling. Sorry, but it is if you read the ‘definition’ of what the word “Gambling” means:

GAMBLE – The definition of a gamble is a risk.
An example of a gamble is the act of betting that a certain team will win a game.

Gamble is defined as to take a risk, or to play games especially with money for betting.

An example of gamble is to play the slots in Las Vegas.

When you place a bet for money or not as the outcome is uncertain and is a risk? That is gambling.  When buying lottery tickets for a CHANCE to win?  That is gambling.  Now that no one won, just think of those who are Problem Gamblers or even maybe addicted and think about where they will get the money for this next drawing?  Will it be there food money to feed their kids?  Maybe not a pay an important bill like electricity or their heat? Maybe forego a part of their rent or housing money just for a “CHANCE” … Know your ODDS before you risk all that!

No, I’m not a Buzz Kill …Lol.  I WAS an addicted gambler and know this disease and the thinking we trapped into.  It will talk you into doing ALL the above!  Because once gambling has you hooked?  The sickness takes over and we lose ALL the CONTROL.

Don’t waste loads of money for a tiny sliver of hope that you are going to win.  As most times you end at a loss. If you are going to take a Risk, then Gamble Responsibly …  

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Mega-Millions Jackpot Media Frenzy Offers Opportunity for Responsible Gambling Messaging.  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 19, 201

 

WASHINGTON, DC – As the Mega Millions jackpot has reached record levels, the National Council on Problem Gambling urges consumers to protect themselves against excessive gambling and calls upon lotteries and the media to promote responsible gambling messages.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, states, “The media and consumer interest in high lottery jackpots creates an opportunity to provide responsible gambling messages designed to help people who choose to gamble make informed decisions about their play.”  Responsible gambling efforts should be made by lottery operators and players alike.

Here are four simple responsible gambling tips to know and share:

– Set a limit of time and money spent gambling.

– Don’t gamble to escape feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.

– Know where to get help for a gambling problem.

– Minors are prohibited from most forms of gambling.

“Lotteries play an important role in reminding retailers and players about the minimum age to play and in educating their players about simple steps to promote responsible gambling.”

State lotteries and media are asked to incorporate responsible gambling messaging and the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) into their upcoming promotion and coverage of the Mega Millions jackpot.


The National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700
or www.ncpgambling.org/chat) is the single national point of access to problem gambling help. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all 50 states. All calls are confidential and offer local information and referral options for problem gamblers and their families.

In 2017 the Helpline received 233,000 calls, an average of one call every two minutes.

 

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About the National Council on Problem Gambling

NCPG is the national advocate for problem gamblers and their families. NCPG is neutral on legalized gambling and works with all stakeholders to promote responsible gambling. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or visit www.ncpgambling.org/chat for confidential help.

 

 

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Honoring Bobby Hafemann’s Memory and Ronda Hatefi and Family. What Life is Like Today Without Bobby. . .

Honoring Bobby Hafemann’s Memory and Ronda Hatefi and Family. What Life is Like Today Without Bobby. . .

Today I close out the “National Week of Action Against Predatory Gambling on a personal note. I am shining the spotlight on a family that has been through heartbreak and know very well what it is like to lose a brother, son, uncle, and on. His name is Bobby Hafemann. . . . .

Ronda has had to describe many times over through the years about what happened when Bobby decided the only option he had to stop his addiction to gambling was to take his own life. Bobby became addicted to the Oregon Lottery Video Poker machines that went on-line in 1991. And to me? This is heartbreaking.  He was failed by many before he died after talking with Ronda at length a few weeks back. Ronda and her family desperately looked for ways to get Bobby help from Gamblers Anonymous, support groups and out-patient treatment which he was attending until Oregon pulled it, possible due to not enough funding yet from the profits of the Lottery. His treatment therapist just suggested he go to a psychologist or psychiatrist for help. AGAIN, they all were failed. Professionals didn’t really know how to treat a person with addicted compulsive gambling at that time.

So today, I wanted to share how Ronda and her family are doing today, today now that Bobby has been gone for over twenty years. So asked her to write this ‘Guest Post’ so I could share it to keep Bobby’s memory of a life taken to soon from this cunning addiction and disease. We as addicted gamblers deep within the worst of our gambling don’t know what we are doing to those we love and others around us. I want to say thank you to Ronda for all the tireless hard work she and her family puts in each year to help others, advocate, raise awareness and keep Bobby Hafemann’s memory ALIVE. Yes, it is long but very worth the read for an in-depth look at what a family goes through when losing a loved one from the disease of gambling addiction .  .  .  .

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* How Gambling Changed My Life! ~ Guest Author & Advocate Ronda Hatefi *

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Ronda Hatefi
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“July 22, 1995, a day that changed my life forever. Not only mine but the life of my parents, siblings children and extended family as well.”

That is the day I got a call that my brother and best friend was found with a gunshot to his head. Bobby was 28-year-old, he was the 4th of 5 children in our family. I was the 5th. Bobby and I were both diagnosed with Epilepsy when we were young, Bobby was having constant seizures during the day and ended up having to repeat second grade. That meant we were in the same grade from my 2nd-grade year through high school.

We became each other’s best friend and at times worst enemy. We ALWAYS had each other’s back no matter what. We truly did everything together, his friends were my friends and vice versa. School was always hard for Bobby; he struggled with almost everything, not because he wasn’t smart enough to do but because it took time away from things he thought were more important. He loved to work, he loved to make money. He mowed lawns and delivered papers at a very young age. He loved to be able to do things for others, he loved to give gifts.

He quit school in high school, which Mom and Dad allowed him to do with the condition that he had to take and pass his GED. He did that and got a job. He worked here in Eugene, Oregon where we grew up until Mom and Dad moved to Portland. He decided to move there too and got a great job working at a Steel Mill making about $45,000 a year. That was great money for a single guy, but it came at a price. The hours were rough, 3pm to 1am 4 days a week. So he went to work just a little while before Dad and our other brother E J got home. They were all in bed long before he got off work. So to unwind after work he started going to a bowling alley just for fun. A cool place to meet people and have a beer before coming home and crawling into bed. This was fine for a while, but in late 1991 video poker was introduced. It was a quick hook for Bobby, he could play for awhile, and walk away with winnings. But it didn’t take long for it to become a little more important than sleep, it became something he had to do, not wanted to do.

Fast forward now just a few years. I watched my brother become someone I didn’t know. He withdrew from family functions, he was irritable, he was always broke. He was borrowing money from everyone he could but tried hard to pay people back. He started selling things, hawking important items, and not paying people back, which meant he just avoided us even more. Things that had always been important to him weren’t anymore. He was sad. He wrote a bad check to my parents, which meant he needed to move out, focus his money, time and attention to other things again. That is what we thought we could do to help him. He knew he couldn’t afford to gamble anymore, he just would quit….right?

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It isn’t that easy. We had many late night talks, crying together about how hard it was for him. When the State is telling you this is entertainment, why doesn’t it feel fun? Why can’t I stop? Feeling so bad about the people he didn’t pay back. It is heart wrenching to watch someone you love so much be in so much pain and not understand how to help fix it. I wish over and over that I could have a do-over on those nights. I wish I could stand up for him, to hold his hand through this process of healing that I have done many times in the past 21 years. I know he would stand with me if he could. I am proud to have shared his story and help others. Sometimes I feel angry that it wasn’t him that I helped. I go to his grave and talk to him about it. I ask him for strength and ask him to be with those who are struggling here. I don’t know really what I would do if one of the gamblers I have helped succeeded at suicide. I think about it, and wonder if I could get through that pain again. I wasn’t sure I was going to get through it the first time.

I will walk you through that horrible day that we got the call. My family and my husband, my 6-year-old daughter, and 18-month-old son were all getting ready to go to Portland to surprise Bobby at his company picnic. We were getting things ready in a leisurely way, enjoying the morning. The phone rang, I answered, it was my brother E J and all he said was, “Can I talk to Darren.”  I don’t know why or how I knew but at that moment, I knew I lost Bobby. I screamed. I don’t remember that, but I was told the neighbors heard and rushed over. My body trembled, I remember my husband trying to hold me down, hold my body still. My daughter was crying because I was scaring her. I have no idea how long it took to get loaded, I have no idea what was loaded, I just know we were at my sister’s house.

Then her family, as well as my other brother and his family could travel together to my parent’s house in Portland. I don’t remember the ride other than reading my bible out loud, I’m not sure what I read. Seeing my parents in their driveway was one of the worst feelings in the world. To see the pain in them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads. My Dad and my 2 nephews rode their bikes to Bobby’s apartment to surprise him that morning, and when he didn’t answer they asked the apartment manager to let them in. That is how Bobby was found, no parent should ever have to witness that. They think he had been gone for 2 days.

Why didn’t someone hear the gun shot?
Why didn’t a neighbor seem to notice he wasn’t in and out?
Why did he have to lay there alone for 2 days?
Would he have survived if he was found sooner?

These are all questions that I think about still. I wish I could have been there for him, he had my number written in his notebook but he never called. WHY!
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That night we all sat and tried to console each other. We talked about what went wrong. We thought about Bobby and told stories. I didn’t sleep at all, I cried all night. I wrote him a 9-page letter telling him that I missed him. That I loved him, maybe more than he realized. That I would have been there if he just called. I told him that I forgave him, that I didn’t understand why he did it, but I forgave him. I remember my brother-in-law coming into the dining room where I was in a puddle on the floor sobbing and trying to get me to go to bed. I didn’t want to bother anyone so I thought I sitting in the dining room would be the best place.

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The next day a few people went to Bobby’s to clean up the mess. I couldn’t go. I felt so bad but I couldn’t help, I just couldn’t do it. I wanted his “stuff” just anything that had his smell. I brought home his tennis shoes, his clothes, and other things just to have a piece of him. My parents later let me have his rings and his hat. I didn’t want anyone else to put his hat on their head. It is funny the things that were important to me.

We got a call from his work saying they had heard, and they were sorry. We got a call from 7-11 saying that he was in earlier in the week, they had fronted him his paycheck so if we could please bring his check to them when we got it that would be great. We had to start making funeral plans, canceling things like his phone, electric, truck payments, and credit cards. None of this was easy. We moved Bobby’s truck to Mom and Dad’s so it wasn’t at the apartment, and every time we looked out we thought he was home. It was so hard seeing it, he loved his truck. We called and asked the bank to come get it, we needed it gone. They couldn’t do that until he was 3 months behind on payments. I finally called and told them that if they didn’t come and get it we would park it somewhere and they would have to find it. That was the hardest part for my Mom was seeing that out front. They did finally come get it, but it took way to long. The phone company was the other hard one to deal with, they wouldn’t disconnect the line without his permission. I finally told them that when they got a hold of him to please let him know I had a few questions myself.

We had his service in Portland, we all worked to make it the way he would have wanted it. We all went to pick out Bobby’s casket and decided to put it in a cement vault too.

We were all numb, I don’t remember much about any of that. I don’t remember the funeral really either. I do remember his girlfriend at the time coming from Bend to stay with us. She let us hear the messages he left her, oh my goodness. He was crying for help, he begged her to help him. He told her he had a gun to his head. I think it was 5 different messages, and she did nothing. She talked to him once and thought she talked him out of it. She didn’t bother calling my parents, the police or anyone. She just didn’t think he would do it. I asked her so many questions that night my sister made me stop. I just wanted to know everything. She was the last one to talk to him, I wanted to know every single thing he said. She helped us with funeral plans a little. I know he loved her, I wanted to be fair.

“My Mom wrote on his death certificate, suicide thanks to the Oregon State Lottery.”

The paper could not print it that way, but they did call us and asked us if they could do a story. We did. Our lives changed. We were not alone in our lack of understanding about gambling addiction. After the story ran in the Oregonian we received 2 phone calls on my parents’ answering machine in Portland. One was a man who thought Bobby was right, that was the only way to escape this terrible addiction, and he was later arrested for trying to jump from a bridge in Portland.

And the other from a very distraught gambler who had lost his wife, kids and was near suicide when his Mom called him and made him come read our story. I called both men back, didn’t reach the first one of course, but did talk to the second one. His Mom and Dad joined our fight and has been a part of everything we have done since. It took him awhile to get it all together, but he has. He is remarried, reconnected with his kids and living a gambling free life for 15 years now. We are very close to his whole family and so grateful that he was able to recover from his struggle and live the life he deserves.

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(Bobby Hafemann of Oregon was only 28-years old when he passed due to gambling.)
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I needed to understand what Bobby was feeling, I wanted to know every last thought he had and I wanted to know why a machine could take him away from me. I called a Gamblers Anonymous hotline number, the same one Bobby called, and on the other end was whooping and hollering with a man saying: he was out gambling, he slipped and couldn’t even help himself so he couldn’t help anyone else either. I left a message; he did call me back and apologize for the message but did give me some insight. I called our local treatment place in Eugene, I talked to a counselor who was very nice to talk to me and invite me to a meeting so I could sit in and listen to their words to see if it helped me.

In return, I had to tell my story to try to help them. As I was listening to the gamblers stories, a gambler had spoken almost word for word a part of Bobby’s suicide note. It hit me hard then, and it still hits me hard today. By far one of the hardest part of me telling Bobby’s story. Bobby wrote that he felt like a ghost that no one could see or hear. He wanted to be a ghost so others wouldn’t see him. We were such a close loving family, that to hear he felt like a ghost rips my heart out. I never wanted him to feel alone, how could he, we were always here for him, we wanted nothing more than for him to come back to our family as his old self. I sent him notes from me, and my kids on a weekly basis. His other nieces and nephews wrote him notes and drew him pictures to hang on his fridge. He was very loved and very much an important part of our family.

After the funeral, we all came to Eugene, we had him buried where my parent’s plots are. We had a little service there too, for all our Eugene family. I remember having so many dreams about him, some he was crying and saying he was sorry. Some asking me to give messages to others. He wanted me to know it wasn’t his girlfriend’s fault. He wanted me to tell my Mom he loved her and appreciated her help and support. He would sit on my bed and tell me that I was going to be ok, that he was ok. I would beg him to come back, and he would tell me that I knew he couldn’t but he loved me. I would hear gunshots but never see his face. It was just a couple of years ago that I was able to ask my brother for details about the gun, what it did to Bobby’s face and if he thought Bobby suffered, and why nobody heard the shot.

Those are things I always wanted to know but it is so hard to ask. I’m only one of 5 siblings remember, so I know they have hard days too and I didn’t want to ask things that would be hard for them to answer. I am so thankful for my brother Harvey who was my rock then and still is today. He has supported everything I have done since day one. We all dealt with the grief differently. 2 of my sisters’ boys were there when he was found so she had them to take care of. My other brother’s kids were out of the State with their Mom when it happened and they lived with Uncle Bobby for years, so were very close to him. E J was very angry with Bobby for doing that to his kids. I don’t blame him, explaining to our kids what happened was the worst! For years my Son would ask, “Mommy, tell me again why did Uncle Bobby have to die?”

My daughter had terrible nightmares for years. She wrote an incredible story for school her freshman year about how she remembers those days. I find it interesting that I can tell you this part of the story. I really don’t remember much of the first year he passed other than what I did for him. I remember crying at night because I didn’t know if I fed my kids that day, or if I took my daughter to school, or bathed my son. I didn’t write a thing in their baby books for a year. I know I would go to my other brothers’ house a lot because I knew his wife would take care of my kids. About a year after Bobby passed I remember looking in the mirror and not really recognizing me, my hair was really short, I gained a lot of weight, I wasn’t taken care of. And I didn’t care. I was just hoping I was taking care of my kids. My main focus was really just to learn as much as we could from others, and help others by telling our story.

My Mom and I got a call from the Maury Povich show, which we were flown to New York to record a taping of an episode. We did a news story for a station in Seattle WA, Dad and I went to the National Conference in South Dakota one year so I could speak on a panel, which I have done now a few times. We have spoken at Churches, in Schools, at the Capitol building in Salem, Oregon, at Lottery commission meetings, and many other places. There have been times in my life when I think I need to be done, I am not making a difference, I am tired of fighting and getting nowhere. About that time, I will get a phone call from somewhere across the United States from someone who found my information on the web and they just need to talk to someone.

They thought I would listen. And I do. I am not a counselor, I do not have certified training to be one, but I can listen and give them ideas on how to find help. It is very important to me to make sure each person I talk to feels supported, not alone. I want them to know they have loved ones who want nothing more than to help and support them through this even though they have done things they can’t even believe. I know that first step has to be so hard, but they can do it. I am very proud that the Oregon Proclamation has been renewed every year since we started. It is a starting point, it is something that shows whether or not they want to deal with it, our Government knows we have a problem in our State of Oregon. I am proud of what we have done with “Gambling Awareness Day” each Sept 29th. From family gatherings, sending balloons with messages to the sky the first year to going national, 20 States, 2 Countries and over 100 Actions taking place last year.

We have rallied on the State Capitol steps, even having one of the Governor assistants reading our proclamation to the crowd of people. I am so excited to see where we can go with our TAKE A BREAK campaign. It is just another way to reach out. My goal is the same today as it was 21 years ago, to reach out to those who are struggling, who don’t understand what is happening from gambling and to the families who are frustrated and don’t know how to help. I want them all to know they are not alone; they have people who are standing up and being the voice when they cannot speak about it. I have a few people who have been by my side for many years, some in prevention and many in the treatment field who have said to me, “I hope that one day you will put me out of work.”

Their hearts are in the right place, they are doing what they can do to HELP others. I know it has been said by others that they need problem gamblers so they can keep their jobs. I hope one day I can put them out of work too! What I have learned from this whole experience is that sometimes we are called to do things that we had no idea we were capable of doing. It is with hard work, dedication, determination and a lot of support from the connections I have made to keep me moving forward. I want my kids to know that just because something is hard, doesn’t make it ok to quit. That is how we find out who we are, and how strong we can be!

Thank you, Catherine, for letting me tell this side of my story, It is something I haven’t done. It is hard to think that I took that much time away from my kids, not to mention my husband. My sister would tell me often, this is too hard on you, you need to stop telling this story. I really can’t imagine life without Bobby, and the only way I know how to keep him close is by telling HIS STORY.

I have his hat hanging on my wall with his picture. I wear his ring every day. I still have a shirt of his that I wear when I need a hug. I miss him every day. I think about what he would be like today, how much he would love my kids and grandkids. His girlfriend at the time still calls and we talk, she has a daughter now but isn’t very happy in her marriage. When my Mom passed on Mother’s Day last year, it made me smile to know she was able to be with ALL of her kids on Mother’s Day, she missed Bobby so much too. I can only imagine the big smiles on their faces when they were together again in Heaven!


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OGAO – Oregonians for Gambling Awareness Organization

The OGAO was founded by Ronda Hatefi, who lost her brother Bobby Hafemann in 1995 to suicide related to his problems with gambling. Bobby was only 28 years old.

Ronda commemorates Bobby’s birthday every year on September 29 through Problem Gamblers Awareness Day. She also chairs the Lane County Problem Gambling Advisory Committee.

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In closing, I have to say I have been very blessed to have met Ronda and am Honored each year to help her in her quest to raise awareness through Bobby’s Memory and tragic story. I wish and I pray for her and her family that they keep all those beautiful special memories of Bobby deep in their hearts. But as we both know, advocating shares HOPE to others and hopefully save lives from the disease of Gambling Addiction.

God Bless All,

Author & Recovery Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon
“National Week of Action Against For-Profit Predatory Gambling.”

 

 

Meet Ronda Hatefi and How She is Advocating About Gambling Addiction with “The Take a Break Campaign & Day of Awareness”

“Ronda Hatefi and her family work tirelessly to raise awareness about problem gambling and gambling addiction. WHY? Because she lost her brother, Bobby Hafemann to this disease by suicide. Ronda does this through the help of “Prevention Lane” a program through Lane County Public Health in Oregon. It is a Day of Awareness for those who Gamble to just “Take A Break!” So, here is more about her campaign and how she advocates.”

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TAKE A BREAK CAMPAIGN:


OUR MISSION:

Problem Gamblers Awareness Day/ Day of Action Against Predatory Gambling’s purpose in “Take a Break Campaign” is to reach out to gamblers and family members to check in to make sure they are in control and gambling responsibly.

OUR GOALS:

• To offer an opportunity for businesses that offer gambling to show they care for their customer base.
• To offer family members and friends a way to start a conversation about responsible gambling.
• To reach out with our helpline information and offer hope and help to those who are unable to take a break.

WHO WE ARE:


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Ronda Hatefi, founder of Oregonians for Gambling Awareness Organization. I have been married 30 years, have 2 grown children and 2 granddaughters. Both of my children have graduated college, are working in their professions and are married. I am very proud of them and their accomplishments. They both grew up knowing my passion for helping others with gambling addiction.

I lost my brother, Bobby, 21 years ago after he took his life due to gambling addiction. I have worked since then to speak HOPE and HELP to gamblers and their families. I have been to many conferences, have spoken many places including New York, Washington DC, South Dakota and Oregon, as well as taken part in 3 documentaries (South Korea, California, and France).

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We have had our Oregon Governor sign a proclamation every year declaring September 29th as Problem Gamblers Awareness Day since 1997. Last year being the 20th anniversary of Bobby’s death, we took our Awareness day National. We are working with others across our Country to spread the message of HOPE AND HELP, as well as speaking the truth about how State sponsored gambling is a bad public policy and doesn’t bring only good things to our States.

The work I have done for 21 years has all been volunteer, I believe in what I am doing. I have partnered with some amazing people, Lane County Prevention Team, STOP Predatory Gambling, Voices of Problem Gamblers, and others. I feel it is important to work as a team to do the best work for the gamblers in our State.

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September 29, 2016 – Problem Gamblers Awareness Day in Oregon



HOW CAN YOU HELP?

First, click on the blue link above and READ all that Ronda is doing in conjunction with Lane County Public Health Prevention Team through the “Problem Gambling Awareness & Take A Break” campaign. As many other organizations too like “Stop Predatory Gambling – Les Bernal,” and others listed below are Joining In!

You can help spread the word by a REBLOG today, Friday and Sat…. through Oct 1st 2016! I know Ronda and I would appreciate the SUPPORT!!

And lastly:

Like other addictions, the compulsion to gamble can become the main priority of a person’s life. When this happens the emotional and financial upheavals are devastating. Often, the family is just as impacted by this devastation as the gambler. According to prevalence studies conducted by the Oregon Council on Problem Gambling, problem gambling affects approximately 80,000 adult Oregonians. For those entering treatment last year, the Oregon Health Authority estimates their combined debt related to gambling at more than $31 million.

Key events locally include the “Take A Break” campaign and Bridgeway Recovery Walk & Run.

In Oregon, treatment for problem gamblers and their loved ones is free and confidential and provided through Oregon Lottery revenues; those interested in seeking help may call the 24-hour help line at 1-877-MY-LIMIT (877-695-4648).

For more information about Awareness Day, contact Ronda Hatefi: ogao.ronda@gmail.com

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” Author, Recovery Columnist, and Gambling Recovery Advocate ~ Catherine Lyon ”

Let’s Kick Off “National Week of Action Against Predatory Gambling” And Voices From Beyond. . .

Hello and Welcome All Recovery Friends and Visitors,

This coming week is a big deal for me. I get together with the fine folks at Stop Predatory Gambling, Les Bernal, and staff to raise awareness about predatory gambling by our Government and by our States Lottery. Just about every state in the US has some form of state sponsored for-profit gambling offering. Now we all are pretty smart people as to know they are not making money and profits from gaming by the “once in a blue moon players.” NO, they are making profits off those who are the problem or addicted gamblers. And quite frankly that should be ILLEGAL. But since the Government approves it and so do the states, it is legal. HHHHHMMMMM.

Many have NO idea that Gambling Addiction is currently the #1 addiction with the highest suicide rate,  YES, that is over drug and alcohol addictions.  Please take some time to read this story which will touch your heart: Gambling Addiction Suicide – Lanie’s Hope as I shared Lanie’s story this time last year. It is heartbreaking to me that these suicides are happening at a faster 2x the rate than any other addiction and our Government is still cutting funding for treatment. Also, our State Lotteries are not giving enough money for funding required funding for treatment of those who become addicted to it. Where I came from, the State of Oregon, you can see the petty amount allotted for treatment in this article below. 1% is pretty embarrassing, to say the least  . . .

How funds are allocated – Oregon Lottery


“Over the years, Oregon voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing Lottery funds to be used for economic development (1984), public education (1995) and natural resources (1998). The Oregon Legislature transfers 1 percent of Lottery revenues every biennium to fund problem gambling treatment.”

And like in my previous posts, I am advocating and participating again this year for “The National Week of Action To Stop Predatory Gambling” along with my friend Ronda Hatefi and Les Bernal from Stop Predatory Gambling Website in HONOR of Ronda’s brother, Bobby Hafemann who took his own life due to gambling addiction. Now here are more Voice’s we will never hear like Bobby’s as they too felt they had no other options to STOP Gambling and are no longer with us  .  .  .

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“VOICES FROM BEYOND WE WON’T HEAR”

    “Gambling is a real drug for addicted players, who continue returning back to the casino every day and wasting all money there. And they don’t care about the spouses, that have already packed their luggage to leave, or children who don’t eat much because of money deficiency.”

And this is just the tip of the List!

LA – On Thursday, another fight about gambling steeled Jueliene Butler’s determination to leave her husband, as her children raced down the street on their bicycles and tricycles. The two shots that resounded through the neighborhood ended a tempestuous 26-year marriage between Rodney and Jueliene Butler in a murder-suicide heard by their 13-year-old daughter.
Times Picayune 5/8/98

IL – Each turned on the ignition of their Olds Regency after stretching a vacuum hose from the exhaust pipe into the car’s interior, climbing in and rolling up the windows. Carol, 63, was the obsessive gambler. Disabled and saddled with the monstrous debt she had created, Skip, 69 had wanted to join her. Undone by a ravenous habit that cost them $200,000, a house, a nest egg and two lives, it was Carol who left a terse hint of the forest of guilt and fear that had grown around them. Bexson and Carol Warriner chose suicide as a last exit from gambling habits.
Los Angeles Times 6/22/97

ATLANTIC CITY — An unidentified man hanged himself under the Boardwalk on Thursday, the third suicide outside a casino in the last three months, police said.
The Associated Press 6/9/00

ATLANTIC CITY — A 50-year-old Ventnor man apparently committed suicide Tuesday afternoon by jumping off the parking garage of a casino, police said.
LAS VEGAS SUN 4/5/00

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A German tourist jumped to his death off a 10-story casino parking garage Wednesday in the third such suicide in eight days.
The Associated Press 8/25/99

Atlantic City – Ex-casino worker leaps to death from roof of Trump Marina. He is the fifth person to jump from a casino here and die since August 1999.
South Jersey Publishing CO 5/27/00

Atlantic City – A bloodied body was found at the entrance to the Sands Casino Hotel parking garage just before 8 a.m. Investigators believe he fell two stories to his death but don’t know much more than that.
South Jersey Publishing 7/30/00

Atlantic City – The 36-year-old Florida man leaped seven stories to his death Tuesday after losing between $50,000 and $87,000 at Trump Plaza.
South Jersey Publishing Co. 8/19/99

CT – He had developed a gambling habit over the past few months that began on a trip to Las Vegas this summer. Police believe he was driving home from Foxwoods Resort Casino when, in desperation, he killed himself by hanging.
The Day Publishing 9/9/00


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Need help from Gambling Addiction or Problem Gambling? Call Today.


In Oregon:  call 1-877-MY-LIMIT (695-4648).

National Hotline:  call  1-800-522-4700 all days and hours for resources and referrals.

National Suicide Hotline: call Call  1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.

Gamblers Anonymous –http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines
Find A Meeting: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/locations

For Family Help:  Gam-Anon: Family and friends of problem gamblers can find resources and a list of meetings at gam-anon.org or 718-352-1671.


 

It’s Coming -“National Week of Action to Stop Predatory Gambling” Sept. 25th -Oct 1st, 2016. Meet Ronda Hatefi and Her Brother – Bobby’s Story.

Ronda Hatefi holds a picture of her brother, Bobby, a problem gambler who committed suicide in 1995.
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“Meet my dear friend Ronda Hatefi holding a photo of her brother, Bobby Hafemann one of the first suicide’s I learned about due to his Gambling Addiction .  .  . He was ONLY 28-years old.”

 


I caught up with Ronda a week or so ago by phone, and happened to learn some new information that I had not known before about Bobby. I invited Ronda to be the main focus for this 2nd annual “National Week of Action from Predatory Gambling” this year to follow-up and to keep her brother Bobby Hafemann’s memory alive. Even though Bobby isn’t with us, his story needs to be told often to help others who are still suffering and are stuck in the insidious “cycle” of Gambling Addiction.

Personally, after talking with Ronda I came to the conclusion that The Oregon Lottery and The State of Oregon had FAILED Bobby and his family. Ronda had told me that they had gotten Bobby in a form of treatment that was supposed to be provided by state funding of profits from the Oregon Lottery. But after a year or two, the treatment program was pulled and disappeared.

They also tried having him attend Gamblers Anonymous, well, the guy running the Hotline Phone Number just relapsed and was out gambling again when he had returned Ronda’s call. They were then told to seek help maybe through therapy or a psychiatrist or therapist, they had no idea how to treat a compulsive addicted gambler.
More failures. We ow know how this story ended. His suicide should have never happened!

So I will be sharing all the hard work that my friend Ronda Hatefi and her family still share’s today to help others in the upcoming week of Action. But, here is an article and story I came across about Bobby Hafemann and his death and how the family was devastated of the failures as they all desperately tried to help Bobby. . . . .

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LOSING THE GAMBLE ~ Friday, July 27th, 1995 ~ (Author Kate Taylor – Oregonian Staff)
Full Article on:  SSRI Stories – Antidepressant Stories

Summary: “The parents of a compulsive gambler say the Oregon lottery stole their son, caused his suicide.   The machines he haunted still blink up hearts, clubs, diamonds. Their glow still lures thousands of Oregonians every day.”

But Robert Lewis Hafemann, a compulsive gambler, has played his last game of video poker. After slipping his life savings and countless loans into gambling machines, and at the end of a desperate search for help against his addiction, 28-year-old Hafemann shot himself in his Milwaukie home July 20.

When he was buried this week, he left behind a grieving family as well as questions about the state’s most popular gambling game and the declining help for people who can’t stop playing.

“My Bobby was a winner,” said his father, Harvey Hafemann, clutching his wife’s hand at his Milwaukie home.   “He could’ve won at a lot of different things. But he couldn’t win that game. The Oregon lottery stole our son from us.”   His father doesn’t know how it happened.

Before 1991, when the Legislature invited video poker into the state, his family considered Robert Hafemann’s gambling playful and benign. He thrilled at his first scratch-ticket jackpot of $600 at the age of 18. The following years he won everything from cowboy hats to couches to television sets. He lost money, too, but his $45,000-a-year job as a steel fabricator easily made up the loss. He always had extra to give.

“He had the biggest heart you’d ever meet,” said his sister, Ronda Hatefi.  “He made more money than any of us, so he wanted to share.”   Then came video poker and the 1,500 taverns, restaurants and bowling alleys that put in 7,200 machines.

The machines, which bring in $1 million a day, drew Robert Hafemann like a siren song. He became one of the estimated 61,000 pathological or problem gamblers in Oregon.  He stopped coming home after work. Instead, he sought out machines.

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“He talked about the (video machines) all the time,” his father said.  “He said he was going to get out of this. He would win a million dollars, and we’d all be living on easy street.”   In his last few months, Hafemann spent every hour of spare time and every cent of his paycheck gambling. On the rare occasions his family saw him, he’d borrow money, say he was going to the store for a soda and return the next morning. He stopped picking up his mail and checking his answering machine because he couldn’t face creditors.

Hafemann’s family saw less and less of the son and brother they remembered.  “He told me he felt like a ghost, standing alone,” said his mother, Diana Hafemann.  “That’s what he looked like. We told him we’re here for you, but he said he just couldn’t stop.”

At work, he was efficient and industrious as always and continued to ask for extra shifts. But he stopped telling jokes and stopped asking his co-workers if they had heard any new ones. Instead, he asked to borrow money.

“I’d lend him small amounts and he always paid me back,” said Alan Christen, a fellow machine operator.  “You could tell his esteem of himself had gone way down.”  Then in May, he finally told his mother he was considering suicide and needed help.   “It was the best Mother’s Day present,” said Diana Hafemann.  “I told him he was a winner because it takes a big man to admit he’s got a problem.”

Searching for help:

Hafemann’s despair is tragically common, said Bob Denton, a treatment counselor at Portland’s Diversion Associates, a group that treats addicts. Almost half of the people he treats seem to be contemplating suicide, and about 90 percent say their worst problem is video poker.

When Robert Hafemann and his mother went to Kaiser’s East Interstate Medical Office for help, Diana Hafemann said a doctor prescribed her son Prozac and soon referred him to a general practitioner. Kaiser declined to comment.

When compulsive gamblers seek help, they often meet with the wrong treatment, said Steven Henry, a psychologist with the Clackamas County Mental Health Department’s gambling treatment program. “Pathological gambling doesn’t present itself with alcohol on the breath, needle marks on the arm, or roaches in the ashtray,” Henry said.  “It presents itself with empty bank accounts and the lifeblood drained out of families.”

Diana Hafemann said there were very few resources that could help her son. Many health care providers agree.  Oregon lawmakers this year approved $4 million for gambling addiction treatment over the next two years, $800,000 less than the previous two years.   Oregon lottery spokesman David Hooper said many of the county-run programs failed to spend all of the larger amounts allocated. He defended the growth of video poker, saying most of the players are healthy.

“It’s a very unfortunate, tragic circumstance,” Hooper said of Hafemann’s death.   “But it’s like any other product, there’s going to be individuals who are unable to handle it. You cannot run a society based on the exceptions.”  But those who work with gambling addicts say video poker, which is permitted only in six states, is the most virulent, addictive form of gambling.  “The hypnotic effect of screen and the speed of play engages peoples’ interest and allows them to escape from their problems in a way that no other form of gambling does,” he said. “The cost is also easy for people to rationalize — just $5 or $20 for a game, but then suddenly they’ve gone through $100 and the remorse can be overwhelming.”

That remorse was overwhelming for Robert Hafemann early July 20 as he sat drinking beer, going through his phone book and thinking about what he’d lost. He called one friend five times, despairing over his finances. She tried to calm him and thought she talked him out of suicide. He called the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department for a gambling hotline number. But Hafemann inverted two of the numbers as he wrote it on his notepad and thought the number had been disconnected. In his last words to his mother and father, he told them he loved them but said he had to take care of something he couldn’t stop any other way. He directed them to sell his belongings and pay off his creditors.

When his father and two nephews visited him Saturday, they discovered him slumped over a living room table with a six-pack of beer at his feet.

“I hate to say this, but I feel that this suicide was another job that he felt had to be done,” his father said. “He did every job the best he could, that’s the way Bob was.”

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Need help from Gambling Addiction or Problem Gambling? Call Today.


In Oregon:  call 1-877-MY-LIMIT (695-4648).

National Hotline:  call  1-800-522-4700 all days and hours for resources and referrals.

National Suicide Hotline: call Call  1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.

Gamblers Anonymous – http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines
Find A Meeting: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/locations

For Family Help:  Gam-Anon: Family and friends of problem gamblers can find resources and a list of meetings at gam-anon.org or 718-352-1671.


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The Truth About Lottery Video Poker Machines. Guest Article. “Man Vs Machine”- National Week of Action From Predatory Gambling.

Hello Recovery Friends and Welcome All Visitors,

As this is “National Addiction and Recovery Month and National Week of Action Against Predatory Gambling” I want to share a Guest Article I read a while back that sheds light on a guy who caught “The Oregon Video Poker” machines trying to make players lose instead of winning a hand of poker from an electronic game. It also sheds light on just how BAD the “odds” are of a player winning. So this man took on the video poker machines! (Article Courtesy of  Willamette Week News Website .

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Video Lottery Game Zone

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“MAN Vs. MACHINE – A video poker machine dealt Justin Curzi a strange hand. Now he’s calling the Oregon Lottery’s bluff.” 

Updated March 4, 2015
Published March 4, 2015

Curzi, 35, had moved to Oregon in 2012 from San Francisco after selling a software company he’d helped found a decade earlier. He was fascinated with the games—the ubiquitous, flashing terminals found in bars, delis, and even pancake houses—and he played occasionally when out drinking with friends.

On this day—Jan. 10, 2014, a Friday—Curzi paused playing video poker while a pal went to get a beer. He used the break to study his hand—a 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of different suits. He was close to getting a straight, which would pay $5 on a $1 bet.

The game Curzi was playing, draw poker, allowed him to discard cards and get new ones from the dealer. He knew his best chance was to discard the 2 and hope the machine dealt him a 3 or an 8 to complete a straight.

But the machine suggested he do something Curzi thought strange: It recommended he discard the 7. He would get his straight only if he drew a 3. That would cut Curzi’s chances of winning by half—and he thought it was terrible advice.

“Hey, is this right?” Curzi asked his friend when he returned.

Curzi took out his iPhone and snapped photos of the screen and the machine’s serial number.

It was the first step to uncovering what he says is a $134 million scam by the Oregon Lottery.

 

Bad Advice

“Here’s how the video poker hand Justin Curzi got on Jan. 10, 2014, led him to investigate the Oregon Lottery machines.”

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Oregon voters approved the state lottery in 1984, and today state-run gambling contributes about $550 million a year to Oregon’s budget, behind only personal income taxes.

The lottery encourages dreams of riches. But the games are engineered to take your money. “Everyone should understand that the odds in all our games favor the lottery,” says Jack Roberts, Oregon Lottery director. That’s why news reports two months ago that a Portland man was suing the lottery to recoup video poker players’ losses struck some as ludicrous.

Who would sue over losing money while gambling?

But it’s not so simple. Curzi—who friends say is intelligent, analytical and obsessively curious—launched a personal investigation of Oregon video poker machines that led him to conclude the machines were cheating players out of millions of dollars every month. That’s why he filed a class-action lawsuit against the Oregon Lottery in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleging fraud. Lottery officials deny Curzi’s allegations.

“Good for him,” says Les Bernal, national director of the advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling, based in Washington, D.C. “What the Oregon Lottery does with these games is create the illusion that you have some control, where in reality you actually have far less.”

Curzi is aware some people might assume he’s suing to make money. He insists he’s not. “The real reason I’m doing this,” he says, “is because it’s outright wrong.”

“Justin is not afraid to jump at things, he’s not afraid to question things,” says Rob Steele, a friend of Curzi’s dating back to high school in New Jersey. “That is just catnip for Justin.”

Six days after his curious experience with the Jacks or Better game at Quimby’s, Curzi sent a polite and inquisitive email to the Oregon Lottery.

“Hello, my name is Justin,” he wrote on Jan. 16, 2014. “I’ve attached a photo of a hand that was given to me in one of your Oregon Lottery machines.” Curzi explained how he believed the video poker machine should have given him the best advice. “This does not seem to be the case,” he wrote.

Draw poker is a game of luck, strategy and second chances. The dealer gives players five cards. Players then get a chance to discard cards in the hopes of being dealt better ones.

When you’re playing poker around a table in real life, you’re betting against other players in hopes of having the best hand.

But in video poker, you’re not betting against anyone. Each hand costs you 25 cents (or more, if you increase your wager), and you win money based on a scale of how strong your hand is. A pair of jacks might win you your 25 cents back. A royal flush—the highest and rarest combination—would win you up to $600.

Unlike slot machines, video poker gives the player a sense that strategy matters. In reality, if you play long enough, the machines are geared to eventually take your money, no matter how many wins you record. Still, the sense that a player can outsmart the game is part of its allure.

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What caught Curzi’s attention was a feature on the draw poker games called “auto-hold.” The feature puts the word “hold” over cards it suggests players should keep. Players can reject the suggestions at any time.

But auto-hold has a second, less obvious function. It allows players to play faster because they don’t have to stop to think about what cards to hold before hitting the button to draw again. That’s important because faster play translates to more money for the Oregon Lottery.

Before he got a response from the lottery, Curzi returned to Quimby’s, wondering whether the game’s bad advice had only been a fluke. He shoved a $20 bill into a machine to play the same Jacks or Better game. Within 10 minutes, the game was again advising him to hold cards that cut his chances of winning in half. Curzi says he just wanted a simple explanation. “I certainly didn’t think,” he says, “I would discover what I know now.”

Who Plays Oregon Lottery Games?

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Curzi grew up as a sports-focused kid in small-town New Jersey, the son of a prominent lawyer and a stay-at-home mom. Curzi—who played football despite his small size—also wrestled, played baseball and graduated near the top of his high-school class. He played wide receiver at Amherst College, where he majored in economics and history. That led him to New York City after graduation.

“I thought the only two jobs on earth were investment banking and consulting,” he says now.

He landed his first job selling investments. Working on commission, he’d target an office building, climb to the top floor, then work his way down, knocking on doors. “I was 21, looking like I was 16, asking people to give me their money,” Curzi says. He soon climbed the monthly leader board. His boss told him he was one of the youngest salespeople to reach the top.

He wasn’t destined for a traditional job. A sticker on Curzi’s apartment door showed a group of people heading one direction, and one person walking the other way. “Routine,” it read. “The enemy!”

In 2003, he moved to Brazil and quickly immersed himself in the culture, teaching himself Portuguese within months. “You feel like the guy has been there two or three years,” says Ken Barrington, a college friend who visited him.

In Brazil, Curzi met an American computer programmer working on a way to help accountants share QuickBook files. The two teamed up and sold the program, cold-calling potential clients from Rio de Janeiro on an Internet phone line. “We must have sounded like we were speaking through tin cans,” Curzi says.

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They called the business Emocgila—mochila means “backpack” in Spanish and Portuguese—and it blossomed to 30 employees. In 2011, Curzi and his partner sold the company to Thomson Reuters in a private deal; Curzi declines to say for how much. But friends describe him as wealthy. “I’m not Elon Musk,” Curzi says of the co-founder of Tesla and PayPal.

Curzi moved to Portland in 2012 with his then-girlfriend (and now wife), who grew up in Tigard, and now lives in a $565,000 Victorian in Northwest Portland. He consults for private clients, provides microloans to entrepreneurs through the website Kiva and drives a 1996 Isuzu Rodeo “whose crowning feature is where a dog chewed the back seats.”

Friends say they are not surprised Curzi—who’s just as likely to want to discuss North Dakota’s fracking economy as the business model for Purringtons Cat Lounge—zeroed in on something as small and seemingly innocuous as a quirk in a video poker game.

“So many times in life, people just overlook the obvious,” Barrington says. “Justin has a knack for pointing those things out.”

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Marlene Meissner, a spokeswoman for the lottery, drafted a response. Auto-hold, she wrote, “is based on optimizing the player’s opportunity to win the best (highest prize) rather than simply increasing the odds of winning any prize.”

But, as Curzi later discovered, lottery officials guided Meissner to a different answer, so she revised her email before sending it. “In your case, the terminal did advise a strategy — granted not the only strategy — for you to have an opportunity to win with the cards you were dealt,” she said in her email to Curzi on Feb. 3.

In other words, the lottery was backing away from telling Curzi auto-hold offered the best option.

Curzi wasn’t satisfied. “I know your interpretation of the law is that you only have to suggest ‘a’ winning combination, but why not the best one?” he wrote in an email the next day.

The lottery’s response? “Crickets,” Curzi says.

Curzi turned to Jay Zollinger, a lawyer who had helped negotiate the sale of Curzi’s business. Zollinger suggested a public records request might turn up some answers.

On Feb. 20, 2014, Curzi and Zollinger formally asked the lottery for documents concerning the Jacks or Better game Curzi played at Quimby’s, plus any correspondence, studies and reports about auto-hold. The lottery responded on April 8, saying it would take 30 hours of staff time just to review the records Curzi requested. The lottery wanted a $2,350 deposit to cover its costs.

That fee would have stopped most people. But Curzi’s lawyer paid it. The total bill for records eventually came to $3,581.49.  Six months after his request, in August 2014, Curzi received the first of five batches of records.

By September, Curzi had hundreds of pages of emails, memos, and spreadsheets. He made a copy of the originals, arranging one set chronologically and the second by topic. He took notes on his laptop in a file that grew to 4,800 words.

Curzi came across a Feb. 2, 2009, email with a spreadsheet attached—”Video Lottery Game Payout Percentage Report.” The document had come from Gaming Laboratories International, an independent auditor based in New Jersey that works with many state lotteries to test machines.

The spreadsheet listed all the types of Oregon video poker machines by the manufacturer, the millions of games played in one-quarter of 2008 and how much money players spent.

In one column, the document showed what various video poker machines, based on calculations of probabilities, were expected to pay out to players over time.

In another column, the document showed what the machines were actually paying out. Curzi thought the payouts should have been very close to what the game’s programmers predicted.

Some weren’t. Curzi discovered the game he had been playing at Quimby’s, the Jacks or Better “Bluebird” terminal produced by WMS Gaming, was off by quite a bit.

The spreadsheet showed Jacks or Better on average should be paying out 90 cents for every $1 players put into the machine. It actually paid out about 87 cents.

That 3-cent difference may seem small, but when multiplied by the huge numbers of video poker games played, it translated to about $1.3 million per year that Jacks or Better wasn’t returning to players.

“This,” Curzi recalls thinking to himself, “is totally corrupt.”

He kept digging and made a second big discovery: Lottery officials knew about the discrepancy, and the auto-hold function on some machines was to blame.

“Due to the vendors’ auto-hold strategies, a few other poker games have actual payout percentages that are below theoretical,” Carole Hardy, the lottery’s then-assistant director for marketing, wrote on April 1, 2009. Curzi discovered a survey of video poker players the lottery commissioned from Mosak, a marketing research firm.

“Across all player types, the overwhelming majority of players said they prefer the auto-hold feature in video poker games as it makes it more convenient and easier to play,” a 2010 Mosak report said. “Players said this feature allows them to hold the correct cards, thus increasing their chances of winning.”

Curzi had only hoped to understand how auto-hold worked. He had instead discovered the lottery knew auto-hold sucked millions away from players—and players actually thought auto-hold helped them.

The lottery’s rules require “a close approximation of the odds of winning some prize for each game” and say those odds “must be displayed on a Video Lottery game terminal screen.”  Documents Curzi received show lottery officials debated whether or not they should tell players the actual odds if they relied on auto-hold.

In a memo labeled “confidential” and dated Sept. 15, 2009, lottery officials reported they had been studying their system to find video poker games that might be making payouts that were too high. Instead, they found machines whose payouts were too low.

“This triggered additional investigation regarding the integrity of the games,” the memo said. “Further, there was a question whether additional information should be provided to players to ensure they have accurate information regarding how video lottery games pay.”

The Sept. 15 memo also contained this nugget about WMS Gaming, maker of the game Curzi played at Quimby’s: “WMS has confirmed that the auto-hold strategy for all WMS poker games is set to pay out lower than the other products as a result of the auto-hold strategies WMS has implemented.”

Lottery officials, according to a separate 2009 memo, decided to put accurate auto-hold payouts on the Web. But Curzi went looking online, even using the Internet Archive search engine, to see if the lottery had ever made public the lower odds. He found no evidence it had. Over the next month, Curzi built a spreadsheet to estimate how much money the video poker machines, based on the odds, should have paid out, compared to what they actually did.

What he found startled him. Payouts to video lottery players were as much as 5 percent lower when they used auto-hold than when they didn’t. That translated to $134 million.

To Curzi, it was an outrageous discrepancy—especially given that players believed auto-hold helped them, and the lottery knew otherwise. Buried on the lottery’s website is one disclaimer: “Auto-hold strategies vary by game, based on the particular features of a game and do not necessarily result in theoretical payouts.”

Curzi says that’s not enough. The lottery is supposed to be based on chance. “You can’t manipulate the game,” he says.

In October 2014, he sent the Oregon Lottery a letter detailing his findings and notifying officials he intended to sue unless the lottery reimbursed players within 30 days. On Dec. 4, a claims management consultant in the state’s Department of Administrative Services wrote back to say the lottery was still investigating Curzi’s claims.

On Dec. 31, Curzi took the Oregon Lottery to court.

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Jack Roberts, the lottery director, took over the agency in December 2013, following years of controversy and accusations the agency wasn’t doing enough to address problem gambling. He had earlier served as state labor commissioner and ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2002.

Roberts says the lottery is fairly representing players’ chances. “Clearly the odds favor us,” he says. “That’s what gambling establishments are about, but we believe we’ve been honest in representing what they are.”

Roberts wasn’t around when the lottery introduced video poker and the auto-hold feature in 1992. “Our assumption has always been that on balance people who play auto-hold do better than people who don’t,” he says. “We don’t tell people that.”

He rejects Curzi’s allegation the lottery is intentionally misleading players. “I don’t think we’ve ever represented that the auto-hold gives you the optimal result,” he says. “The idea was that it gives you a good result.”

But records Curzi turned up show the opposite. “The machine recommends the best possible cards to hold in order for the player to win and if the player changes the cards to be held, the possibility of winning will decrease,” the Sept. 15, 2009, memo marked “confidential” reads.

Today, the lottery is in the process of replacing all 12,000 video lottery terminals in the state; it’s a routine technology update. But one consequence of the upgrade is that Oregon is completely phasing out the WMS Gaming “Bluebird” terminal on which Curzi played Jacks or Better. Roberts says Jacks or Better is being phased out because it’s unpopular with players. Roberts says the lottery is interested in finding out if more players are concerned about auto-hold.

“It gets complicated in the middle of litigation,” he says. “Any actions that we take might be interpreted as an admission that we don’t mean to say.”

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Image result for Copyright free images of video poker machine

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Experts on lotteries and the law say Curzi’s odds of winning in court seem low. Rob Carey, an Arizona class-action lawyer, took on several state lotteries over the deceptive practice of selling scratch-off tickets after the top prizes had already been awarded. Carey never succeeded in getting a class established for his lawsuits, but he did win payments for some plaintiffs and forced changes in state lottery practices.

He says Curzi’s case hinges on whether the Oregon Lottery’s public disclosures were adequate. “It really depends on what they’re telling the players,” Carey says.

The lottery could be safe even if the disclosures are vague. “You have to show the intent to defraud,” says I. Nelson Rose, a law professor at Whittier Law School in Southern California. “I don’t think they’ll be able to do that.”

Rose says it’s the machines’ manufacturers that should be worried.  “If the plaintiff were able to prove this was intentional,” he says, “that supplier could end up paying.”

Nevada-based Scientific Games, owner of WMS Gaming, the maker of the Jacks or Better game Curzi played, declined to answer WW‘s questions. “It is company policy not to comment on ongoing litigation,” Scientific Games spokeswoman Mollie Cole said in an email.

Curzi is undaunted. He wants players to recoup their money. He wants the lottery’s auto-hold feature to give good advice, and he wants the agency to give players honest information.

“It goes all the way back to that first photo,” he says of the photo he took of the video poker machine’s bum recommendation at Quimby’s last year. “I look at it and say, ‘That’s not right.”  .   .   .   .   .

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My own thoughts about The Oregon Lottery and the Retail places available everywhere? I had gotten hooked and was just one of several places around my town I gambled at. So when there IS “Excess to Access” you CAN become addicted.” Learn from my dear friend Ronda Hatefi and her brother’s suicide because of his Gambling Addiction & Could Not Stop!   “LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!”

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IF YOU NEED HELP From Gambling? Please Call TODAY .  .  .  .

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In Oregon:  call 1-877-MY-LIMIT (695-4648).
National Hotline:  call  1-800-522-4700 all days and hours for resources and referrals.
National Suicide Hotline: call Call  1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.
For Family Help:  Gam-Anon: Family and friends of problem gamblers can find resources and a list of meetings at gam-anon.org or 718-352-1671.

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Author & In Recovery Magzine Columnist & Recovering Addicted Gambler 9-years 9months,
Catherine Townsend-Lyon


 

Honored To Share This New Guest Article I Am a Part of To Help Others From Gambling Addiction.

Hello and Welcome Recovery Friends and Visitors,

 

 Some months back I had the honor and pleasure to be interviewed and talked in length with MAIA SZALAVITZ, a New York Times Best Selling Author of her book;  Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.

She is also an award-winning author and journalist who covers addiction and neuroscience. And currently a bi-weekly column for VICE on drugs and addiction. From 2010 to 2013, she wrote daily for TIME.com and she continues to freelance there and for other publications including the New York Times, Scientific American Mind, Nature, New York Magazine online, Pacific Standard, Matter, Nautilus, and The Verge.

She came across my recovery blog and found my phone number from my book promotions website. She called to tell me she was doing an in-depth article for the distinguished publication “The Nautilus” and “Time.com” about the neuroscience behind gambling addiction,e to be interviewed for the piece. I said sure, and I had spent an hour or so talking with Maia about my addiction to gambling. Here is the result from our talks and correspondence. I can not tell you again how honored and humbled that she shared some of my story and experiences so others can have more answers as to how this disease progress’s and how our brains can become manipulated by many factors of this addiction as a whole.

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‘Addicted to Anticipation ~ What goes wrong in the brain chemistry of a gambling addict.’

Catherine Townsend-Lyon, 53, started gambling excessively when she was 30. As a result, her 40th birthday wasn’t much of a celebration: She was hospitalized, shortly after a suicide attempt. She’d tried to slit her wrists the day she’d missed her best friend’s funeral, after stealing money from her job at a credit service to play the slot machines.

That was just one part of how bad it had gotten. She would arrive at casinos at 7 a.m. and wear bladder control underpants. She didn’t want to have to get up—even for a quick bathroom break—if she was on a winning streak. At one point she hoped to win back enough money to stave off foreclosure on her home.

“It’s where I could find stress relief,” she says of her gambling, which she detailed in a book titled “Addicted to Dimes.” “I didn’t have to worry about anything—whether it was my past, whether it was the money I’d spent. You don’t think about any of it. It’s like you just go there and you’re escaping into a whole different world,” she says

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Szalavitz_BR_LyonTILL DEATH DO THEY PART: “When we got married, he took his vows seriously. I mean, I put this man through everything,” says Catherine Townsend-Lyon (right), of her husband Thomas (left), who supported her throughout her gambling addiction and recovery.
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Gambling Addiction stands out for its destructive power and pull. With substance problems, people can blame the chemical activity of drugs and argue that addiction occurs when repeated exposure physically alters the brain. But gambling causes life catastrophes that are at least as extreme—sometimes more—without any kind of foreign psychoactive chemical getting under the skin, indeed, without any apparent “substance” at all.

“First you get that euphoric feeling, that rush and excitement,” Townsend-Lyon says, “Once you become addicted, then you get to the point where you don’t care about anything. You’re in a zone and you don’t realize what’s going on around you.”

“The high is in expecting an outcome, desiring it, imagining it, not in its fulfillment.”

Problem gambling is addiction stripped to its core—compulsive behavior that persists no matter what the negative consequences. Compulsive gamblers risk their homes, their cars, their children’s college funds, their jobs, even their lives in what looks to everyone around them like completely willful, selfish, and utterly destructive behavior.

Understanding why and how gambling can become compulsive is to recognize that all forms of addiction are a form of aberrant learning. But addiction doesn’t primarily affect the kind of learning we associate with school, or with studying for tests and trying to memorize theorems.

Instead, it involves changes in deep emotional learning, the sort of learning that makes first love far more memorable than algebra or verb tenses. From a neuroscientific perspective, learning is a brain change that associates experiences with each other and affects behavior. A critical part of emotional learning is changes in brain circuitry that respond to reward and punishment and link them with actions and the environment.

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The best way to see addiction may be as a learning disorder—one that occurs when punishment or other negative consequences no longer deter the addictive activity. As Yale researcher Jane Taylor and her colleagues explain in a review paper focused on substance addictions, these conditions “enhance positive learning and memory about the drug while inhibiting learning about the negative consequences.”1 Brain scans of compulsive gamblers suggest that the same processes are at work.2

In Townsend-Lyon’s case, her gambling persisted despite terrible financial losses, despite losing all her friends and becoming depressed enough to attempt suicide more than once. She describes losing jobs because her gambling began cutting into her workday. “When it was the worst part of my addiction, I was going before work, I was going at lunchtime, I was going after work. It was outrageous. I was just so out of control.”

While much time has been spent debating whether addiction is a disease or just a bad choice, recognizing how learning goes awry is the best way to improve treatment, prevention, and policy.

B.F. Skinner, who laid out the fundamental principles of learning through reward and punishment in the mid 20th century, recognized their relevance to gambling right from the start, says Natasha Dow Schull, author of Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas and associate professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University.

Skinner told people that slot machines were basically human versions of the famous “Skinner boxes” he made for rats and pigeons. “People often think it’s a heavy-handed metaphor to call a slot machine a Skinner box, but in fact, he was calling Skinner boxes slot machines way back,” Schull says. Like the animals in their cages, slots players would pull a lever and wait to either receive a reward or not.

Early in his research, Skinner accidentally discovered an important factor that makes gambling addictive. One day, while working in the lab, he began to run out of rat treats. Since the treats were time-consuming to make and he had to do it himself, he didn’t want to stop the experiment. So instead of rewarding the rats every time they pushed the lever, he did it only once a minute. To his surprise, the intermittent reward made them push more, not less.

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CASINO CONDITIONING: B.F. Skinner, seen here in 1948, said slot machines were basically human versions of the “Skinner boxes” he made for rats and pigeons. Slot machine players, like animals in the boxes, pull a lever and wait to either receive a reward or not.  (Apic/Getty Images)
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In his behavioral experiments across species, Skinner found that the pattern of reward that created the most robust response—and the most stubbornly persistent learning—was not providing treats every time an animal pressed the lever. It was rewarding them at random: exactly like a slot machine.3Like human gamblers, pigeons began to do peculiar repetitive behaviors at the lever. It was as though they were superstitiously repeating a behavior that they associated with past “luck.”

But why would animals, including us, be more responsive to what Skinner called “intermittent reinforcement” than to getting rewarded every time you do the right thing? This is the paradox of the learning that is at the heart of addiction—whether to gambling, cocaine, shopping, or heroin—and it offers clues about what’s going wrong in the brain.

Over the course of evolution, many situations have required animals to persist despite negative outcomes; for mammals and particularly humans, finding and keeping a mate and rearing needy and demanding offspring are among the biggest such challenges. If we didn’t have a mechanism that pushed us to persevere in these pursuits, our species never would have survived. “The brain’s reward systems evolved to motivate us organisms to do things that we should do,” says Larry Young, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University who studies social bonding.

Addiction is involved the sort of learning that makes first love far more memorable than algebra.

When working properly, our basic motivational systems drive us to seek partners, despite rejection, fights, fears, and other challenges. They set our priorities, pulling or pushing us toward what their calculus determines is most likely to allow us to survive and reproduce. Our emotions, in fact, are fundamentally algorithms for rapid decision-making, which may have been shaped by the history of what actions best-promoted survival and reproduction.

The same system also makes babies seem unbearably cute, motivating parents to tolerate their noise and their constant, relentless demands—and even enjoy doing so. (Puppies and kittens often hitch a ride on this attachment system, making us want to care for them, too.)

“There’s a lot of shared neurochemistry between love and bonding and attachment and addiction,” says Young. “Basically, it uses the same neurochemistry. But love is an association in the brain that this particular individual is associated with that reward.”

In addition, the paraphernalia, the slot machine or crack pipe, becomes the focus, rather than a person. And when intense drive and a feeling of biological urgency get directed toward a drug or activity like gambling, serious problems can occur. It’s hard to make choices when the machinery that guides choice is itself misdirected.

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Young’s research on monogamous and non-monogamous voles, which are a type of field mice, shows how neurons form new connections when bonding with a mate. In monogamous voles, the release of hormones like oxytocin links the reward regions and the reduction of stress with the presence of their mate. These chemicals help the brain associate the release of natural heroin-like neurotransmitters—endogenous opioids—that enhance the bond with a specific partner. But this connection isn’t made in promiscuous voles, for whom many partners are attractive and whose reward regions don’t get rewired to form pair bonds during mating.4

The hormonal bonding process—whether with a baby or a partner—is a type of learning, one that ultimately makes our stress systems responsive to our most significant others. It lowers blood pressure and creates calm when we’re together and safe, but raises alarms when there is distance or a perceived threat of harm to the person or the relationship.

Similarly, if your brain “decides” that a drug or activity is somehow essential to your emotional survival, it begins skewing your choices and changing your priorities to put this behavior first—in the same way that people in love obsess about their partners, make time together the center of their lives and often ignore other friends or work that used to be their focus. In fact, oxytocin has been shown to reduce symptoms of heroin and alcohol withdrawal and is being studied for a potential role in addiction treatment, in part as a result of these parallels.

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Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals exhilaration, is critically involved in love, sex, and all addictions that have been studied. “Dopamine is the chemical that seals the deal when something special happens,” says Young. Research by Young and his colleagues shows that dopamine levels rise in monogamous voles during sex—and this type of dopamine peak is also seen when people with gambling addiction are about to bet and people with cocaine addiction anticipate snorting the sparkly white powder.5

Dopamine is also involved in the prediction of reward. While initially it rises just as a reward is received, once associations that predict the reward have been learned, the biggest rise comes not when the dice are rolled or the coke is snorted, but when the person walks into the casino or first sees the packet that contains the cocaine.6

However, if the predicted positive outcome does not occur, dopamine levels in certain brain areas drop—not just to normal, but below baseline. This punishes the bad prediction and ordinarily it makes people change their predictions and their behavior. We call the experience disappointment. But in addiction the relevant update to the prediction is not made. And so the behavior continues.

The fact that dopamine systems seek to predict outcomes also makes the patterning of addictive experience crucial to how addictive a drug, person, or experience will be. Gambling addiction rests on intermittent reinforcement alone—the experience of risk, the fact that there will be either loss or gain, creates excitement and the more unpredictable the outcome, the more compelling it becomes. With drugs, the pattern of use also matters. he more varied and irregular the dosing, the more addictive a drug will be.

Indeed, this is another reason why compulsive gamblers continue whether they win or lose—the high is in expecting an outcome, desiring that outcome, imagining it, not in its fulfillment. No win can ever be big enough to meet these outsized expectations, no loss harsh enough to dash the desire. Because dopamine calculates expectations, only a better-than-expected result can satisfy. But results seldom get better in the real world.

Brains are, in essence, prediction machines, which is why no one likes uncertainty and why solving mysteries provides such a sense of satisfaction. We seek patterns and connections, even in randomness, especially in randomness. That makes unpredictable patterns of reward—like playing the slots—into compelling puzzles that can draw us in, even if we know rationally that the odds are against us. This patterning can fool the brain into prioritizing an addiction. Townsend-Lyon’s husband Thomas used to tell her, “You love the machines more than you love me.”

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Like most addictions, Townsend-Lyon’s gambling problem “didn’t come out of nowhere.” Similar to most women with addiction, she’d had a traumatic childhood—including emotional and physical abuse and ongoing sexual abuse by a close family member and another perpetrator. Also, like most women with addiction, she had pre-existing psychiatric problems; in her case, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Studies of addicts show that trauma and certain genetic vulnerabilities—especially the two in combination—increase risk for a wide range of mental illnesses and a bewildering spectrum of addictions that include gambling, sex, alcohol, and opioids. The availability of escapist drugs and activities help determine what form the problem takes. But gambling and drugs themselves don’t cause addiction, a myth that often interferes with getting to the personal root of the problem.

“Everybody wants to think the object is the cause of addiction,” says Howard Shaffer, director of the division on addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance, and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “So dice causes gambling addictions. Roulette wheels cause gambling addiction. Heroin causes opioid addiction. The problem is that in every instance vastly more people use the object than become addicted.” Indeed, over 95 percent of gamblers and 80 to 90 percent of people who use addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine do not develop addiction problems.7

Problem gambling is addiction stripped to its core—compulsive behavior no matter the negative consequences.

Addiction is often learned when someone with an emotional or psychological problem discovers that a particular addictive behavior helps ease it—at least at first. “I’m a childhood sex abuse survivor, and what I was doing was using [gambling] to escape, to numb out,” Townsend-Lyon says.

Townsend-Lyon had little interest in alcohol or other drugs. Gambling seemed like a relatively harmless pastime, and she was excited by the possibility of what winning might mean. But the more she played, the less important winning and losing became. Instead, Townsend-Lyon played to reach “the zone”—a place where time, space, and self melt away and the cares of the real world vanish. When they’re in this realm, some gamblers find winning big to be annoying because the bright lights and bells and other jarring signals that announce it can bring them back down to earth.

The craving and the experience of losing control are identical. Townsend-Lyon and other problem gamblers describe being deeply aware of the fact that their behavior is irrational and harmful—and yet finding themselves doing it anyway. The same is true with cocaine, heroin, and alcohol addictions.

This disconnection between desire and pleasure—between what researchers call “wanting” and “liking” is reflected in how addiction leads learning astray in the brain. When drugs are taken irregularly and in varied dosing—which is what tends to happen during addiction because supplies and money to pay for them are rarely constant—drug desire escalates, while the pleasure associated with using declines.

The random nature of intermittent reinforcement produces a similar effect in gambling. The dopamine-driven desire system needs less and less of a cue to create intense craving—but the systems that are involved in the actual enjoyment of the experience become tolerant and more is needed to experience a high or just to feel normal. This contrast leaves addicted people desperately pursuing an experience that they don’t even like much once they get it.

Recovery from gambling addiction is difficult. For one thing, there’s the sheer amount of debts gamblers accrue. For another, there’s no material substance to blame for “changing the brain” or causing a “disease.” The pattern and experience of gambling come together to make the brain vulnerable to getting stuck in a compulsive loop. If it is hard to get people to see addiction to drugs as a medical problem, the lack of a chemical to blame makes gambling addiction even more suspect in the public eye.

There’s a paradox at the heart of the way American society tries to treat addiction. We think that if people like Townsend-Lyon simply lose enough or hurt enough or get punished enough, they’ll “hit bottom” and stop. But since addiction is defined as compulsive behavior that continues in the face of punishment, punishment is clearly not the best way to deal with it. Dozens of studies show that shame, confrontation, and humiliation are ineffective and can backfire when used in addiction treatment.8

Because most people with addictions are using their behavior as a way to cope with distress, figuring out the source of that distress and alleviating it in a more healthy way is the key to both prevention and treatment. In Townsend-Lyon’s case, she needed specialist mental health care to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from the abuse she suffered, as well as specific help for her bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Finally, because addiction is misguided love, compassion, empathy, and social support are critical to recovery. Townsend-Lyon found help in a support group and through therapy, along with medication for her other diagnoses. Her husband also helped. “I was very blessed in my choice of husbands,” she says, describing how he stuck with her throughout her addiction and recovery. She adds, “When we got married he took his vows seriously. I mean, I put this man through everything. Today my life is better than before I became an addict.”

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